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THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.
This play was entered at Stationers' Hall on the 22d of July, 1598 ; but must have been exhibited before that time, as it was mentioned by Meres, in the Wit's Treasury, which was published early in the same year. The first known edition of this comedy is the quarto, “printed by J. R. for Thomas Heyes, 1600.” It was most probably written in 1597. Mr. Malone places it three years earlier ; but he bas no authority to support his hypothesis, but a simile of Portia's
Thy musick is
“ To a new crowned monarch." This passage he supposes to refer to the recent coronation of Henry the Fourth of France, of which a description was published in this country immediately after the event.
The principal incidents of the plot are taken from a story in the Pecorone of Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, a novelist who wrote in 1378. [The first novel of the fourth day.] The story has been published in English. The circumstance of the caskets is from an old translation of the Gesta Romanorum, first printed by Wynkyn de Worde.
It has been supposed that there was a play on the subject previous to this of our author, and on which he might have grounded his work. This notion has been suggested by a passage in Stephen Gosson's School of Abuse, which speaks of " the Jew shewn at the Bull, representing the greediness of worldly choosers, and the bloody minds of usurers ;” but these words apply with equal propriety to the Jew of Marlow, and to the Shylock of Shakspeare.
Duke of Venice.
servants to PORTIA. STEPHANO,
Portia, a rich heiress.
Magnificoes of VENICE, officers of the court of justice,
jailer, servants, and other attendants.
Scene, partly at VENICE, and partly at BELMONT, the MERCHANT OF VENICE.
seat of Portia on the continent.
a In the old editions in quarto, for J. Roberts, 1600, and in the old folio, 1623, there is no enumeration of the persons. It was first made by Mr. Rowe. --JOHNSON.
b It is not easy to determine the orthography of this name. In the old editions the owner of it is called-Salanio, Salino, and Solanio.-STEEVENS.
c This character I have restored to the Personæ Dramatis. The name appears in the first folio: the description is taken from the quarto.—STEVENS. argosies— ] Argosie was in our author's time a name given to ships of great burden.-Several derivations have been suggested.--Nares considers that Pope and Douce are correct in supposing it to come from the ship Argo, which is confirmed by the word argis being used for a ship in low Latin.
Scene I.-Venice. A Street.
Enter ANTONIO, SALARINO, and SALANIO. Ant. In sooth, I know not why I am so sad ; It wearies me; you say, it wearies you; But how I caught it, found it, or came by it, What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn; And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, That I have much ado to know myself.
Salar. Your mind is tossing on the ocean;
Salan. Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,
of the sea,
b Plucking the grass, &c.] By holding up the grass, or any light body that will bend by a gentle blast, the direction of the wind is found.- Johnson.
My wind, cooling my broth,
Ant. Believe me, no : I thank my fortune for it,
Salan. Why then you are in love.
- Andrew-] The name of the ship. a Vailing-] To vail is to put off the hat--to trike sail--to give sign of submission.-BULLOKAR's English Expositor, 1616.
Enter BASSANIO, LORENZO, and GRATIANO. Salan. Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman, Gratiano, and Lorenzo: Fare you well; We leave you now with better company.
Salar. 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.
Salar. Good-morrow, my good lords.
Bass. Good signiors both, when shall we laugh? Say You grow exceeding strange: Must it be so? [when ? Salar. We'll make our leisures to attend on yours.
[Exeunt 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;
Let me play the Fool: