f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

May 31, 2008

et tu, Solomon? more bull about Shakespeare and lawyers

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 9:39 pm

Prof. Yabut interrupts a sleepy, rainy weekend for a little kvetch-‘n’-preach:

You don’t have to be a poet to believe that literature and fiction can often be more true than non-fiction, as well as more persuasive. And, you don’t have to be a lawyer — or distrust them — to know they will use words in any genre to mislead. But, the f/k/a Gang wasn’t expecting to have a humorous, insightful, enjoyable suspense tale — the 2006 novel “Kill all the Lawyers“– ruined by the very piece of untruthful Bar Progaganda About Shakespeare and Lawyers that we’ve been trying to debunk for a decade — the argument that Shakespeare was paying lawyers the highest compliment when he had Dick the Butcher advocate killing ’em all in Henry VI, Part II.

Twice this past month, f/k/a has plugged “Kill all the Lawyers,” which is from the Solomon vs. Law series, by author and former lawyer Paul Levine. Last night, we were about to finish reading the book — and planning to tell our readers how much we enjoyed it — when the following dialog (at 225) gave the entire Gang a giant case of agita/tsuris:

“More lawyer tricks?” [bad-guy, talk-show psychologist Dr. William] Kreeger said. “Technicalities and obfuscations. No wonder Shakespeare said, “‘Let’s kill all the lawyers.’ “

Shakespeare had a villain say that,” Steve replied, miraculously remembering a long-ago English Lit class at the U. “Dick the Butcher said it in a play, one of the Henrys. His pals were planning to overthrow the government, so the first thing they planned was to kill the lawyers to make the job easier. You’re misconstruing the line, just like you’re mischaracterizing my sister.”

“More legalese?” Kreeger taunted him. “More fine print and sleight of hand. Yes, indeed. Let’s kill all the lawyers before they kill all of us.”

I hate to side with the evil, pedophile-murderer, but Dr. Kreeger is absolutely correct: lawyer Solomon is obfuscating, and — actually — using some rather clumsy sleight-of-hand. Furthermore, Solomon didn’t get his mis-information from an English Literature course.

He got it straight from the propaganda playbook of bar associations across the United States. The Bar has been telling everyone who will listen (and especially themselves) that the sentence “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” [King Henry VI, Part II, IV, ii] demonstrates Shakespeare’s unshakable recognition of the important role lawyers play in maintaining the rule of law and the fruits of civilization. They argue that unruly rebels want to kill lawyers first, because it is the most effective step toward bringing down the Government and uprooting society.

However, as we explain in detail in our posting “Shakespeare and Lawyers” (March 1, 2004):

There’s one problem, neither the play itself nor English history supports the legal profession’s interpretation of Shakespeare. First, the conversation between Jack Cade and Dick the Butcher is not a discussion on how to plot to win a rebellion against lawful government. Quite the opposite, Cade is proclaiming what he will do “when I am king, — as king I will be.” When Butcher yells out that the first thing he wants done is to kill all the lawyers, Cade responds, “Nay, that I mean to do,” and laments “I was never mine own man” since signing a contract [”scribbled” on parchment by a lawyer and sealed with bee’s wax].

You can get the full, unlawyered explanation, along with the text of the scene from the play to put it in context, at our post. The Bar’s argument so quickly falls apart on even the most cursory examination, that it surely would make folks less secure and serene than the f/k/a Gang want to get those distorting propagandists on the witness stand for some withering cross-examination.

Clearly, author, and former lawyer, Paul Levine should know better. His novels and other writings are well-researched and realistic. Either Levine never bothered to take a look at what Shakespeare actually said, or he so badly wanted to take lawyers off the hook that he was willing to swallow the specious argument of his colleagues at the Bar and to recklessly pass along their claim despite its frivolous nature. [update (June 1, 2008): scroll to the afterwords blurb below for Paul Levine’s response to our accusations.]

