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THE reader will find an epitome of the novel, from which the story of this play is supposed to be taken, at the conclusion of the notes. It should however be remembered, that if our poet was at all indebted to the Italian novelists, it must have been through the medium of some old translation, which has hitherto escaped the researches of his most industrious editors.
It appears from a passage in Stephen Gosson's School of Abuse, &c. 1579, that a play, comprehending the distinct plots of this, had been exhibited before Shakspeare's, viz.
“ The Jew shown at the Bull, representing the greediness of worldly Choosers, and the bloody Minds of Usurers." “ These plays, says Gosson, (for he mentions others with it) are goode and sweete playes, &c." It is therefore not improbable that Shak. speare new-wrote his piece, on the model already mentioned, and that the elder performance, being inferior, was permitted to drop silently into oblivion.
STEEVENS. Of The Merchant of Venice the style is even and easy, with few peculiarities of diction, or anomalies of construction. The comick part raises laughter, and the serious fixes expectation. The probability of either one or the other story cannot be maintained. The union of two actions in one event is in this drama eminently happy. Dryden was much pleased wi his own address in connecting the two plots of his Spanish Friar, which yet, I believe, the critick will find excelled by this play.
Prince of Arragcon; } suitors to Portia.
friends to Antonio and Bassani.
Duke of Venice.
servants to Portia.
PORTIA, a rich heiress.
Magnificoes of Venice, Officers of the Court of Justice,
Jailer, Servants, and other Attendant 8.
SCENE-partly at Venice, and partly at Belmont, the
seat of Portia, on the continent.
SCENEI.-Venice. A Street. Enter ANTONIO, SAL
ARINO, and SALANI0.
Sal. Your mind is tossing on the ocean ;
Sala. Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,
Sal. My wind, cooling my broth,
[!] Argosies-A name given in our author's time to ships of great burthen, probably galleons, such as the Spaniards use in their West India trade. Joh.
 By holding up the grass, or any light body that will bend by a gentle blast, the direction of the wind is found. This way I used in shooting. Betwixt the markes was an open place, there I take a fethere, or a lyttle light grasse, and so learned how the wind stood.” Ascham. JOHNSON
I should not see the sandy hour-glass run,
Ant. Believe me, no : I thank my fortune for it,
Sala. Why then you are in love.
Sala. Not in love neither? Then let's say, you are sad,
Enter BASSANIO, LORENZO, and GRATIANO. Sal. Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman, Gratiano, and Lorenzo : Fare you well ; We leave you now with better company.
Sala. I would have staid till I had made you merry, If worthier friends had not prevented me.
Ant. Your worth is very dear in my regard.  Andrew-The name of the ship. JOHNSON  This gives a very picturesque image of the countenance in laughing when the eyes are half shut. WARBURTON.  Because such are apt enough to show their teeth in anger. WARB:
I take it, your own business calls on you,
Sal. Good-morrow, my good lords.
[Exe. SALARINO and SALANIO. Lor. My lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio, We two will leave you : but, at dinner time, I pray you, have in mind where we must meet. Bass. I will not fail you.
Gra. You look not well, signior Antonio ;
Ant. I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano ;
Gra. Let me play the Fool : 6
[6) Alluding to the common comparison of human life to a stage-play. So that he desires his may be the fool's or buffoon's part, which was a constant character in the old farces; from whence came the phrase, to play the fool.