網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

all the remaining elements of this drama. right first receive their value and signifi-
The arbitrary will of her father, which fetters cancy. Shakspere indicates this in the
Portia's inclination, and robs her of all following beautiful verses :-
participation in the choice of a husband,
rests certainly upon paternal right; but even

" The quality of mercy is not strain'd ;
this right, when carried to an extreme, be-

It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd; comes the highest injustice. The injustice

It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes : which lies in the enforcement of this paternal

"T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes right would have fallen with tragical weight, The throned monarch better than his crown; if chance had not conducted it to a fortunate

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, issue. The flight and marriage of Jessica, The attribute to awe and majesty, against her father's will, comprehends a Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings; manifest injustice. Nevertheless, who will But mercy is above this sceptred sway, condemn her for having withdrawn herself It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, from the power of such a father? In the It is an attribute to God himself; sentence laid upon the Jew, by which he is And earthly power doth then show likest compelled to recognise the marriage of his God's daughter, is again reflected the precept,

When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew, Summum jus, summa injuria ; right and

Though justice be thy plea, consider this unright are here so closely driven up into the

That in the course of justice, none of us

Should see salvation : we do pray for mercy; same limit, that they are no longer separated, but immediately pass over one to the other.

And that same prayer doth teach us all to

render Thus we see that the different, and ap

The deeds of mercy." parently heterogeneous, events unite themselves in the whole into one point. They We have thus very briefly, and, therefore, are only variations of the same theme. All somewhat imperfectly, exhibited the views human life is a great lawsuit ; where right of Dr. Ulrici, with reference to the idea in is received as the centre and basis of our which this drama is conceived. They belong being. From this point of view proceeds the to that philosophy which, whether for praise drama. But, the more this basis is built or for blame, has been called transcendental. upon, the more insecure does it exhibit itself. We cannot avoid expressing our opinion Unquestionably, right and law ought to that, although Shakspere might not have uphold and strengthen human life. But proposed to himself so systematic a display of they are not its basis and true centre. In the contest that is unremittingly going them the whole truth of human existence forward in the world between our condoes not lie inclosed. In their one-sidedness ventional and our natural being, he did right becomes unright, and unright becomes intend to represent the anomalies that have right. Law and right have their legality always existed between the circumstances by and truth, not through and in themselves; which human agents are surrounded and the but they rest upon the higher principles of higher motives by which they should act. the true morality, from which they issue and this idea, as it appears to us, is the only as single rays. Man has in and for basis of the large toleration which belongs to himself no rights, but only duties. But, at this drama, amidst its seeming intolerance. the same time, against others his duties are Men are to be judged upon a higher prinrights; and there is no true living right that ciple than belongs to mere edicts,-by and does not include, and may be itself indeed, a through all the associations amidst which duty. Not upon right, then, but upon they have been nurtured, and by which they heavenly grace, rests the human being and have been impelled. We select a case or two life. The union of the human with the in point. Divine will is the true animating morality Antonio is one of the most beautiful of of mankind—through which right and un- | Shakspere's characters. He does not take a

[ocr errors]

very prominent part in the drama : he is a deportment shows that his mind has been sufferer rather than an actor. We view him, long familiar with images of ruin :in the outset, rich, liberal, surrounded with

“Give me your hand, Bassanio; fare you well! friends; yet he is unhappy. He has higher Grieve not that I am fallen to this for you; aspirations than those which ordinarily be- For herein fortune shows herself more kind long to one dependent upon the chances of Than is her custom : it is still her use, commerce; and this uncertainty, as we think, To let the wretched man outlive his wealth, produces his unhappiness. He will not ac- To view, with hollow eye and wrinkled brow, knowledge the forebodings of evil which An age of poverty; from which lingering come across his mind. Ulrici says, “It was penance the over-great magnitude of his earthly Of such misery doth she cut me off.” riches, which, although his heart was by no

The generosity of Antonio's nature unfitted means dependent upon their amount, un- him for a contest with the circumstances consciously confined the free flight of his amid which his lot was cast. The Jew soul.” We doubt if Shakspere meant this.

saysHe has addressed the reproof of that state of

“ In low simplicity, mind to Portia, from the lips of Nerissa :

He lends out money gratis." Por. By my troth, Nerissa, my little body | He himself says— is a-weary of this great world.

