SHAKESPEARE LAW LIBRARY
Last | Contents
Mr. Grant White's Case – Part 3
 In Massinger the usage abounds:
Style not that courtship, madam, which is only
By that fair name I in the wars have purchased.
Purchased with his blood that did oppose me.
I can do twenty [tricks] neater, if you please,
the knowledge of
this bubble honour . . .
There are other toys about you the same way purchased
[= received in gift].
I would not lose this purchase [= gain].
This felicity, not gained
I shall break
Here purchase the reward that was propounded.
The danger in the purchase of the prey.
You have purchased
My scrip, my tar-box, hook, and coat, will prove
I would purchase
I would purchase
I will practise
And it is frequent in Chapman:
My purchased honours.
While we abroad fight for new Kingdoms’ purchase.
So much I prize the sweetness
Then your purchase holds,
And it is frequent in Chapman: We have it in the anonymous play Nero :
and in Henry Porter’s Two Angry Women of Abington:
It seems unnecessary to carry the comparison further. The primary and quasi-"legal" sense of "purchase," so far from being peculiar to Shakespeare, is far more common than the other in the dramas of other writers in his and the next generation. And so absolutely normal was this use of the word that it enters into the old rhymed version of the Psalms, authorised for use in the churches in 1645:
When therefore we find the word used by Bacon (Essay of Honour and Reputation) we are not reading a legalism imposed on belles lettres by a lawyer, but a current English word used in its current meaning.** So widely was that meaning established that we find it as late as 1727 in a preface of Bishop Warburton’s:
For now the Invention of Printing hath made it [the
usage of dedications] a Purchase for the Vulgar.
For the rest, Mr. Grant White’s general case is obviously as void as that of Lord Campbell. To say no more of his divagation over the term "purchase," it is astonishing that such a scholar, who must have had a general acquaintance with the Elizabethan and Stuart drama, should find evidence of special and technical knowledge of conveyancing in the bare use of such terms and phrases "fine and recovery," "indenture," "tenure," "double voucher," "fee simple," "remainder," "reversion," and "forfeiture." A perusal of two plays of Massinger’s might have led the critic to cancel his whole thesis. In A New Way To Pay Old Debts we have, in addition to the passages already cited, this swarm of legal terms:
In The City Madam, by the same playwright, we have these:
From almost no play of Shakespeare can there be cited so many "legalisms" as occur in either of these two of Massinger. But Massinger is not singular. We have already noted dozens of legalisms in Jonson, Dekker, Reywood, and Chapman. 
In Lily’s Mother Bombie alone I find some thirty "legal" allusions:
A good evidence to prove the fee simple of your daughter’s
Every one of these phrases would have been certified by Lord Campbell and Senator Davis as a proof of legal knowledge had they found it in Shakespeare, and in no Shakespearean play can they find half as many. Was Lily then a lawyer? If Shakespeare’s plays exhibit a professional knowledge of conveyancing, what inference, once more, are we to draw from this series of conveyancer’s phrases in a single play of Ben Jonson’s?
In Jonson, as in Lily, we have one of the law terms erroneously ascribed by Grant White to Shakespeare:
We find it in Nashe:
. . . The Divell used to lend money upon pawnes, or
anything, and would let one for a need have a thousand pounds upon
a Statute Marchant of his soul, or . . . would trust him upon a bill
of his hand. . . .
It occurs also in at least two stories of Greene’s:
Lends him money and takes a fair statute-marchant of
his lands before a judge.
Vie must bind over his lands in a statute marchant or
And this particular law term occurs in one of the old morality plays:
Bounde in statute marchante.
—with other legalisms such as "surety," "bill of sale," "writ of privilege," and the maxim that "the law is indifferent to every person" (I. 6)—all going to show that legal phraseology and discussion pervaded Elizabethan drama from its earliest stages.__________
* Hopkins' sixteenth-century version of this Psalm, still retained in Scotland. Tate and Brady (1696) give a changed rendering. back
** Bacon uses the word in its modern sense thrice in the Essay Of Usury. back
Copyright © 2000 by Mark Alexander.
All Rights Reserved. SOURCETEXT, SHARETEXT,
SOURCETEXT.COM, SHARETEXT.COM, THE SHAKESPEARE AUTHORSHIP SOURCEBOOK,
THE SHAKESPEARE LAW LIBRARY, THE HU PAGE, THE SCHOOL OF PYTHAGORAS
and others are trademarked 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 by
Mark Alexander, P. O. Box 620008, Woodside, CA 94062-0008.
SourceText.Com and ShareText.Com are
Breeze Productions, P.O. Box 620008, Woodside, CA 94062-0008.