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affords a remarkable parallel to this beautiful passage. fancy might light up to the golden star-paved heavens It is at the end of the first book of his celebrated “Ec- and the brilliant moonlight gazed upon by lovers' eyes clesiastical Polity," which was published about a year from the gardens of Belmont. before the MERCHANT OF VENICE was written. It is quoted here, not because there is any reason whatever
- she doth stray about to suppose that Shakespeare was indebted to it in any By holy crosses," etc. way, but as a striking instance, among many, of the “ These holy crosses still, as of old, bristle the land in coincidence and resemblance of poetical spirit and phi- Italy, and sanctify the sea. Besides those contained in losophical thought between the greater minds of that churches, they mark the spots where heroes were born. wonderful age of English genius. “Of Law there can where saints rested, where travellers died. They rise be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom on the summits of hills, and at the intersection of roads ; of God, her voice the harmony of the world : all things aud there is now a shrine of the Madonna del Mare in in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as the midst of the sea between Mestre and Venice, and feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from another between Venice and Palestrina, where the gonher power; both angels and men and creatures of what dolier and the mariner cross themselves in passing, and condition soever, though each in different sort and man- whose lamp nightly gleams over the waters, in moonner, yet all with uniform consent admiring her as the light or storm. The days are past when pilgrims of all mother of their peace and joy.".
ranks, from the queen to the beggar-maid, might be seen “ Repent sot you that you shall lose your friend”- kneeling and praying for happy wedlock hours,' or It may admit of doubt whether this reading, which is
for whatever else lay nearest their hearts ; and the revthat of the folio, or Repent but you," of the two
erence of the passing traveller is now nearly all the quartos, ought to be adopted.
homage that is paid at these shrines."-Knight. "i - any of the stock of Barabbas"-Shakespeare “Is thick inlaid with PATENS of bright gold”—Paseems to have followed the pronunciation usual to the tines or “patens," as it is variously spelled, signifies theatre, Barabbas being sounded Barabas throughout a dish or plate; but is preserved in modern language Marlowe's “ Jew of Malta."
only in ecclesiastical use for the plate used at the eu
charist, generally of some precious metal, and in her“Had I been judge, thou should'st have had ten more” –
aldry, where it means a round, broad, plate of gold. i. e. A jury of twelve men to find him guilty and have
The folio of 1632 has patterns, which Collier prefers him hanged;—a favourite joke, found in several of the
and adopts in his text. It seems to me a misprint, as dramatic writers of the age, which the Poet adopted patterns, in its modern sense, for the plan of a carpet without stopping to consider, what he could not but
or other similar work, (which alone could give any have known, that an allusion to the English jury was
sense here,) is more modern than Shakespeare's text. out of place at Venice.
“There's not the smallest orb, tohich thou behold'st"Several occasions have been taken, in the course of the Notes of this edition, to trace, as an interesting part of literary history, the pedigree of some of the Poet's imagery or thoughts, not copied in the way of direct imitation, but as evidently suggested by passages of prior authors, who have themselves been indebted to a more remote antiquity. We may here trace a nobler genealogy of descent, in one of the most magnificent passages of English poetry, from one of the greatest conceptions of the most poetical philosophy of antiquity; and this again is almost rivalled by similar passages of succeeding poets, who were proud to own themselves the successful imitators of Shakespeare.
The origin of the thought in these lines is drawn from the philosophical imagination of Plato, who, in his “ Republic" and "Timocus," nearly two thousand years before Shakespeare, had taught that the heavenly bodies in their revolutions produced, by their rapid motion, the most exquisite musical harmony, so loud, various, and sweet, as to exceed all proportion to the human ear; and therefore, to be inaudible to men. He taught too, that immortal souls had been formed, equal in number to the stars, each having a celestial orb assigned to it, as its original celestial abode; but that many of these spirits
were banished thence to the earth, and there clothed (Costume of the Doge of Venice.)
