by Charlton Ogburn
ONE HUNDRED YEARS ago two English barristers were so much impressed by Shakespeare's acquaintance with the law that each wrote a book on the subject. William Lowes Rushton in 1858 published his Shakespeare a Lawyer; and Lord John Campbell published his Shakespeare's Legal Acquirements in 1859, the year he was created Lord Chancellor, after having held the office of Lord Chief Justice. In his Lives of the Chancellors and in his Lives of the Chief Justices he had already called attention to Shakespeare's extensive knowledge of the law.
Sidney Lee, a layman, the author of a lengthy biography of the Stratford man (although all the known facts of his life can be put on less than one page), noted in the earlier editions the poet's "accurate use of legal terms which deserves all the attention which has been paid to it". Other writers, beginning with Malone, a lawyer and the author of the first biography of the man of Stratford (written 236 years after his birth), Grant White, Judge Webb, Lord Penzance, F. F. Heard, George Greenwood, Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke, all were impressed by Shakespeare's legal attainments. The Clarkes wrote of the "marvelous intimacy which he displays with legal terms, his frequent adoption of these in illustration and his curious technical knowledge of their form and force". Professor Churton Collins spoke of Shakespeare's "minute and undeviating accuracy in a subject where no layman who has indulged in such copious and ostentatious display of legal technicalities has ever yet