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Justice, by saying to his Lordship—“My Lord, this is a poor mad soul; and she says, up and down the town, that her eldest son is like you :” and by insisting that although he owed the money, he was privileged from arrest for debt, “ being upon hasty employment in the king's affairs.”
In Act v. Sc. 1, Falstaff, having long made Justice Shallow his butt during a visit to him in Gloucestershire, looks forward with great delight to the fun of recapitulating at the Boar's Head, East Cheap, Shallow's absurdities; and, meaning to intimate that this would afford him opportunities of amusing the Prince of Wales for a twelvemonth, he says
“I will devise matter enough out of this Shallow to keep Prince Henry in continual laughter the wearing out of six fashions (which is four terms, or two actions), and he shall laugh without intervallums.”
Dr. Johnson thus annotates on the “ two actions :”— “ There is something humorous in making a spendthrift compute time by the operation of an action for debt.” The critic supposes, therefore, that in Shakespeare's time final judgment was obtained in an action of debt in the second term after the writ commencing it was sued out; and as there are four terms in the legal year, - Michaelmas Term, Hilary Term, Easter Term, and Trinity Term—this is a legal circumlocution for a twelvemonth. It would seem that the author who dealt in such phraseology must have been early initiated in the mysteries of terms and actions.
Shakespeare has likewise been blamed for an extravagant perversion of law in the promises and threats which Falstaff throws out on hearing that Henry IV. was dead, and that Prince Hal reigned in his stead.
Fal. Master Robert Shallow, choose what office thou wilt in the land, 'tis thine.-Pistol, I will double-charge thee with dignities. * * * Master Shallow, my Lord Shallow, be what thou wilt, I am Fortune's steward. * * * Come, Pistol, utter more to me; and withal devise something to do thyself good.—Boot, boot, master Shallow : I know the young King is sick for me. Let us take any man's horses; the laws of England are at my commandment. Happy are they which have been my friends, and woe unto my Lord Chief Justice !-Act v. Sc. 4.
f Justice, which havet England are for me. Letoot,
But Falstaff may not unreasonably be supposed to have believed that he could do all this, even if he were strictly kept to the literal meaning of his words. In the natural and usual course of things he was to become (as it was then called) “favourite” (or, as we call it, Prime Minister) to the new king, and to have all the power and patronage of the crown in his hands. Then, why might not Ancient Pistol, who had seen service, have been made War Minister? And if Justice Shallow
had been pitchforked into the House of Peers, he might have turned out a distinguished Law Lord.—By taking “any man's horses” was not meant stealing them, but pressing them for the king's service, or appropriating them at a nominal price, which the law would then have justified under the king's prerogative of preemption. Sir W. Gascoigne was continued as Lord Chief Justice in the new reign; but, according to law and custom, he was removable, and he no doubt expected to be removed, from his office.
Therefore, if Lord Eldon could be supposed to have written the play, I do not see how he would be chargeable with having forgotten any of his law while writing it.
It is remarkable that while Falstaff and his companions, in Act v. Sc. 5, are standing in Palace Yard to see the new king returning from his coronation in Westminster Abbey, Pistol is made to utter an expression used, when the record was in Latin, by special pleaders in introducing a special traverse or negation of a positive material allegation of the opposite side, and so framing an issue of fact for the determination of the jury ;-absque hoc, “ without this that;"—then repeating the allegation to be negatived. But there is often much difficulty in explaining or accounting for the phraseology of Ancient Pistol, who appears “ to have been at a great feast of languages and stolen the scraps ;"-80 that if, when “ double charged with dignities,” he had been called upon to speak in debate as a leading member of the government, his appointment might have been carped at.
King Henry the Sixth,
In the speeches of Jack Cade and his coadjutors in this play we find a familiarity with the law and its proceedings which strongly indicates that the author must have had some professional practice or education as a lawyer. The second scene in Act iv. may be taken as an example.
Dick. 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 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 mine own man since.
The Clerk of Chatham is then brought in, who could “make obligations and write court hand,” and who, instead of “making his mark like an honest plaindealing man,” had been “so well brought up that he could write his name.” Therefore he was sentenced to be hanged with his pen and ink-horn about his neck.
Surely Shakespeare must have been employed to write deeds on parchment in court hand, and to apply the wax to them in the form of seals : one does not understand how he should, on any other theory of his bringing up, have been acquainted with these details.
Again, the indictment on which Lord Say was arraigned, in Act iv. Sc. 7, seems drawn by no inexperienced hand :
“Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar-school: and whereas, before, our forefathers had no other books but the score and the tally, thou hast caused printing to be used ; and contrary to the king, his crown and dignity, thou hast built a paper-mill. It will be proved to thy face that thou hast men about thee that usually talk of a noun and a verb, and such abominable words as no Christian ear can endure to hear. * Thou bast appointed justices of peace, to call poor men before them about matters they were not able to answer. Moreover thou hast put them in prison; and because they could not read, thou hast hanged them, when indeed only for that cause they have been most worthy to live."
How acquired I know not, but it is quite certain that the drawer of this indictment must have had some
* " Inter Christianos non nominand' "