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THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL NOTICE.
SHAKSPEARE was supposed to have taken the two plots of this admirable play from an Italian novel, and from a collection of old stories, printed by Wynkin de Worde, under the title of Gesta Romanorum; but as a play comprehending the incidents of both had been exhibited long before he commenced writing for the stage, he probably chose the latter as a model for his own production. It matters not, however, from what source a dramatic author derives his plot, so that he plan it well, and make good use of it afterward; and Johnson says, that in this play "the union of two actions in one event is eminently happy;" excelling even Dryden's skilful conjunction of the two plots in his Spanish Friar, yet the interest of the action can scarcely be said to continue beyond the disgrace of Shylock, in the fourth act; since expectation is so strongly fixed upoa “justice and the bond," that it ceases to exist after they are satisfied. In the defeat of cunning, and in the triumph of humanity, the most powerful feelings of our nature are successively appealed to: thus anticipation is keenly alive, so long as Antonio's fate is dark and undecided. But with the development of that, the charm is at an end. The power of excitement expires with the object upon which the feelings were centered; and as the lesser passions are susceptible of little delight, when the greater have been subjected to any unusual stimulant, the common-place trifles of the concluding act are rather endured with patience, that received with gratification. The character of Shylock is no less original, than it is finely finished : "the language, allusions, and ideas (says Henly) are so appropriate to a Jew, that Shylock might be exhibited for an exemplar of that peculiar people;" nor are the other personages unpleasingly drawn or inadequately supported. Of detached passages, Portia's description of the qualities and excellence of mercy, may ba selected as one of the moblest attributes with which Genius has ever exalted the excellence of any particular
OLD GOBBO, Father to Launcelot.
BALTHAZAR, Servants to Portia.
‚} Friends to Antonio and Bassanio. PORTIA, a rich Heiress :
LORENZO, in love with Jessica.
SHYLOCK, a Jew.
TUBAL, a Jew, his Friend.
LAUNCELOT GOвво, a Clown, Servant to Shy
NERISSA, her waiting-maid.
Magnificoes of Venice, Officers of the Court of
SCENE-partly at Venice, and partly at Belmont, the Seat of Portla, on the Continent.
SCENE 1.-Venice.-A Street.
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
Salar. Your mind is tossing on the ocean :
• Ships of large burthen, probably galleons.
Would blow me to an ague when I thought
And not bethink me straight of dangerous rocks;
To think on this; and shall I lack the thought, That such a thing, bechanc'd, would make me sad?
But, tell not me: I know, Antonio
Is sad to think upon his merchandise.
Ant. Believe me, no: I thank my fortune for My ventures are not in one bottom trusted, Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate Upon the fortune of this present year : Therefore, my merchandise makes me not sad. Salan. Why then you are in love.
Ant. Fie, fie!
Salan. Not in love neither? Then let's say you are sad,
Because you are not merry: and, 'twere as easy For you to laugh, and leap, and say, you are (Janus, Because you are not sad. Now, by two-headed Nature hath fram'd strange fellows in her time: Some that will evermore peep through their eyes,
And laugh, like parrots, at a bagpiper;
Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.
Gratiano, and Lorenzo Fare you well;
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers,
Lor. Well, we will leave you then till dinnertime:
I must be one of these same dumb wise men,
Gra. Well, keep me company but two years more,
Thou shalt not know the sound of thine own tongue.
Ant. Farewell: I'll grow a talker for this gear.
Gra. Thanks, i'faith; for silence only is commendable [ble. In a neat's tongue dried, and a maid not vendi[Exeunt GRATIANO and LORENZO. Ant. Is that any thing now?
Buss. Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff; you shall seek all day ere you find them; and when you have them they are not worth the search.
