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Part Two - William Shakespeare - Attorney At Law
Lord Campbell, as we have just seen, mentions Henry VIII as one of the fourteen plays in which he has found nothing which relates to the question in hand; but Mr. Rushton opens his batteries with the following passage from the very play just named; and to most readers it will seem a bomb of the largest dimensions, sent right into the citadel of his opponents:
We shall first remark, that, in spite of his declaration as to Henry VIII, Lord Campbell does cite and quote this very, passage (p. 42); and, indeed, he must have been as unappreciative as he seems to have been inaccurate, had he failed to do so; for, upon its face, it is, with one or two exceptions, the most important passage of the kind to be found in Shakespeare’s works. Premunire is thus defined in an old law-book, which was accessible to Shakespeare:
"Premunire is a writ, and it lieth where any man sueth any other in the spirituall court for anything that is determinable in the King’s Court, and that is ordeined by certaine statutes, and great punishment therefore ordeined, as it appeareth by the same statutes, viz., that he shall be out of the King’s protection, and that he be put in prison without baile or mainprise till that he have made fine at the King’s will, and that his landes and goods shal be forfait, if he come not within ij. moneths."—Termes de la Ley, 1595, fol. 144.
The object of the writ was to prevent the abuse of spiritual power. Now, here is a law-term quite out of the common, which is used by Shakespeare with a well-deployed knowledge of the power of the writ of which it is the name. Must we, therefore, suppose that Shakespeare had obtained his knowledge of the purpose and the power of this writ in the course of professional reading or practice? 
If we looked no farther than Shakespeare’s page, such a supposition might seem to be warranted. But if we turn to Michael Drayton’s Legend of Great Cromwell, first published, we believe, in 1607, but certainly some years before Henry VIII was written, and the subject of which figures in that play, we find these lines,
Here is the very phrase in question, used with a knowledge of its meaning and of the functions of the writ hardly less remarkable than that evinced in the passage from Henry VIII, though expressed in a different manner, owing chiefly to the fact that Drayton wrote a didactic poem and Shakespeare a drama. But Drayton is not known to have been an attorney’s clerk, nor has he been suspected, from his writings, or any other cause, to have had any knowledge of the law. Both he and Shakespeare, however, read the Chronicles. Reading men perused Hall’s and Holinshed’s huge blackletter folios in Queen Elizabeth’s time with as much interest as they do Macaulay’s or Prescott’s elegant octavos in the reign of her successor, Victoria. Shakespeare drew again and again upon the former for the material of his historical plays; and in writing Henry VIII he adopted often the very language of the Chronicler. The well-known description of Wolsey, which he puts into the mouth of Queen Katherine,
is little more than the following paragraph from Holinshed put into verse:
Turning back from the page on which the Chronicler comments upon the life of the dead prime-minister, to that on which he records his fall, we find these passages:
If the reader will look back at the passage touching the premunire, quoted above, he will see that these few lines from Raphael Holinshed are somewhat fatal to an argument in favor of Shakespeare’s "legal acquirements," in so far as it rests in any degree upon the use of terms or the knowledge displayed in that passage. Shakespeare and Drayton are here in the same boat, though "not with the same sculls."
Before we shelve Holinshed—for the good Raphael’s folios are like Falstaff in size, if not in wit, and, when once laid flat-long, require levers to set them up on end again—let us see if he cannot help us to account for more of the "legalisms" that our Lord Chief Justice and our barrister have "smelt out" in Shakespeare’s historical plays. Mr. Rushton quotes the following passages from Richard II: 
And Lord Campbell, although he passes by these passages in Richard II, quotes, as important, from a speech of Hotspur’s in the First Part of Henry IV, the following lines, which, it will be seen, refer to the same act of oppression on the part of Richard II towards Bolingbroke:
But, here again, Shakespeare, although he may have known more law than Holinshed, or even Hall, who was a barrister, only used the law-terms that he found in the paragraph which furnished him with the incident that he dramatized. For, after recording the death of Gaunt, the Chronicle goes on:
The only legal phrase, however, in these passages of Richard II, which seems to imply very extraordinary legal knowledge, is the one repeated in Henry IV—"sue his livery,"—which was the term applied to the process by which, in the old feudal tenures, wards, whether of the king or other guardian, on arriving at legal age, could compel a delivery of their estates to them from their guardians. But hence, it became a metaphorical expression to mean merely the attainment of majority, and in this sense seems to have been very generally understood and not uncommonly used. See the following, from an author who was no attorney or attorney’s clerk:
Spenser, too, uses the phrase figuratively in another sense, in the following passage—which may be one of those which Chalmers had in his eye, when, according to Lord Campbell, he "first suggested" that Shakespeare was once an attorney’s clerk:
So, for instance of the phrase "fee," which Lord Campbell notices as one of those expressions and allusions which "crop out" in Hamlet, "showing the substratum of law in the author "mind,"
and of which Mr. Rushton quotes several instances in its fuller form, "fee simple,"—we have but to turn back a few stanzas in this same canto of the Faerie Queene, to find one in which the term is used with the completest apprehension of its meaning:
And in the first of these two passages from the Faerie Queene, we have two words, "seized" and "estate," intelligently and correctly used in their purely legal sense, as Shakespeare himself uses them in the following passages, which our Chief Justice and our barrister have both passed by, as, indeed, they have passed many others equally worthy of notice:
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