Is "Kill All The Lawyers" A Joke?

The other day over lunch, a coworker brought up the “first let’s kill all the lawyers” quote in some context I’ve forgotten.  I then took the position that this is one of the more often misquoted, or at least quoted in incorrect context, bits of Shakespeare – rattling off the argument that the line is spoken by one of the bad guys, and is more along the lines of “The world would be a better place for the bad guys if we could get rid of all those silly lawyers who keep putting us in jail.” This morning, serendipity at work, I find this link in my feeds: This old paper (1997) takes the position that it’s really just a big lawyer joke, and thus probably goes more toward the first argument (nobody who quotes the line actually thinks of killing lawyers, right?  It’s just a joke, like wouldn’t it be great if we killed all the lawyers?)  So I turn to my audience, who is far more knowledgeable than I on such subjects.  In what context is the line delivered, and how does that carry through to proper use of the cliche today?

One thought on “Is "Kill All The Lawyers" A Joke?

  1. Jack Cade is a pretender to the throne, who is anything but royal. He’s making all kinds of populist promises, including the elimination of money. Someone throws the “kill all the lawyers” suggestion into the mix, and Jack picks it up.

    But Jack isn’t to be taken seriously, and even his audience is making snide comments about his speech to the audience. There’s no way you could think that Shakespeare is actually suggesting to kill all the lawyers from this scene.

    Check it out.

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