“I oft deliver'd from his forfeitures Ner. You would be, sweet madam, if your

Many that have at times made moan to me.” miseries were in the same abundance as your

Bassanio describes him asgood fortunes are: And yet, for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much, as

“ The kindest man, they that starve with nothing."

The best condition'd and unwearied spirit Antonio may say

In doing courtesies.”

To such a spirit, whose“ means are in sup"In sooth, I know not why I am so sad ;"

position"—whose ventures are “squander'd but his reasoning denial of the cause of his abroad”—the curse of the Jew must have sadness is a proof to us that the foreboding sometimes presented itself to his own proof losses

phetic mind :“Enough to press a royal merchant down,” — “ This is the fool that lends out money gratis." is at the bottom of his sadness. It appears

Antonio and his position are not in harmony. to us a self-delusion, which his secret nature But there is something else discordant in rejects, that he says,

Antonio's mind. This kind friend, this

generous benefactor, this gentle spirit, this “My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,

man "unwearied in doing courtesies," can Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate Upon the fortune of this present year:

outrage and insult a fellow-creature, because

he is of another creed :Therefore, my merchandize makes me not sad."

Shy. Fair sir, you spet on me on Wed.

nesday last; When he has given the fatal bond, he has a

You spurn'd me such a day; another time sort of desperate confidence, which to us

You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies looks very unlike assured belief :

I'll lend you thus much monies. “Why, fear not, man ; I will not forfeit it;

Ant. I am as like to call thee so again, Within these two months, that's a month To spet on thee again, to spurn thee too.” before

Was it without an object that Shakspere This bond expires, I do expect return

made this man, so entitled to command our Of thrice three times the value of this bond."

affections and our sympathy, act so unworthy And, finally, when his calamity has become a part, and not be ashamed of the act ? Most a real thing, and not a shadowy notion, his assuredly the poet did not intend to justify

cause :

the indignities which were heaped upon in the powerful by those hereditary preShylock; for in the very strongest way he judices which make cruelty virtue; and has made the Jew remember the insult in where the powerless, invested by accident the progress of his wild revenge :

with the means of revenge, say with Shylock,

“ The villainy you teach me I will execute; “Thou call’dst me dog, before thou hadst a

and it shall go hard but I will better the But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs."

instruction.” The climax of this subjection

of our higher and better natures to conHere, to our minds, is the first of the lessons ventional circumstances is to be found in the of charity which this play teaches. Antonio character of the Jew's daughter. Young, is as much to be pitied for his prejudices as agreeable, intelligent, formed for happiness, the Jew for his. They had both been nur- she is shut up by her father in a dreary tured in evil opinions. They had both been solitude. One opposed to her in creed gains surrounded by influences which more or less her affections; and the ties which bind the held in subjection their better natures. The father and the child are broken for ever. honoured Christian is as intolerant as the But they are not broken without comdespised Jew. The one habitually pursues punction :with injustice the subjected man that he has

“ Alack ! what heinous sin is it in me been taught to loathe; the other, in the

To be ashamed to be my father's child !" depths of his subtle obstinacy, seizes upon the occasion to destroy the powerful man

This is nature. But when she has fled from that he has been compelled to fear. The him, robbed him, spent fourscore ducats in companions of Antonio exhibit, more or less,

one night, given his turquoise for a monkey, the same reflection of the prejudices which and, finally, revealed his secrets, with an have become to them a second nature. They evasion of the ties that bound them which are not so gross in their prejudices as Launce- makes one's flesh creep,lot, to whom “the Jew is the very devil in

