In Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, Scene
II, Dick, a butcher, said "[t]he first thing we do, let's kill all the
Dick was a follower of Jack
Cade, described by
Shakespeare as a "rebel," desired to overthrow the English
government and establish a dictatorship. Shakespeare describes Cade as "the head of an army of rabble and a demagogue pandering to the ignorant".
likelihood, Shakespeare meant
this phrase as a tribute to lawyers. Cade and Dick understood that in order to
deprive the English people of cherished rights, the
lawyers stood against them and had to be destroyed.
In rephrasing the words of
Dick the butcher, then, lawyers are an
important component of
any society based upon individual freedom. Today, the quote is often used as a
derogatory comment in support of an attack against lawyers.
Now you now know better!