f/k/a . . . the archives

October 9, 2003

Jack Cade and Dick the Butcher in Context

Filed under: — David Giacalone @ 8:41 pm

In our posting on October 8, 2003, entitled First Thing . . . Let’s Quell All the Liars, we explain that the legal profession has been putting a very misleading spin on Shakespeares’s famous line, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” from King Henry the Sixth, Part 2, scene IV.ii.   Despite bar association propaganda, this was not a strategy session on how to undermine the rule of law and win their rebellion, but a discussion on what Cade planned to do once he was king.

Here’s the conversation between Jack Cade and Dick the Butcher (from the Yale Shakespeare series, Yale University Press, 1923):

Cade. Be brave, then; for your captain is brave, and vows reformation.  There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny; the three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops; and I will make it felony to drink small beer.  All the realm shall be in common, and in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to grass.  And, when I am king, — as king I will be,–
All. God save your majesty!
Cade. I thank you, good people; — there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.
Butch. The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.
Cade. Nay, that I mean to do.  Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment?  that parchment, being scribbled o’er, should undo a man?  Some say the bee stings; but I say, ’tis the bee’s wax, for I did but seal once to a thing, and I was never my own man since.

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