for a time in human bodies, as in a sepulchre, or prison. These grand imaginations of the philosopher, combined
with an allegorical doctrine of Fate or Destiny, and an ACT V.-SCENE I.
ingenious theory of musical melodies, after having been « The moon shines bright. In such a night as this" —
expounded and explained by Proclus and other later
Greek Platonists, passed into the philosophy of the The beauty and truth of this exquisite night-scene need
Christian Church. On the revival of letters, the Planot to be pointed out to the American reader, who is
tonic philosophy, as modified by Christianity, became familiar under his own skies with such moons pouring the favourite theory of many of the most distinguished floods of liquid radiance, and such nights “but little speculative scholars, such as Bessarion and Ficinus, in paler than the day" --such as many an English traveller Italy, and afterwards More and Cudworth, in England. and many a poet have described with wonder and de- Shakespeare's illustrious contemporary, “ the judicious light when seen in Italy or the east. It is the intense Hooker," was familiar with this learning, and has intifeeling of reality in this scene that, to my mind, gives mated an opinion not unlike “ the harmony in immortal strong confirmation of the opinion that Shakespeare had, souls" here spoken of. “Touching musical harmony, at some period prior to this drama, wandered beneath (says he,) it being but of high and low sounds in a due the skies and moons of Italy. Still it is not conclusive. proportionable disposition, such notwithstanding is the England has her own brighter nights, which the Poet's force thereof, and so pleasing effects it hath in that very part of man which is most divine, that some have there- The other, and the first folio, print in it instead of " it by been induced to think that the soul itself by nature in," which led to long notes by the commentators. is, or hath in it, harmony." ("Ecclesiastical Polity,"
Some editions read close us in. lib. v.) This part of the work was published in 1597,
“ The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark," etc.about the probable period that this play was written.
The animals mentioned in this play are all proper to the Another striking instance of the familiarity of this
country, and to that part of it to which the play relates. philosophy to the minds of the scholars of that age, is
The wren is uncommon; but its note is occasionally given by Mr. Hallam, (“ History of Literature," vol. iii.
heard. The crow, lark, jay, cuckoo, nightingale, goose, chap. 3,) in his notice of the Italian Campanella, who,
and eel, are all common in Lombardy. in unfolding the Platonic philosophy, was roused by his imagination to flights of 'impressive eloquence on his “The nightingale, if she should sing by day, favourite themes. “The skies and stars (says he) are When every goose is cackling," etc. endowed with the keenest sensibility ; nor is it at all In Shakespeare's One Hundred and Second Sonnet, unreasonable to suppose that they signify their mutual there is a beautiful passage of like import:thoughts to each other by the transference of light, and
Our love was new, and then but in the spring, that their sensibility is full of pleasure. The blessed When I was wont to greet it with my lays; spirits that inform such living and bright mansions, be- As Philomel in Summer's front doth sing, hold all things in nature and in the divine ideas ; they
And stops her pipe in growth of riper days.
Not that the summer is less pleasant now, have also a more glorious light, through which they are
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night; elevated to a supernatural beatific vision.” Mr. Hallam But that wild music burdens every bough, justly adds, “We can hardly read this without recol- And sweets grown common lose their dear delight. lecting the most sublime passage, perhaps, in SHAKE
“A TUCKET sounded"-From the Italian toccata, SPEARE: 'Sit, Jessica,' etc. etc.? Campanella wrote in
which Florio, in his “ World of Words," 1611, construes, Latin, and a little after the Poet. The poets of Eng: land early became familiar with the more splendid and
a prelude in music." imaginative parts of the Platonic doctrines. Spenser “ We should hold day with the Antipodes, especially, drew largely upon them; as, in his Platonic If you would walk in absence of the sun." Hymns to Beauty, in which he treats of Love and
That is—If you would walk in the night, it would be Beauty, earthly and heavenly, and describes the purer | day with us, as it now is on the other side of the globe. love as- a celestial harmony
" – a little SCRUBBED boy" —Warton, not understandOf likely hearts, composed of stars' consent.
