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Measure for Measure.
In Act 1. Sc. 2, the old lady who had kept a lodginghouse of a disreputable character in the suburbs of Vienna being thrown into despair by the proclamation that all such houses in the suburbs must be plucked down, the Clown thus comforts her:
Clo. Come ; fear not you : good counsellors lack no clients.
This comparison is not very flattering to the bar, but it seems to show a familiarity with both the professions alluded to.
In Act II. Sc. 1, the ignorance of special pleading and of the nature of actions at law betrayed by Elbow, the constable, when slandered, is ridiculed by the Lord Escalus in a manner which proves that the composer of the dialogue was himself fully initiated in these mysteries :
Elbow. Oh, thou caitiff! Oh, thou varlet! Oh, thou wicked Hannibal! I respected with her, before I was married to her ?-If ever I was respected with her, or she with me, let not your worship think me the poor duke's officer.—Prove this, thou wicked Hannibal, or I'll have mine action of buttery on thee.
Escal. If he took you a box o'th' ear, you might have your action of slunder too.
The manner in which, in Act III. Sc. 2, Escalus designates and talks of Angelo, with whom he was joined in commission as Judge, is so like the manner in which one English Judge designates and talks of another, that it countenances the supposition that Shakespeare may often, as an attorney's clerk, have been in the presence of English Judges :
Escal. Provost, my brother Angelo will not be altered; Claudio must die to-morrow. * * * If my brother wrought by my pity, it should not be so with him. * * * I have laboured for the poor gentleman to the extremest shore of my modesty ; but my brother justice have I found so severe, that he hath forced me to tell him, he is indeed—JUSTICE.*
Even where Shakespeare is most solemn and sublime, his sentiments and language seem sometimes to take a tinge from his early pursuits,—as may be observed from a beautiful passage in this play,—which, lest I should be thought guilty of irreverence, I do not venture to comment upon :
* I am glad to observe that our“ brethren” in America adhere to the old phraseology of Westminster Hall. A Chief Justice in New England thus concludes a very sound judgment :—“My brother Blannerhasset, who was present at the argument, but is prevented by business at chambers from being here to-day, authorises me to say that he has read this judgment, and that he entirely concurs in it.”
Angelo. Your brother is a forfeit to the law.
(Act 11. Sc. 2.)
The Comedy of Errors.
The following is part of the dialogue between Antipholus of Syracuse and his man Dromio, in Act II. Sc. 2:
Dro. S. There's no time for a man to recover his hair, that grows bald by nature.
Ant. S. May he not do it by fine and recovery ?
Dro. S. Yes, to pay a fine for a periwig, and recover the lost hair of another man.
These jests cannot be supposed to arise from anything in the laws or customs of Syracuse; but they show the author to be very familiar with some of the most abstruse proceedings in English jurisprudence.
In Act iv. Sc. 2, Adriana asks Dromio of Syracuse, “ Where is thy master, Dromio? Is he well ?” and Dromio replies—
No, he's in Tartar limbo, worse than hell :
One that before the judgment carries poor souls to hell.
Dro. S. I know not at whose suit he is arrested, well
Adr. *** This I wonder at :
Dro. S. Not on a bond, but on a stronger thing :
Here we have a most circumstantial and graphic account of an English arrest on mesne process [“ before judgment "], in an action on the case, for the price of a gold chain, by a sheriff's officer, or bum-bailiff, in his buff costume, and carrying his prisoner to a sponging-house-a spectacle which might often have been seen by an attorney's clerk.. A fellow-student of mine (since an eminent Judge), being sent to an attorney's office, as part of his legal education, used to accompany the sheriff's officer when making captions on mesne process, that he might enjoy the whole feast of a law-suit from the egg to the apples—and he was fond of giving a similar account of this proceeding, – which was then constantly occurring, but which, like “ Trial by Battle,” may now be considered obsolete.
As You Like It.
In Act 1. Sc. 2, Shakespeare makes the lively Rosalind, who, although well versed in poesy and books of chivalry, had probably never seen a bond or a lawpaper of any sort in her life, quite familiar with the commencement of all deeds poll, which in Latin was, Noverint universi per presentes, in English, “Be it known to all men by these presents”:
Le Beau. There comes an old man and his three sons,
Le Beau. Three proper young men, of excellent growth and presence ;
Ros. With bills on their necks,—“ Be it known unto all men by these presents," —
This is the technical phraseology referred to by Thomas Nash in his Epistle to the Gentlemen Stu