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argument, as a general principle, will not | is rescued from the forfeiture by the adroithold. It appears to us that "Gernutus' is, ness of the married lady, who is disguised as in reality, very full and circumstantial; and a lawyer. The pretended judge receives, as that some of the circumstances are identical in the comedy, her marriage ring as a grawith those of the play. Compare, for ex- tuity, and afterwards banters her husband, ample,
in the same way, upon the loss of it. “Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Some of the stories of '11 Pecorone,' as Your single bond; and in a merry sport,” &c. indeed of Boccaccio, and other early Italian
writers, appear to have been the common prowith
perty of Europe, derived from some Oriental “ But we will have a merry jest,
origin. Mr. Douce has given an extremely For to be talked long;
curious extract from the English Gesta You shall make me a bond, quoth he,
Romanorum,'—"a Manuscript, preserved in That shall be large and strong."
the Harleian Collection, No. 7333, written in And, again, compare
the reign of Henry the Sixth,” in which the “Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?” daughter of “Selestinus, a wise emperor in with
Rome,” exacts somewhat similar conditions, « The bloudie Jew now ready is
from a knight who loved her, as the lady With whetted blade in hand."
in the Pecorone. Being reduced to poverty
by a compliance with these conditions, he But the ballad of "Gernutus' wants that remarkable feature of the play, the inter-applies to a merchant to lend him money;
and the loan is granted under the following vention of Portia to save the life of the
covenant:-“And the covenaunt sballe be Merchant; and this, to our minds, is the
this, that thou make to me a charter of thine strongest confirmation that the ballad pre
owne blood, in condicion that yf thowe kepe ceded the comedy. Shakspere found that
not thi day of payment, hit shalle be lefulle incident in the source from which the ballad
to me for to draw awey alle the flesh of thi writer professed to derive his history :
body froo the bone with a sharp swerde, and, “In Venice towne not long agoe, yf thow wolt assent hereto, I shalle fulfille A cruel Jew did dwell,
thi wille.” In this ancient story the borWhich lived all on usurie,
rower of the money makes himself subject As Italian writers tell.”
to the penalty without the intervention of It was from an Italian writer, Ser Giovanni, a friend ; and, having forgotten the day of the author of a collection of tales, called 'n payment, is authorised by his wife to give Pecorone,' written in the fourteenth century, any sum which is demanded. The money is and first published at Milan in 1558, that refused by the merchant, and the charter of Shakspere unquestionably derived some of blood exacted. Judgment is given against the incidents of his story, although he might the knight; but, “ the damysell, his love, be familiar with another version of the same whenne she harde telle that the lawe passid tale. An abstract of this chapter of the agenst him, she kytte of al the longe her of · Pecorone' may be found in Mr. Dunlop's hir hede, and claddie hir in precious clothing History of Fiction ;' and a much fuller like to a man, and yede to the palys.” The epitome of a scarce translation of the tale, scene that ensues in the 'Gesta Romanorum' printed in 1755, was first given in Johnson's has certainly more resemblance to the conedition of Shakspere, and is reprinted in all duct of the incident in Shakspere than the the variorum editions. In this story we similar one in the ' Pecorone.' Having given have a rich lady at Belmont, who is to be a specimen of the language of the manuscript won upon certain conditions; and she is of Henry the Sixth's time, which Mr. Douce finally the prize of a young merchant, whose thinks was of the same period as the writing, friend, having become surety for him to a we shall continue the story in orthography Jew, under the same penalty as in the play, which will present fewer difficulties to many
of our readers, and which will allow them to | liketh me much. And, therefore, lordings feel the beautiful simplicity of this ancient that be here, hear me what I shall say. romance. We have no doubt that Shak- | Ye know well that the knight bound him spere was familiar with this part of "Gesta by letter that the merchant should have Romanorum,' as well as with that portion from power to cut his flesh from the bone but which he derived the story of the caskets, to there was no covenant made of shedding of which we shall presently advert :-“Now, in blood. Thereof was nothing spoken ; and, all this time, the damsel his love had sent therefore, let him set hand on him anon ; knights for to espy and inquire how the law and if he shed any blood with his shaving was pursued against him. And, when she of the flesh, forsooth, then shall the king heard tell that the law passed against him, have good law upon him. And when the she cut off all the long hair of her head, and merchant heard this, he said, Give me my clad her in precious clothing like to a man, money, and I forgive my action. Forsooth, and went to the palace where her leman was quoth she, thou shalt not have one penny, to be judged, and saluted the justice, and all for before all this company I proffered to trowed that she had been a knight. And thee all that I might, and thou forsook it, the judge inquired of what country she was, and saidst loudly, I shall have my covenant; and what she had to do there. She said, I and therefore do thy best with him, but look am a knight, and come of far