Most people are familiar with Dick the Butcher’s famous line in Shakespeare’s King Henry VI, “now first thing we do, lets kill all the lawyers.” What most of those people do not know is that Shakespeare was really giving lawyers one of the greatest compliments ever.
Just about assumes that this famous line is an expression of Shakespeare’s personal distain for lawyers. OF course, nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s look first to who made the statement…Dick the Butcher. In King Henry VI, Dick the Butcher was a dim witted, barbarous villain. His leader, so to speak, was John Cade, the leader of a band of rebels who were determined to overthrow the King. Neither Dick nor John was a good men and both were mentally challenged.
Now think about it. Why would Shakespeare have a dumb, depraved characer say, “kill all the lawyers” if he, himself, loathed lawyers or thought they were bad? Well, he wouldn’t.
Shakespeare believed that lawyers were protectors of law and order – the good guys. Naturally, Dick and John, who were bent on creating disorder and upheaval wanted to get rid of those who stand in the way of tyranny. First on the list were lawyers.
The Ethical Spectacle in 1997 said it best:
As the famous remark by the plotter of treachery in Shakespeare’s King Henry VI shows – “The first thing we must do is kill all the lawyers,” – the surest way to chaos and tyranny even then was to remove the guardians of independent thinking.
The truth of the matter is that government, like it’s citizens, can be out of control. Prosecutors are often heard saying, “We do God’s work.” Police often feel that the ends justify the means. This means that some police officers feel that hiding a piece of evidence, creating a piece of evidence, or making up a confession may be justified if they feel that the right person is in custody. It has been determined that hundreds of innocent people are wrongfully convicted in trials every year in the United States. Hundreds more, maybe thousands, of innocent or overcharged people plead guilty or no contest to charges in exchange for plea bargains because they are afraid or unable to face the risk of being wrongfully convicted of their original charge.
The Criminal Defense Attorney is the last person standing between out-of-control government and rogue police officers and innocent, wrongfully accused citizens. Talk about a David v. Goliath scenario. A true warrior style defense attorney, who is not afraid to stand up to rogue governmental agents, is the last line of defense against governmental tyranny.
Shakespeare used Dick the Butcher to demonstrate the precious value of lawyers by having him call for the destruction of the single greatest threat to despoliation…attorneys.