ing this, proposes to read stubbed boy—a stripling. But There are various indications in Shakespeare's style
scrub and scrubbed is good old English for stunted, small that his imagination had been kindled and enriched by
of its kind : as Holland, in his translation of Pliny, has these beautiful speculations, though in all probability
6 Such will never prove fair trees, but scrubs only;" and his knowledge of them was attained in fragments, from
we retain the same use familiarly on this side of the the perusal of the poets and English writers of his own
Atlantic in "scrub oaks,”-a name given from the first day, without any formal study of the philosophy itself,
settlement of the country to the dwarf or bush oak. as a whole. In the next generation, Milton, alike “ No woman had it; but a civil doctor" _Some Amerfamiliar himself with Plato and with Shakespeare, with ican readers may require to be informed, of what the music and with philosophy, delighted to dwell on the professional division of labour makes more familiar in same idea, so captivating to so many superior minds. Europe, that “civil” does not refer to manners, but means He has repeatedly referred to it in his prose works, as
a doctor of the civil law, as opposed to one of divinity well as in his “Penseroso" and in “Comus;" while in
or medicine. the “ Arcades" he has blended together the loftiest inspiration of Plato and of Shakespeare :- In deep of night when drowsiness
“The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare's Hath lock'd up mortal sense, then listen I To the celestial sirens' harmony,
most perfect works : popular to an extraordinary degree, That sit upon the nine infolded spheres,
and calculated to produce the most powerful effect on And sing to those that hold the vital shears,
the stage; and at the same time, a wonder of ingenuity And turn the adamantine spindle round On which the fate of gods and men is wound.
and art for the reflecting critic. Shylock, the Jew, is Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie,
one of those inconceivable master-pieces of characterizaTo lull the daughter of Necessity,
tion of which Shakespeare alone furnishes us with exAnd keep unsteady Nature to her law,
amples. It is easy for the poet and the player to exhibit And the low world in measur'd motion draw
a caricature of national sentiments, modes of speaking, After the heavenly tune, which none can hear Of human mould, with gross unpurged ear.
and gestures. Shylock, however, is every thing but a The editor of the Pictorial edition has added to these
common Jew: he possesses a very determinate and passages one from the “Remorse" of Coleridge, as
original individuality, and yet we perceive a slight touch
of Judaism in every thing which he says and does. We “worthy to stand by the side of Milton and Shakespeare. But it is also due to Coleridge to
imagine we hear a sprinkling of the Jewish pronuncia
tion in the mere written words, as we will sometimes add, that it is not an imitation of any passage of either of them, but rather an adaptation of another part of the
find it in the higher classes of that people, notwithstandPlatonic theory, drawn from the Greek original, and
ing their social refinement. In tranquil situations, what
is foreign to the European blood and Christian sentiments borrowing only from Shakespeare its general spirit and his solemu rhythmical melody:
is less perceivable; but in passion the national stamp ap
pears more strongly marked. All these inimitable nice-Soul of Alvar!
ties the finished art of a great actor can alone properly Hear our soft suit, and heed my milder spell ;So may the gates of Paradise, unbarr'd,
express. Cease thy swift toils! Since haply thou art one
* Shylock is a man of information, even a thinker in his Of that innumerable company
own way; he has not only discovered the region where Who in broad circle, lovelier than the rainbow, Girdle this round carth in a dizzy motion,
human feelings dwell: his morality is founded on the With noise too vast and constant to be heard ;
disbelief in goodness and magnanimity. The desire of Fitliest unheard ! For oh, ye numberless
revenging the oppressions and humiliations suffered by And rapid travellers ! what ear unstunn'd,
his nation, is, after avarice, his principal spring of action. What sense unmadden'd, might bear up against The rushing of your congregated wings?