Ant. Well; tell me now, what lady is this
To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage
Bass. 'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
Salar. I would have staid till I had made you Is, to come fairly off from the great debts,
[Exeunt SALARINO and SALANIO. Lor. My lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio,
We two will leave you: but at dinner time,
Gra. You look not well, signior Antonio;
A stage, where every man must play a part,
Gra. Let me play the Fool: With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come; And let my liver rather heat with wine, Than my heart cool with mortifying groans. Why should a man, whose blood is warm within, Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
Wherein my time, something too prodigal,
And, if it stand, as you yourself still do,
Bass. In my school days, when I had lost on shaft,
I shot his fellow of the self-same flight
I oft found both: 1 urg'd this childhood proof,
I owe you much; and, like a wilful youth,
Ant. You know me well; and herein spend
To wind about my love with circumstance; And, out of doubt, you do me now more wrong, making question of my uttermost,
Sleep when he wakes? and creep into the jaun-In
By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio,-
• Obstinate silence.
This is an allusion to the puritan preachers; who being generally long and tedious, were obliged to post pone that part of their sermon called the exhortation, till after dinner.
Than if you had made waste of all I bave :
Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth:
And many Jasons come in quest of her.
To hold a rival place with one of them,
I have a mind presages me such thrift,
That I should questionless be fortunate.
nothing but talk of his horse; and he makes it a great appropriation to his good parts, that be can shoe him himself; I am much afraid, my lady his mother played false with a smith.
Ner. Then, is there the county⚫ Palatine. Por. He doth nothing but frown; as who should say, An if you will not have me, choose: he hears merry tales, and smiles not: I fear he will prove the weeping philosopher when he grows oid, being so full of unmannerly sadness in his youth. I had rather be married to a death's head with a bone in his mouth, than to either of these. God defend me from these two.
Ner. How say you by the French lord, Monsieur Le Bon ?
Por. God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man. In truth, I know it is a sin to be a mocker; But, he! why, he hath a horse better than the Neapolitan's; a better bad habit of frowning than the count Palatine: he is every
Ant. Thou know'st, that all my fortunes are man in no man: if a brostle sing, he falls
Enter PORTIA and NERISSA. Por. By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is a-weary of this great world.
Ner. You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes are: And yet for anght I see, they are as sick, that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing: It is no mean happiness therefore, to be seated in the mean; superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.
Por. Good sentences, and well pronounced. Ner. They would be better, if well followed. Por. If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men's cottages princes' palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching. The brain may devise laws for the blood; but a hot temper leaps over a cold decree such a hare is madness the youth, to skip o'er the meshes of good counsel the cripple. But this reasoning is not in the fashion to choose me a husband :-0 me, the word choose! I may neither choose whom I would, nor refuse whom I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curb'd by the will of a dead father-Is it not hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one, nor refuse none?
Ner. Your father was ever virtuous; and holy men, at their death, have good inspiratious; therefore the lottery that he hath devised in these three chests, of gold, silver, and lead, (whereof who chooses his meaning, chooses you,) will, no doubt, never be chosen by any rightly, but one who you shall rightly love. But what warmth is there in your affection towards any of these princely suitors that are already come?
straight a capering: he will fence with his own shadow if I should marry him, I should marry twenty husbands: If he would despise me, I would forgive him; for if he love me to madness, I shall never requite him.
Ner. What say you then to Faulconbridge, the young baron of England?
Por. You know, I say nothing to him; for he understands not me, nor I him he hath neither Latin, French, nor Italian; and you will come into the court and swear, that I have a poor penny-worth in the English. He is a proper man's picture; But, alas ! who can with a dumb show? How oddly he is suited ! I think, he bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behaviour every where.
Ner. What think you of the Scottish lord, his neighbour?
Por. That he hath a neighbourly charity in him; for he borrowed a box of the ear of the Englishman, and swore he would pay him again, when he was able; I think the Frenchman became his surety, and sealed under for an
Ner. How like you the young German, the duke of Saxony's nephew?
Por. Very vilely in the morning, when he is sober; and most vilely in the afternoon, when be is drunk: when he is best, he is little worse than a man; and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast; an the worst fall that ever fell, I hope I shall make shift to go without him.
Ner. If he should offer to choose, and choose the right casket, you should refuse to perform your father's will, if you should refuse to accept him.
Por. Therefore, for fear of the worst, I pray thee set a deep glass of Rhenish wine on the contrary casket: for, if the devil be within, and that temptation without, I know he will choose it. I will do any thing, Nerissa, ere I will be married to a sponge.