country; and that thou shed no blood, I charge thee, for hear tidings that there is a knight among it is not thine, and no covenant was thereof. you that should be judged to death, for an Then the merchant, seeing this, went away obligation that he made to a merchant, and confounded; and so was the knight's life therefore I am come to deliver him.' Then saved, and no penny paid.” the judge said, It is law of the emperor, that In 'The Orator,'translated from the French whosoever bindeth him with his own proper of Alexander Silvayn, printed in 1596, the will and consent without any constraining, he arguments urged by a Jew and a Christian shall be served so again. When the damsel under similar circumstances are set forth at heard this, she turned to the merchant, and great length. It has been generally asserted said, Dear friend, what profit is it to thee that Shakspere borrowed from this source; that this knight, that standeth here, ready but the similarity appears to us exceedingly to the doom, be slain ? It were better to small. The arguments, or declamations, as thee to have money than to have him slain. they are called, are given at length in the Thou speakest all in vain, quoth the merchant; variorum editions. for, without doubt, I will have the law, since “ It is well known,” says Mrs. Jameson, he bound himself so freely; and therefore that “The Merchant of Venice' is founded on he shall have none other grace than law two different tales; and, in weaving together will, for he came to me, and I not to him. his double plot in so masterly a manner, I desire him not thereto against his will. Shakspere has rejected altogether the chaThen, said she, I pray thee how much shall racter of the astutious lady of Belmont, with I give to have my petition? I shall give her magic potions, who figures in the Italian thee thy money double; and, if that be not novel. With yet more refinement, he has pleasing to thee, ask of me what thou wilt, thrown out all the licentious part of the and thou shalt have. Then said he, Thou story, which some of his contemporary draheardest me never say but that I would matists would have seized on with avidity, have my covenant kept. Truly, said she; and made the best or the worst of it possible; and I say before you, Sir Judge, and before and he has substituted the trial of the caskets you all, thou shalt believe me with a right from another source.” That source is the knowledge of that I shall say to you. Ye 'Gesta Romanorum.' In Mr. Douce's elaborate have heard how much I have proffered this treatise upon this most singular collection of merchant for the life of this knight, and he ancient stories, we have the following analysis forsaketh all and asketh for more, and that * Characteristics of Women,' vol. i. p. 72.
of the ninety-ninth chapter of the English | fiction of Leti, whose narratives are by no ‘Gesta;' which, Mr. Douce says, “is obviously means to be received as authorities; but it the story which supplied the caskets of “The shows that he felt the intolerance of the old Merchant of Venice.”” ..... “A marriage story, and endeavoured to correct it, though was proposed between the son of Anselmus, in a very inartificial manner. Shakspere took emperor of Rome, and the daughter of the the story as he found it in those narratives king of Apulia. The young lady in her which represented the popular prejudice. If voyage was shipwrecked and swallowed by he had not before him the ballad of "Gernutus' a wbale. In this situation she contrived to (upon which point it is difficult to decide), make a fire and to wound the animal with he had certainly access to the tale of the a knife, so that he was driven towards the 'Pecorone.' If he had made the contest conshore, and slain of an earl named Pirius, who nected with the story of the bond between delivered the princess and took her under his two of the same faith, he would have lost protection. On relating her story, she was the most powerful hold which the subject conveyed to the emperor. In order to prove possessed upon the feelings of an audience whether she was worthy to receive the hand two centuries and a half ago. If he had of his son, he placed before her three vessels. gone directly counter to those feelings (supThe first was of gold, and filled with dead posing that the story which Leti tells had men's bones; on it was this inscription- been known to him, as some have supposed), • Who chooses me shall find what he deserves.' his comedy would have been hooted from The second was of silver, filled with earth, the stage. The ballad of 'Gernutus' has the and thus inscribed — Who chooses me shall following amongst its concluding stanzas :find what nature covets. The third vessel
“Good people, that do hear this song, was of lead, but filled with precious stones;
For truth I dare well say, it had this inscription—'Who chooses me shall
That many a wretch as ill as he find what God hath placed. The emperor then Doth live now at this day; commanded her to choose one of the vessels, informing her that, if she made choice of that
That seeketh nothing but the spoil which should profit herself and others, she
Of many a wealthy man, would obtain his son; if of what should profit
And for to trap the innocent
Deviseth what they can." neither herself nor others, she would lose him. The princess, after praying to God for as- It is probable that, although the Jews had sistance, preferred the leaden vessel. The been under an edict of banishment from emperor informed her that she had chosen England from the time of Edward I., they as he wished, and immediately united her had crept into the country after the Rewith his son.