His hate is naturally directed chiefly against those Chris
tians who possess truly Christian sentiments: the ex“ Doth grossly close it is"—Nothing can be clearer | ample of disinterested love of our neighbour, seems to than this reading, which is that of Heyes's quarto. him the most unrelenting persecution of the Jews. The
It is so.
letter of the law is his idol; he refuses to lend an ear to “ Throughout this whole piece there is a flow of incithe voice of mercy, which speaks to him from the mouth dent and richly-imagined language that bears us, on a of Portia with heavenly eloquence: he insists on severe spring-tide of interest, to the settlement of the plot in and inflexible justice, and it at last recoils on his own the trial-scene, which is a drama in itself. Yet there head. Here he becomes a symbol of the general history Shakespeare does not forsake us, as a vulgar writer of his unfortunate nation.
would have done. On the contrary, he prolongs our “ The melancholy and self-neglectful magnanimity of voluptuous sympathy, in the union of the happy charAntonio is affectingly sublime. Like a royal merchant, acters, by a little pleasantry about the rings, and by a he is surrounded with a whole train of noble friends.
moonlight serenade of music. Our imaginations retire The contrast which this forms to the selfish cruelty of from the play soothed and gratified, and perhaps with the usurer Shylock, was necessary to redeem the honour
more hints to our understanding respecting the charity of human nature.
which we owe to the Jews than Shakespeare has ven“ The judgment scene, with which the fourth act is
tured to insinuate.”—T. CAMPBELL. occupied, is alone a perfect drama, concentrating in itself the interest of the whole. The knot is now untied,
The intention of the Poet in relation to the great and, according to the common idea, the curtain might question of the rights of conscience and opinion, which drop. But the Poet was unwilling to dismiss his audience with the gloomy impressions which the delivery is involved in the greater part of the plot and dialogue
of this piece, has been the subject of much discussion. of Antonio, accomplished with so much difficulty, con
Some of his critics have contended that the Poet chose trary to all expectation, and the punishment of Shylock, were calculated to leave behind: he has, therefore,
his subject with the express object of inculcating the added the fifth act, by way of a musical after-piece in
great duty of respect for liberty of conscience; while, the play itself. The episode of Jessica, the fugitive
in the eyes of others, the Poet does not appear to have daughter of the Jew, in whom Shakespeare has con
himself risen above the level of his age in the spirit of trived to throw a disguise of sweetness over the national
toleration, whether Christian or philosophical, but to features, and the artifice by which Portia and her com
have partaken of and employed the narrowest and most
bitter prejudices of his age. panion are enabled to rally their newly-married husbands, supply him with materials.
The probable truth seems to me to be, that Shake “The scene opens with the playful prattling of two
speare did not select his subject with any definite plan lovers in a summer moonlight:
of depicting the injustice and absurdity of religious per
secution, but merely with regard to its poetic and draWhen the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees.
matic effect. But he had lived among the rage of civil It is followed by soft music, and a rapturous eulogy on and religious discord, and he still walked over the yet this powerful disposer of the human mind and the world. warm ashes of the fires of persecution. When, thereThe principal characters then make their appearance ; fore, the subject exp ded itself in his mind, he described and, after an assumed discussion, which is elegantly car- and he reasoned from his own observation of man and ried on, the whole ends with the most exhilarating society. He therefore painted men as he had seen mirth."-SCHLEGEL.
