Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shakespeare a Lawyer? - 17 - Brook abridgement

Was Shake-Speare a lawyer?

Part 17

Valid Pointers to Shake-Speare being a Lawyer

8.  Lovers like opposing barristers

In The Taming Of The Shrew 1.1.276-7, one of two rival lovers for the affections of the same lady suggests that they should

     "Do as adversaries do in law,
      Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends".

"Adversaries" here refers to opposing Counsel; a layman would probably use it of the parties themselves. Secondly, how many laymen would liken rival lovers to contesting barristers eating and drinking as friends? But the analogy would come naturally to a barrister since the camaraderie of the Bar is one of its most distinctive features. A lay client on the other hand might be a little surprised (and offended) to see his barrister lunching during the case with his forensic opponent. In rebuttal J.M. Robertson in his The Baconian Heresy (1913), p. 62, quotes from Westward Ho 1.1. by Dekker and Webster: "She sleeps as a client having great business with lawyers". But this is not comparable since it does not echo the ethics of the Bar.

7.  Brook abridgement

In Henry V Act 5, Prologue Line 44, the audience is enjoined. "Then brook abridgement and your eyes advance". There was a well known legal textbook called "Brooke's Abridgement, first published in 1573 and reprinted in 1576 and 1586. Bacon in his legal writings mentions it 4 times. Was the wording of Shake-Speare's "Brook abridgement" suggested by the book's title? That wording was probably a joke phrase in the Inns of Court, based on the title. Like "An advocate is a pheasant" considered in the next item (#6 in this list). "Brook abridgement" may have no legal connotation (especially as "brook" was a word Shake-Speare liked). But both together increase one's suspicions. Can two such legal coincidences (this item and also that in #6) be found in the works of any other Elizabethan playwright?

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