formation. Lord Bacon says that the obIn dealing with the truly dramatic subject jectors against usury maintained “That of the forfeiture of the bond, Shakspere had usurers should have orange-tawny bonnets, to choose between one of two courses that lay because they do judaize.” The orange-tawny open before him. The Gesta Romanorum' bonnet was the descendant of the badge of did not surround the debtor and the creditor yellow felt, of the length of six inches, and of with any prejudices. We hear nothing of the breadth of three inches, to be worn by one being a Jew, the other a Christian. each Jew after he shall be seven years old, There is a remarkable story told by Gregorio upon his outer garment. (Stat. de Jeuerie.) Leti, in his 'Life of Pope Sixtus the Fifth,' The persecuted race settled again openly in in which the debtor and creditor of The England after the Restoration; and the Merchant of Venice' change places. The pious wish, with which Thomas Jordan's debtor is the Jew,—the revengeful creditor ballad concludes, has evidently reference to the Christian ; and this incident is said to this circumstance:have happened at Rome in the time of Sir “I wish such Jews may never come Francis Drake. This, no doubt, was a pure
To England, nor to London."
The 'Prioress's Tale' of Chaucer belonged to prejudices as hateful as the reaction of cruelty the period when the Jews were robbed, and revenge of which they are the cause. maimed, banished, and most foully vilified, Mrs. Inchbald, in her edition of the 'Acted with the universal consent of the powerful Drama,' thus describes Lord Lansdown's arand the lowly, the learned and the ig- rangement, with variations, of. The Merchant norant :
of Venice ::-" The Jew of Venice, by Lord “ There was in Asie, in a gret citee,
Lansdown, is an alteration of this play, and Amonges Cristen folk a Jewerie,
was acted in 1701. The noble author made Sustened by a lord of that contree,
some emendations in the work ; but, having For foul usure, and lucre of vilanie, made the Jew a comic character, as such he
Hateful to Crist, and to his compagnie." caused more laughter than detestation, which It was scarcely to be avoided in those times wholly destroyed the moral designed by the that even Chaucer, the most genuine and original author.” A comic Shylock is certainly natural of poets, should lend his great Shakspere. We have reached a period when
the masterpiece of the improvements upon powers to the support of the popular belief it is scarcely necessary to discuss whether that Jews ought to be proscribed as
this emendation of Shakspere were right or “Hateful to Crist, and to his compagnie.” wrong ; nor, indeed, whether Mrs. Inchbald
herself be perfectly correct in assuming that, But we ought to expect better things when the trial scene were now brought upon the we reach the times in which the principles stage for the first time," the company in the of religious libert.y were at least germinated. side-boxes would faint or withdraw.” “The And yet what a play is Marlowe’s ‘Jew of Merchant of Venice' of the stage is, in many Malta,'—undoubtedly one of the most popular respects, the play of Shakspere. Macklin plays even of Shakspere's day, judging as put down Lord Lansdown. But, up to a we may from the number of performances very recent period, it has been, with greenrecorded in Henslowe's papers ! That drama, room propriety, accommodated to the taste as compared with The Merchant of Venice,' of “ the company in the side-boxes” by the has been described by Charles Lamb, with omission of a great deal of what is highest his usual felicity :-“ Marlowe's Jew does in its poetry, and by the substitution, in not approach so near to Shakspere's as his some cases, of the actor's verses for ShakEdward II. Shylock, in the midst of his spere's. It is one of the best proofs that savage purpose, is a man. His motives, Shakspere is now appreciated (because he is feelings, resentments, have something human understood), that what were considered as in them. 'If you wrong us, shall we not authority, “ the prompt-books” of the therevenge?' Barabas is a mere monster, brought atres, such as they existed some ten years in with large painted nose, to please the ago, have passed into utter contempt. rabble. He kills in sport-poisons whole Turning from such matters, we come to an nunneries—invents infernal machines. He opinion in which Mrs. Inchbald is by no is just such an exhibition as a century or means singular—that detestation of the Jew two earlier might have been played before is “the moral designed by the original author.” the Londoners, by the Royal command, when is probable that, even in Shakspere's time, a general pillage and massacre of the Hebrews this was the popular notion. In an anonyhad been previously resolved on in the mous MS. “ Elegy on Burbage,' “one of the cabinet.” “The Jew of Malta' was written characters he is represented to have filled is essentially upon an intolerant principle. that of Shylock, who is called the red-hair'd The Merchant of Venice,' whilst it seized Jew. This establishes that the part was upon the prejudices of the multitude, and dressed in an artificial red beard and wig, in dealt with them as a foregone conclusion by order to render it more odious and objectionwhich the whole dramatic action was to be able to the audience.” This circumstance governed, had the intention of making those
* Collier's · New Particulars,' &c.