them-the wisest and kindest blinded by the prejudices
of their education or their country, and becoming hard“Since the restoration of Charles II., the MERCHANT ened to inflicting insolence and injury;the injured, OF VENICE has been one of the most popular plays on
the insulted, the trampled upon, goaded by continual the English stage, and the appearance of Shylock has wrongs into savage malignity. Had the Poet invested been the ambition of its greatest actors. In the picture the despised and injured man with the gentle and more of the Jew there is not the tragic grandeur of RICHARD amiable qualities of our nature, and enlisted our symIII.; but there is a similar force of mind, and the same pathy wholly on his side, whatever additional interest subtlety of intellect, though it is less selfish. In point he might have given to his plot, he would have painted of courage I would give the palm to Shylock, for he a far less true view of human nature, and have conwas an ill-used man, and the champion of an oppressed veyed a much less impressive and useful lesson of pracrace; nor is he a hypocrite, like Richard. In fact, tical morality. Shakespeare, while he lends himself to the prejudices With this view of the origin and design of the charof Christians against Jews, draws so philosophical a acter of Shylock, I otherwise fully concur with the repicture of the energetic Jewish character, that he traces marks of Mr. Brown, as follows :the blame of its faults to the iniquity of the Christian world. Shylock's arguments are more logical than those
“Toleration is an intolerable word, never used by our of his opponents, and the latter overcome him only by
Poet unless, possibly, in a disapproving manner, under a legal quibble. But he is a usurer, and lives on the
cover of Dogberry's ignorance—most tolerable, and not interest of lent moneys; and what but Christian perse
to be endured.' To call it therefore in kindlier words, cution forced him to live by this means ! But he is also
respect for another's sincere opinions, has hitherto made inhuman and revengeful. Why! because they called
but slow progress in the world; though, bereaved of the him dog, and spat upon his gaberdine. They voided
MERCHANT OF VENICE, it might have been slower. No their rheum upon him, and he in return wished to void
argument in its favour could be more complete, or put his revenge upon them. All this is natural, and Shylock in a stronger light, than that which we find here. Shyhas nothing unnatural about him. His daughter, Jessica,
lock, a usurer, a suspicious father, and altogether a bad is a very faithful picture of a love-inclined young wo
man, compels us to grant him a portion of our involunman; betraying the oriental warmth of her race.
tary good-will, solely on account of his being persecuted But she is not to be taken
for constancy in his creed; and, thwarted in his hopes as a true sample of a Jewish daughter, for among no
of a hateful revenge, we look at his ominous scales, people are the ties of domestic life held more sacred
balance his injuries against his rancour, and cannot than among the Hebrews. The scene of the caskets is
forbear granting him our pity when he is defeated. objected to by Hazlitt, but he gives no why or where
How careful the author has been to maintain our felfore : I am not, therefore, bound to argue against his
low-feeling, and to make Shylock's religion meet perseno-arguments; but have only to say that I like the pomp
cution at every step! Not only Antonio is his reviler; of Portia's courtship, at the arrival of the Prince of
he runs the gauntlet of abuse through Venice; his Morocco, when he swears by his scimitar
daughter forsakes and robs him because of his religion ;
wherever he turns, his misfortunes are a subject of exThat won three fields from Sultan Solyman.
ultation; and his fall is hailed with insulting, open Let us remember that we are here in the romantic triumph. His claim to be enrolled among his fellow drama.
beings, in that powerful language, Hath not a Jew eyes ?' etc., has nothing urged against it, nor could a tuous merchant is ready to repeat them, so unconscious word be said in denial, yet his claim is allowed by none; is he of acting with injustice. Representing the perseand he is never treated with a show of respect until he cutor on all other points truly estimable, and the perseis feared. We acknowledge his right, and are glad to cuted in no degree estimable, yet entirely unanswerable see him at last, by any resource, treated with respect : in his defence, puts personal merit out of the question, we only recoil at his appalling vengeance. On the and places the argument on the broadest principle, inother hand, Antonio is a man justly honoured for every cluding the worst as well as the best among believers virtue, with one exception a want of charity, a good and infidels. Shakespeare strove to alleviate the bitter feeling, a decent behaviour towards a fellow-creature, persecutions, not only towards the Jews, but towards purely because he is an unbeliever. The religious ani- all others.
For the benefit of those who mosity of Shylock was no more than retaliation. Anto- could apply, or might hereafter apply Antonio and nio, indeed, may have had reason to accuse Shylock of Shylock to themselves, Shakespeare pourtrayed them. extortion ; but his calling him misbeliever,' and dog,' Should any one think the application was unthought of, spitting on him, and spurning him, force us instantly to and accidental, let him contend that wheat grows into side with the usurer against the Christian of unblem- nourishment by chance; or try what philosophic works ished fame. When reminded of these injuries, the vir, || he can write by chance."-Shak. Autobiog. Poems.