Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shakespeare a Lawyer? - 16 - Wars of the Roses

Was Shake-Speare a lawyer?

Part 16

Valid Pointers to Shake-Speare being a Lawyer

10. Temple Gardens and the Wars of the Roses

In 1 Henry VI, 2.4, Shake-Speare sets a fictitious scene in the Temple Gardens, with quarrelling aristocratic students studying law, to represent the origin of the Wars of the Roses. A barrister would be more likely than a layman to set the scene thus. One of the students says:

   "Within the Temple Hall we were too loud;
    The garden here is more convenient".

To explain "too loud", Edward James Castle Q.C. in his Shakespeare, Bacon, Jonson and Greene (1897), p. 70, pointed out that Rule viii of the Rules of the Knight-Templars, the first occupants of the Temple, was: "In one common hall or refectory we will that you take your meat together, where, if your wants cannot be made known by signs, ye are softly and privately to ask for what you want". Castle says this convention of quietness in Hall still prevailed in his own day. One doubts whether an Elizabethan non-barrister would have known of it (and Shake-Speare editors seem to have missed it). In 2.4.133 the discussion in the garden ends with one aristocrat saying: "Come, let us four to dinner". This refers to the fact that barristers (like some other professions) dined in "messes" of four (I think three groups of four at each table). Bacon made a passing reference to this in a letter of 1603: "I have three new knights in my mess in Gray's Inn commons".

Note: Shake-Speare does not say whether by Temple Hall he meant the Inner Temple Hall or Middle Temple Hall. If Bacon was Shake-Speare, he probably meant the Inner Temple Hall and Garden because there was a close relationship between Gray's Inn and the Inner Temple. Castle says that by the "temple" members of Gray's Inn meant the Inner Temple. Gray's Inn had no ornamental garden, just two fields, till 1586 when Bacon started to establish a garden.

9. Keep your fellows' counsel

In Much Ado About Nothing 3.3.83-4, Dogberry in his charge to the watch says: "Keep your fellows' counsel and your own".  Lord Campbell in his Shakespeare's Legal Acquirements Considered, p. 46, pointed out that "Dogberry uses the very words of the oath administered by the Judge's Marshall to the Grand Jury at the present [Victorian] day" (and therefore presumably in Shake-Speare's day also). J.M. Robertson retorted that "the words must have been known to myriads of laymen". I doubt this. For example, I think it would be hard to find a layman today who knows the working of the oath taken by a juror. Jurors even have difficulty sometimes in repeating the wording correctly, though they are reading it from a card.

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