Open main menu

"Let's kill all the lawyers" is a line from William Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2. The full quote is "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers".[1] It is among Shakespeare's most famous lines,[2] as well as one of his most controversial,[3] and has been used as the title of movies[4] and books.[5] Shakespeare may be making a joke when character "Dick The Butcher" suggests one of the ways the band of pretenders to the throne can improve the country is to kill all the lawyers. Dick is a rough character, a killer as evil as his name implies,[1] like the other henchmen, and this is his rough solution to his perceived societal problem.[6] There is some disagreement with the interpretation that one of Shakespeare's sympathetic characters would make a joke suggesting that killing lawyers would make the world better.[7]

Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2Edit

JACK CADE. Valiant I am.

SMITH [aside]. A must needs; for beggary is valiant.

JACK CADE. I am able to endure much.

DICK [aside]. No question of that; for I have seen him whipp'd three market-days together.

JACK CADE. I fear neither sword nor fire.

SMITH [aside]. He need not fear the sword; for his coat is of proof.

DICK [aside]. But methinks he should stand in fear of fire, being burnt i' th' hand for stealing of sheep.

JACK CADE. Be brave, then; for your captain is brave, and vows reformation. There shall be in England seven half-penny loaves sold for a penny: the three-hoop'd pot shall have ten hoops; and I will make it felony to drink small beer: all the realm shall be in common; and in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to grass: and when I am king,– as king I will be,–

ALL. God save your majesty!

JACK CADE. I thank you, good people:– there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

DICK. The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.


  1. ^ a b "Henry VI, part 2: Entire Play". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  2. ^ "Henry VI (Part 2) the play by William Shakespeare". Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  3. ^ Gershman, Jacob. "To Kill or Not to Kill All the Lawyers? That Is the Question". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  4. ^ Senkowski, Ron (1998-05-15), Let's Kill All the Lawyers, retrieved 2016-03-01
  5. ^ Levine, Paul (2012-06-01). Kill All the Lawyers (Unabridged ed.). Place of publication not identified: Blackstone Audio. ISBN 9781433227288.
  6. ^ ""The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" - it's a lawyer joke". Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  7. ^ "'Kill the Lawyers,' A Line Misinterpreted". The New York Times. 1990-06-17. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-01.