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politics, and political economy. Dogberry uses the very words of the oath administered by the Judges' marshal to the grand jury at the present day :
Keep your fellows' counsels and your own.
(Act . Sc. 3.)
If the different parts of Dogberry's charge are strictly examined, it will be found that the author of it had a very respectable acquaintance with crown law. The problem was to save the constables from all trouble, danger, and responsibility, without any regard to the public safety :
Dogb. If you meet a thief, you may suspect him, by virtue of your office, to be no true man; and for such kind of men, the less your mediat to be no you meddle or make with them, why, the more is for your honesty.
2 Watch. If we know him to be a thief, shall we not lay hands on him ?
Dogb. Truly, by your office you may; but, I think, they that touch pitch will be defiled. The most peaceable way for you, if you do take a thief, is to let him show himself what he is, and steal out of your company.
Now there can be no doubt that Lord Coke himself could not more accurately have defined the power of a peace-officer.
I cannot say as much for the law laid down by Dogberry and Verges in Act iv. Sc. 2, that it was “flat perjury” to call a prince's brother villain ; or “flat burglary as ever was committed” to receive a thousand ducats “for accusing a lady wrongfully.” But the dramatist seems himself to have been well acquainted with the terms and distinctions of our criminal code, or he could not have rendered the blunders of the parish officers so absurd and laughable.
Love's Labour's Lost.
In Act 1. Sc. 1, we have an extract from the Report by Don Adriano de Armado of the infraction he had witnessed of the King's proclamation by Costard with Jaquenetta ; and it is drawn up in the true lawyerlike, tautological dialect,—which is to be paid for at so much a folio:
Then for the place where ; where, I mean, I did encounter that obscene and most preposterous event that draweth from my snowwhite pen the ebon-coloured ink, which here thou viewest, beholdest, surveyest, and seest. * * * Him I (as my ever-esteemed duty pricks me on) have sent to thee to receive the meed of punishment, by thy sweet Grace's officer, Antony Dull, a man of good repute, carriage, bearing, and estimation.
The gifted Shakespeare might perhaps have been capable, by intuition, of thus imitating the conveyancer's jargon; but no ordinary man could have hit it off so exactly, without having engrossed in an attorney's office.
Midsummer Night's Dream.
Egeus makes complaint to Theseus, in Act 1. Sc. 1, against his daughter Hermia, because, while he wishes her to marry Demetrius, she prefers Lysander; and he seeks to enforce the law of Athens, that a daughter, who refuses to marry according to her father's directions, may be put to death by him :
And, my gracious duke,
Commenting on this last line, Steevens observes, “Shakespeare is grievously suspected of having been placed, while a boy, in an attorney's office. The line before us has an undoubted smack of legal commonplace: Poetry disclaims it.”
The precise formula—“In such case made and provided”—would not have stood in the verse. There is certainly no nearer approach in heroic measure to the technical language of an indictment; and there seems no motive for the addition made to the preceding line, except to show a familiarity with legal phraseology, which Shakespeare, whether he ever were an attorney's clerk or not, is constantly fond of displaying.
The Merchant of Venice.
In Act 1. Sc. 3, and Act 11. Sc. 8, Antonio's bond to Shylock is prepared and talked about according to all the forms observed in an English attorney's office. The distinction between a “single bill ” and a “bond with a condition” is clearly referred to; and punctual payment is expressed in the technical phrase—“Let good Antonio keep his day.”
It appears by Act 111. Sc. 3, between Shylock, Salarino, Antonio, and a Jailer, that the action on the bond had been commenced, and Antonio had been arrested on mesne process. The trial was to come on before the Doge; and the question was, whether Shylock was entitled to judgment specifically for his pound of flesh, or must be contented with pecuniary damages.
Shylock threatens the Jailer with an action for “ escape” for allowing Antonio to come for a short time beyond the walls of the prison :
I do wonder,
Antonio is made to confess that Shylock is entitled to the pound of flesh, according to the plain meaning of the bond and condition, and the rigid strictness of the common law of England :
Salarino. I am sure the Duke
Antonio. The Duke cannot deny the course of law.
All this has a strong odour of Westminster Hall.
The trial comes on in Act iv. Sc. 1, and it is duly conducted according to the strict forms of legal procedure. Portia, the PODESTA or judge called in to act under the authority of the Doge, first inquires if there be any plea of non est factum.
She asks Antonio, “Do you confess the bond ?” and
sider how the damages are to be assessed. The plaintiff claims the penalty of the bond, according to the words of the condition; and Bassanio, who acts as counsel for the defendant, attempting on equitable grounds to have