however, is by no means a proof to us that spere's mastership in the composition, uniting, Shakspere intended the Jew to move the and unfolding of the intricate plot. “We audience to unmitigated odium. The players have three curious, and in themselves very night have thought, indeed, that he was not complicated, knots wound into each other :odious enough for the popular appetite, and first,the process between Antonio and Shylock; in consequence made him“ more odious and next, the marriages of Bassanio and Portia, objectionable.” The question may be better of Gratiano and Nerissa; and, lastly, the understood as we proceed in an analysis of elopement of Jessica, and her love's history the characters and incidents of this drama. with Lorenzo. These various interests,
A contemporary German critic, Dr. Ulrici*, actions, and adventures are disposed with has presented to us the entire plot of "The such a clearness and fixedness Merchant of Venice' under a very original developes itself out of and with the others,– aspect. His object has been to discover, that we never lose the thread that everywhat he maintains had not been previously where reveals an animated and harmoniously discovered, the fundamental idea of the framed principle.” The critic then proceeds drama—the link which holds together all its to say, that, although an external union of apparently heterogeneous parts. The critic the chief elements is clearly enough sup first passes the several characters in review. ported, the whole seems in truth to be Antonio is the noble and great-hearted, inevitably falling asunder; and that “ yielding to a passive melancholy, produced have now to inquire where lies the internal by the weight of a too agitating life of spiritual unity which will justify the comaction ; Bassanio, somewhat inconsiderate, bination of such heterogeneous elements in but generous and sensible, is the genuine one drama.” Italian gentleman, in the best sense of the Throughout many of Shakspere's plays, word;
Portia is most amiable, and intellec- according to Dr. Ulrici, the leading funtually rich (geistreich); Jessica is a child of damental idea, concentrated in itself, is so nature, lost in an oriental love enthusiasm. intentionally hidden-the single makes itself The critic presents these characteristics in a so decidedly important, and comes before us very few words ; but his portrait of Shylock so free, and self-sustained, and complete, is more elaborate. He is the well-struck that the entire work is occasionally exposed image of the Jewish character in general to the ungrounded reproach of looseness of of the fallen member of a race dispersed plan and want of coherency. On the other over the whole earth, and enduring long hand, there are sufficient intimations of the centuries of persecution. Their firmness had meaning of the whole scattered throughout; become obstinacy ; their quickness of in- so that whoever has in some degree penetrated tellect, craft; their love of possessions, a into the depths of the Shaksperean art cannot revolting avarice. “ Nothing,” says Dr. well go wrong. The sense and significancy Ulrici, “had kept its rank in their universal of the process between Antonio and the Jew decay, but the unconquerable constancy, the rest clearly upon the old juridical precept, dry mummy-like tenacity of the Jewish Summum jus, summa injuria. Shylock has, nature. So appears Shylock—a pitiable ruin clearly, all that is material, except justice, of a great and significant by-past time—the on his side ; but, while he seizes and follows glimmering ash-spark of a faded splendour his right to the letter, he falls through it which can no longer warm or preserve, but into the deepest and most criminal injustice; can yet burn or destroy. We are as little and the same injustice, through the internal able to deny him our compassion, as we can necessity which belongs to the nature of sin, withhold our disgust against his modes of falls back destructively on his own head. thinking and acting."
The same aspect in which this principle is Dr. Ulrici next proceeds to notice Shak- presented to us in its extremest harshness, ** Ueber Shakspeare's dramatische Kunst, und sein
in the case of Shylock, shows itself in various outbursts of light and shadow throughout
Verhältniss zu Calderon und Gothe."