It’s one thing for our protagonist Steve Solomon to manipulate facts to persuade judges, opposing counsel or juries. Among “Solomon’s Laws,” you will find, for example:

  • “Lying to judges is preferable to lying to the woman you love.”
  • “Thous shalt not screw your own client . . . unless thou hast a damn good reason.”
  • “A creative lawyer considers a judge’s order a mere suggestion.” and,
  • “I won’t lie to a lawyer’s face or stab him in the back, but if I have the chance, I’ll look him in the eye and kick him in the cojones.

But, it is totally unacceptable to make a statement that is clearly meant to manipulate and mislead his readers. Members of the public do not spend a lot of time visiting bar association websites to read their propaganda, nor do they seek out — or tend to believe — op/ed pieces in newspapers from local bar leaders. But, fans of the lovable fictional rascal are very likely to believe Solomon’s misinformation about Shakespeare and Lawyers. Levine clearly crossed a line of trust, and in so doing may have done more to spread the false defense than all of the Bar’s leaders to date.

So, I’m disappointed in Levine and Solomon, and very pleased that those lawyerly-lying words were not put in the mouth of Victoria Lord, the more dignified, ethical (and far prettier) half of the law firm of Solomon and Lord. Maybe, to make amends, Paul Levine will have the fictional Ms. Lord set the matter straight in a future Solomon vs. Lord novel. I’d definitely plug it, here at f/k/a.

afterwords: (June 1, 2008): Does big-time writer Paul Levine really think he can disarm and dissuade Prof. Yabut with a couple of compliments and a throw-away confession? Maybe he does. Although Paul has given me permission to “mis-quote” the email he sent to me this morning, I’m going to quote it in full, milk his celebrity, and hope he keeps his promise to “I’ll also be watching your blog so I can occasionally throw a dart your way.”

Here’s the full text of the email message from author Paul Levine that arrived before 2 AM this morning:

Love it, David.

I guess I should brush up my Shakespeare.

My defense is that (a) I didn’t know any better; and (b) Steve Solomon is a well-known liar, so he cannot be trusted. (You gave me the second defense by suggesting that Victoria Lord would never have said such a thing. I also think it’s unlikely Solomon would have remembered anything from a college English class, and if he did, he would have gotten it wrong).

Your blog is a blast, and I thank you for alerting me to one of the many errors of my ways.

Paul L.

Prof. Y wants to know if I could at least get an electronic autograph from Paul.

another update (June 3, 2008):  Paul Levine is winning the f/k/a Gang over with his “bona fides,” sense of humor, and fair play.  Today, he posted “Brush Up on Your Shakespeare” at the group weblog Naked Authors.com, which is written by a posse of six crime novelists — and let them jump all over me.

Some of you are surely asking, “Where’s your promised haiku, Giacalone?” Frankly, Solomon’s Shakespeare Sham has left me so dispirited, I can’t work up the energy to find and post any new haiku today. However, all is not lost. By the time most readers find this posting, The Heron’s Nest haiku journal will have posted its June 2008 edition (Volume X:2). So, please head over there for a hundred or so sure-to-please haiku.

Meanwhile, check out our prior post, for poems from The Heron’s Nest‘s first issue of 2008. Here’s a trio from three of our Honored Guest Poets:

icy morning
the twists and turns
of a child-proof cap

…………………. by Alice FramptonThe Heron’s Nest X:1 (March 2008)

Remembrance Day
traffic sounds crisscross
the bagpipes

………. by Laryalee FraserThe Heron’s Nest X:1 (March 2008)

storm clouds —
hearing the pauses
in the katydid’s song

…… by Hilary TannThe Heron’s Nest X:1 (March 2008)

update (June 1, 2008): As we said last night, the new edition of The Heron’s Nest (Vol. X, No. 2) is now online. We’ll post more tomorrow, but here’s a pair of teasers from two lawyers who would never think of bearding the Bard:

the cool kids
walk arm-in-arm
. . . wild narcissus

…… by Roberta Beary – The Heron’s Nest (Vol. X, No. 2)

winter aquarium —
maybe I should have stayed
in my home town

…. by Barry George – The Heron’s Nest (Vol. X, No. 2)

– – Et tu, Barry? A tell-em!! sigh —

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