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Shakespeare's Works, by attributing to him unusual knowledge of a great variety of subjects, is not satisfactory; for, Shakespeare's knowledge, it is generally admitted, was more intuitive than acquired, consisting more in an extensive and profound intimacy with human nature, with the animal and inanimate world,—which he has displayed with a truthfulness, power, and sublimity unapproached, if not unapproachable, rather than in a familiarity with the writings of authors and science in general,—and if that master mind could possibly have possessed double the unequalled genius which exalted him far above the generality of his fellow creatures, he would not have been able to use and apply law terms of a purely technical character in the manner appearing in his compositions, without considerable knowledge of that abstruse and mighty science, the law of England. Nor will it be satisfactory to state that the legal knowledge he has displayed in the correct use of law terms affords no more evidence of his having been a lawyer than the correct use of nautical terms and the knowledge of seamanship affords of his having been sometime a seaman,—because the sea phrases and the display of knowledge of seamanship are peculiar to the Tempest,—those phrases are not of frequent occurrence, and that knowledge is not displayed in any other portion of his works. Morever, if it can be proved, as there seems reason to believe, that the principles and practice of the law of real property were generally understood by unprofessional people in Shakespeare's time than at the present day, that circumstance will not satisfactorily account for all Shakespeare's legal knowledge, because his works contain passages displaying
not merely a knowledge of the principles and practice
Because all those things you have done of late
Henry VIII., Act 3, Scene 2. A Præmunire (so called from the words of the writ Præmunire facias, or Præmoneri facias, signifying the writ and the offence on which the writ is grounded) is an offence whereby one shall incur the same punishment which is inflicted upon those who transgress the 16th Richard II., chap. 5, commonly called the Statute of Præmunire, which enacts that “If any purchase or pursue, or cause to be purchased or pursued in the Court of Rome, or elsewhere, any translation, process, sentence of excommunication, bulls, instruments, &c., which touch the King;
any do bring them within the realm, or receive them, they shall be put out of the King's protection, and their lands, tenements, goods and chattels, forfeited to the King.” (See the exposition of this statute, 3rd Inst., 126, and see 28th Henry VIII., chap. 16, which is a general law, and strictly penned against pleading any bull, dispensation, &c., from Rome, which is not warranted by the act. Wood's Institute, 2nd ed., p. 408.) This offence originated from the power claimed and exercised by the Pope, which
even in the days of blind zeal was too exorbitant for our
Hath thus beguiled your daughter of herself,
Stood in your action.
Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms,
I won his daughter with.” The 8th cap. 33rd Henry VIII., against conjurations, witchcraft, sorceries, and enchantments, enacts “ It shall be felony to practice, or cause to be practised, conjuration, witchcraft, enchantment, or sorcery, to get money; or to consume any person in his body, members, or goods; or to provoke any person to unlawful love ; or for despight of Christ, or lucre of money, to pull down any cross; or to declare where goods stolen be.” (See also 5th Eliz., cap. 5.) These passages sufficiently prove that Shakespeare's knowledge of the English law was not confined to the lex non scripta, for he uses almost the exact language of the statutes. It may, however, be asserted that probably chance made Shakespeare familiar with law terms; but chance would not have enabled him to apply them with such correctness. Moreover, why should Shakespeare make use of law terms in preference to the technical terms of the medical, clerical, or any other profession? It will also be perceived, in the passages about to be selected, that the great dramatist, in addition to frequent use of law terms and law phraseology, makes constant reference
to lawyers in his allusions to mankind, in apparent preference to the members of any other profession. Why should Hamlet, in his reflections on a skull, suppose that it belonged to a lawyer, in preference to a doctor or a divine ? But let the reader notice how many law terms are made use of in this passage:
HAMLET. “Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddets now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? Why does he suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery? This fellow might be in 's time a buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries. Is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt ? Will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures ? The very conveyance of his lands will hardly lie in this box, and must the inheritor himself have no more ?"
Quiddets and quillets, cases and tenures, are terms with which many persons, who are not at all familiar with the laws of England, are perfectly well acquainted. But statutes and recognizances, fines, double vouchers, and recoveries are somewhat more technical and abstruse. Recognizance, (recognitio,) though in special signification it only acknowledges a certain debt, and is executed upon all the goods and half of the lands of the recognisor, yet by extension it is drawn also to bonds, commonly called statute merchant and statute of the staple. A statute merchant (so called from the 13th Edward I., De mercatoribus,) was a bond acknowledged before one of the clerks of the statutes merchant, and mayor, or chief warden of the city of London, or two merchants of the said city, for that purpose assigned ; or before the mayor, chief warden, or master of other cities or good towns, or other sufficient men for that purpose appointed, sealed with the seal of the depter and of the King, which was of two pieces, the greater was kept by the said mayor, chief warden, &c., and the lesser piece thereof by the said clerks. Statute staple was either properly so called, or improperly. A statute staple, properly so called, was a bond of record, acknowledged before the mayor of the staple, in the presence of the two constables of the same staple, founded upon the statute anno 27th Edward III., cap. 9. A statute staple improper, was a bond of record, founded
upon the statute anno 23rd Henry VIII., cap. 6, of the nature of a proper statute staple, as touching the forces and execution thereof, and acknowledged before one of the chief justices, and, in their absence, before the mayor of the staple and the recorder of London. The statutes referred to by Hamlet are doubtless statutes merchant and statutes staple, and not acts of parliament; because between these statutes and recognizances there exists a reciprocal relation. Statutes staple, statutes merchant, and recognizances, in the nature of a statute staple, are now obsolete. The term fine, as used by Shakespeare in this passage, signified an amicable agreement or composition of a suit, whether real or fictitious, between the demandant and tenant, with the consent of the judges, and enrolled among the records of the court where the suit was commenced, by which lands and tenements were transferred om one person to another, or any other settlement was made respecting them. This assurance was called finis, or finalis concordia, from the words with which it began, and also from its effect, which was to put