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him excused by paying twice the sum of money lent, or “ten times o’er,” judgment is given :
Portia. It must not be. There is no power in Venice
This bond is forfeit,
However, oyer of the bond being demanded, the judge found that it gave “no jot of blood ;” and the result was that Shylock, to save his own life, was obliged to consent to make over all his goods to his daughter Jessica and her Christian husband Lorenzo, and himself to submit to Christian baptism.
Shakespeare concludes this scene with an ebullition which might be expected from an English lawyer, by making Gratiano exclaim,
In christening thou shalt have two godfathers :
meaning a jury of twelve men, to find him guilty of the capital offence of an attempt to murder ;—whereupon he must have been hanged.
I may further observe that this play, in the last scene of the last act, contains another palpable allusion to English legal procedure: In the Court of Queen's Bench, when a complaint is made against a person for a “contempt,” the practice is that before sentence is finally pronounced, he is sent into the Crown Office, and being there “charged upon interrogatories,” he is made to swear that he will “ answer all things faithfully." Accordingly, in the moonlight scene in the garden at Belmont, after a partial explanation between Bassanio, Gratiano, Portia, and Nerissa, about their rings, some farther inquiry being deemed necessary, Portia says,—
Let us go in,
Gratiano assents, observing,–
Let it be so: the first inter’gatory
The Taming of the Shrew.
In the “ Induction” Shakespeare betrays an intimate knowledge of the matters which may be prosecuted as offences before the Court Leet, the lowest court of criminal judicature in England. He puts this speech into the mouth of a servant, who is trying to persuade Sly that he is a great lord, and that he had been in a dream for fifteen years, during which time he thought he was a frequenter of alehouses :
For though you lay here in this goodly chamber,
Now, in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I., there was a very wholesome law, that, for the protection of the public against “false measures," ale should be sold only in sealed vessels of the standard capacity; and the violation of the law was to be presented at the “ Court Leet,” or “ View of Frankpledge,” held in every hundred, manor, or lordship, before the steward of the leet.
Malone, in reference to this passage, cites the wellknown treatise of `Kitchen on Courts,' and also copies a passage from a work with which I am not acquainted
* Characterismi, or Lenton's Leasures,' 12mo. 1631– which runs thus :—“He [an informer) transforms himselfe into several shapes, to avoid suspicion of inneholders, and inwardly joyes at the sight of a blacke pot or jugge, knowing that their sale by sealed quarts spoyles his market.”
In Act 1. Sc. 2, the proposal of Tranio that the rival lovers of Bianca, while they eagerly in her presence should press their suit, yet, when she is absent, should converse freely as friends, is illustrated in a manner to induce a belief that the author of Tranio's speech had been accustomed to see the contending counsel, when the trial is over, or suspended,—on very familiar and friendly terms with each other :
Tra. Sir, I shall not be slack : in sign whereof,
This clearly alludes not to the parties litigating, who, if they were to eat and drink together, would generally be disposed to poison each other, but to the counsel on opposite sides, with whom, notwithstanding the fiercest contests in court, when they meet in private immediately after, it is “ All hail, fellow, and well met."
In the first encounter of wits between Katherine and Petruchio, Shakespeare shows that he was acquainted with the law for regulating “trials by battle” between champions, one of which had been fought in Tothill Fields before the judges of the Court of Common Pleas in the reign of Elizabeth.
Kath. What is your crest? a coxcomb ?
(Act 11. Sc. 1.)
This all lawyers know to be the word spoken by a champion who acknowledged that he was beaten, and declared that he would fight no more :—whereupon judgment was immediately given against the side which he supported, and he bore the infamous name of Craven for the rest of his days.
We have like evidence in “Hamlet' (Act iv. Sc. 4) of Shakespeare's acquaintance with the legal meaning of this word, where the hero says
Now, whether it be