Ner. You need not fear, lady, the having any of these lords; they have acquainted me with their determination: which is, indeed, to return to their home, and to trouble you with no more suit; unless you may be won by some other sort thau your father's imposition, depending on the caskets.
Por. If I live to be as old as Sibylla I will die as chaste as Diana, unless I be obtained by the manner of my father's will: I am glad this Por. I pray thee overname them; and as parcel of wooers are so reasonable; for there is thou namest them, I will describe them: and, not one among them but I dote on his very according to my description, level at my affec-absence, and I pray God grant them a fair de
Ner. Do you not remember, lady, in your father's time, a Venetian, a scholar, and a sol
1. e. It the worst happen that ever, &e
Even there where merchants most do congrecompany of the margate, Por. Yes, yes, it was Bassanio; as 1 think so was he called.
dier, that came hither in quis of Montferrat ?
Ner. True, madam; he, of all the men that ever my foolish eyes looked upon, was the best deserving a fair lady,
Por. I remember him well; and I remember him worthy of thy praise.-How now! what news?
Enter a SERVANT.
Serv. The four strangers, seek for you, madam, to take their leave: and there is a forerunner come from a fifth, the prince of Mo. rocco; who brings word the prince, his master, will be here to-night.
On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift,
Bass. Shylock, do you hear?
Shy. I am debating of my present store;
By taking nor by giving of excess,
Por. If I could bid the fifth welcome with so good a heart as I can bid the other four farewell, I should be glad of his approach: if he'll have the condition of a saint, and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me, than wive me. Come, Nerissa.-Sirrah, go before. Whiles we shut the gate upon one [Exeunt. wooer, another knocks at the door.
SCENE III.-Venice.-A public Place.
Enter BASSANIO and SHYLOCK.
Shy. Three thousand ducats,-well.
Bass. For the which, as I told you, Antonio shall be bound.
Shy. Antonio shall become bound,-well. Bass. May you stead me ? Will you pleasure me? Shall I know your answer?
Shy. Three thousand ducats, for three months, and Antonio bound.
Bass. Your answer to that.
Shy. Antonio is a good man. Bass. Have you heard any imputation to the contrary?
Shy. Ay, ay, three thousand ducats.
Shy. I had forgot,-three months, you told
Well then, your bond; and, let me see,-—But
Methought, you said, you neither lend, nor
Ant. I do never use it.
Shy. When Jacob graz'd his uncle Laban's
This Jacob from our holy Abraham was
Ant. And what of him? did he take interest? Shy. No, not take interest; not, as you would say, Directly interest: mark what Jacob did. When Laban and himself were compromis'd, That all the eanlings which were streak'd and pied, Should fall as Jacob's hire; the ewes, being rauk, In the end of autumn turned to the rams; Shy. Ho, no, no, no, no ;-my meaning, in say- And when the work of generation was ing he is a good man, is to have you under- Between these woolly breeders in the act, stand me, that he is sufficient: yet his means The skilful shepherd peel'd me certain wands, are in supposition: he hath an argosy bound to And, in the doing of the deed of kind, ‡ Tripolis, another to the Indies; I understand He stu: them up before the fulsome ewes ; moreover upon the Rialto, be hath a third at who, then conceiving, did in eaning time those a fourth for England,--and other Fall party-colour'd lambs, and Mexico, ventures he hath, squander'd abroad: But ships are but boards, sailors but men: there be landland rats and water-rats, water-thieves, and thieves; I mean, pirates; and then, there is the peril of waters, winds, and rocks: The man is, notwithstanding, sufficient;-three thousand ducats;-I think, I may take his bond.
Bass. Be assured you may.
Shy. I will be assured I may; and, that I may be assured, I will bethink me: May I speak with Antonio ?
Bass. If it please you to dine with us.
Shy. Yes, to smell pork; to eat of the habitation which your prophet, the Nazarite, conjured the devil into I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you. What news on the Rialto?-Who is he comes here?
This was a way to thrive, and he was blest;
Shy. I cannot tell; I make it breed as
Ant. Mark you this, Bassanio,
Three months from twelve, then let me see the