“When I was with him,"— carnation.” But to Lorenzo, who is about to

we see the poor girl plunged into the most marry his daughter, Shylock is a “faithless

wretched contest between her duties and her Jew.” When the unhappy father is bereft of all that constituted the solace of his home, stances. We grant, then, to all these our

pleasures by the force of external circumand before he has manifested that spirit of

compassion ; for they commit injustice igrevenge which might well call for indignation

norantly, and through a force which they and contempt, he is to the gentlemanly

cannot withstand. Is the Jew himself not to Solanio "the villain Jew,” and “the dog be measured by the same rule ? We believe Jew.” When the unhappy man speaks of that it was Shakspere's intention so to meahis daughter's flight, he is met with a brutal jest on the part of Salarino, who, within his own circle, is the pleasantest of men ;-“I, formance of Shylock,—

When Pope exclaimed of Macklin's perfor my part, knew the tailor that made the

“ This is the Jew wings she flew withal." We can understand the reproaches that are heaped upon Shylock

That Shakspere drew!" in the trial scene as something that might the higher philosophy of Shakspere was little come out of the depths of any passion-stirred appreciated. Macklin was, no doubt, from nature : but the habitual contempt with all traditionary report of him, perfectly cawhich he is treated by men who in every pable of representing the subtlety of the other respect are gentle and good-humoured Jew's malice and the energy of his revenge. and benevolent is a proof to us that Shakspere But it is a question with us whether he meant to represent the struggle that must perceived, or indeed if any actor ever efinevitably ensue, in a condition of society ficiently represented, the more delicate traits where the innate sense of justice is deadened of character that lie beneath these two great

sure him.

manners

passions of the Jew's heart. Look, for coffin,” the tenderness that belongs to our example, at the extraordinary mixture of common humanity, even in its most pasthe personal and the national in his dislike sionate forgetfulness of the dearest ties, of Antonio. He hates him for his gentle comes across him in the remembrance of the

mother of that execrated child :—“Out upon “How like a fawning publican he looks!'

her ! Thou torturest me, Tubal : it was my

turquoise ; I had it of Leah when I was a He hates him, "for he is a Christian;"—he bachelor.” hates him, for that “he lends out money It is in the conduct of the trial scene gratis ;”—but he hates him more than all, that, as it appears to us, is to be sought the because

concentration of Shakspere's leading idea in “He hates our sacred nation."

the composition of this drama. The merchant It is this national feeling which, when stands before the Jew a better and a wiser carried in a right direction, makes a patriot

man than when he called him “dog:"and a hero, that assumes in Shylock the

“I do oppose aspect of a grovelling and fierce personal My patience to his fury; and am arm'd revenge. He has borne insult and injury To suffer, with a quietness of spirit, “with a patient shrug ;” but ever in small

The very tyranny and rage of his." matters he has been seeking retribution :- Misfortune has corrected the influences which, “I am not bid for love; they flatter me:

in happier moments, allowed him to forget But yet I'll go in hate, to feed upon

the gentleness of his nature, and to heap The prodigal Christian.”

unmerited abuse upon him whose badge was

sufferance. The Jew is unchanged. But, if The mask is at length thrown off–he has Shakspere in the early scenes made us enthe Christian in his power; and his desire of tertain some compassion for his wrongs, he revenge, mean and ferocious as it is, rises has now left him to bear all the indignation into sublimity, through the unconquerable which we ought to feel against one “unenergy of the oppressed man's wilfulness. capable of pity.” But we cannot despise the “I am a Jew: Hath not a Jew eyes? hath Jew. His intellectual vigour rises supreme not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, over the mere reasonings by which he is affections, passions ? fed with the same food, opposed. He defends his own injustice by hurt with the same weapons, subject to the the example of as great an injustice of same diseases, healed by the same means, every-day occurrence—and no one ventures warmed and cooled by the same winter and to answer him :summer, as a Christian is ? If you prick us,

“ You have among you many a purchas'd slave, do we not bleed ? if you tickle us, do we not

Which, like your asses, and your dogs, and laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and,

mules, if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If

You use in abject and in slavish parts, we are like you in the rest, we will resemble

Because you bought them :-Shall I say to you, you in that.” It is impossible, after this Let them be free, marry them to your heirs? exposition of his feelings, that we should not

Why sweat they under burthens? let their feel that he has properly cast the greater

beds portion of the odium which belongs to his Be made as soft as yours, and let their palates actions upon the social circumstances by Be season'd with such viands? You will which he has been hunted into madness.

answer, He has been made the thing he is by society.

