The other day over lunch, a coworker brought up the "first let's kill all the lawyers" quote in some context I've forgotten. I then took the position that this is one of the more often misquoted, or at least quoted in incorrect context, bits of Shakespeare - rattling off the argument that the line is spoken by one of the bad guys, and is more along the lines of "The world would be a better place for the bad guys if we could get rid of all those silly lawyers who keep putting us in jail."
This morning, serendipity at work, I find this link in my feeds: http://www.spectacle.org/797/finkel.html
This old paper (1997) takes the position that it's really just a big lawyer joke, and thus probably goes more toward the first argument (nobody who quotes the line actually thinks of killing lawyers, right? It's just a joke, like wouldn't it be great if we killed all the lawyers?)
So I turn to my audience, who is far more knowledgeable than I on such subjects. In what context is the line delivered, and how does that carry through to proper use of the cliche today?