The slaves are ours :—So do I answer you. In the extreme wildness of his anger, when

The pound of flesh, which I demand of him, he utters the harrowing imprecation,—“I

Is dearly bought; 't is mine, and I will

have it: would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear! 'would she were

If you deny me, fie upon your law!" hearsed at my foot, and the ducats in her It would have been exceedingly difficult for

the Merchant to have escaped from the been a true picture of society in the sixpower of the obdurate man, so strong in the teenth century had the poet shown the letter of the law, and so resolute to carry it judges of the Jew wholly magnanimous in out by the example of his judges in other granting him the mercy which he denied to matters, had not the law been found here, as the Christian. We certainly do not agree in most other cases, capable of being bent to with the Duke, in his address to Shylock, the will of its administrators. Had it been that the conditions upon which his life is the inflexible thing which Shylock required spared are imposed it to be, a greater injustice would have been “ That thou shalt see the difference of our spirit.” committed than the Jew had finally himself Nor do we think that Shakspere meant to to suffer. Mrs. Jameson has very justly and hold up these conditions as anything better ingeniously described the struggle which than examples of the mode in which the Portia had to sustain in abandoning the high strong are accustomed to deal with the weak. ground which she took in her great address There is still something discordant in this, to the Jew ;-“She maintains at first a calm the real catastrophe of the drama. It could self-command, as one sure of carrying her not be otherwise, and yet be true to nature. point in the end : get the painful heart But how artistically has the poet restored thrilling uncertainty in which she keeps the the balance of pleasureable sensations ! whole court, until suspense verges upon Throughout the whole conduct of the play, agony, is not contrived for effect merely; it what may be called its tragic portion has is necessary and inevitable. She has two been relieved by the romance which belongs objects in view : to deliver her husband's to the personal fate of Portia. But, after friend, and to maintain her husband's honour the great business of the drama is wound up, by the discharge of his just debt, though paid we fall back upon a repose which is truly out of her own wealth ten times over. It is refreshing and harmonious. From the lips of evident that she would rather owe the safety Lorenzo and Jessica, as they sit in the of Antonio to anything rather than the legal “paler day” of an Italian moon, are breathed quibble with which her cousin Bellario has the lighter strains of the most playful poetry, armed her, and which she reserves as a last mingled with the highest flights of the most resource. Thus all the speeches addressed to elevated. Music and the odours of sweet Shylock, in the first instance, are either flowers are around them. Happiness is in direct or indirect experiments on his temper their hearts. Their thoughts are lifted by and feelings. She must be understood, from the beauties of the earth above the earth. the beginning to the end, as examining with This delicious scene belongs to what is uniintense anxiety the effect of her own words versal and eternal, and takes us far away on his mind and countenance; as watching from those bitter strifes of our social state for that relenting spirit which she hopes to which are essentially narrow and temporary. awaken either by reason or persuasion." And then come the affectionate welcomes,

Had Shylock relented after that most the pretty, pouting contests, and the happy beautiful appeal to his mercy, which Shak- explanations of Portia and Nerissa with spere has here placed as the exponent of the Bassanio and Gratiano. Here again we are higher principle upon which all law and removed into a sphere where the calamities right are essentially dependent, the real of fortune, and the injustice of man warring moral of the drama would have been de- against man, may be forgotten. The poor stroyed. The weight of injuries transmitted Merchant is once more happy. The “gentle to Shylock from his forefathers, and still spirit” of Portia is perhaps the happiest, for heaped upon him even by the best of those she has triumphantly concluded a work as by whom he was surrounded, was not so religious as her pretended pilgrimage “by easily to become light, and to cease to ex- holy crosses.” To use the words of Dr. asperate his nature. Nor would it have Ulrici, “ the sharp contrarieties of right and

**Characteristics of Women, vol. i. p. 75. unright are played out.”

"*

« 上一頁繼續 »