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not one of the sources, but the one source, of the be cheerful and easy; they have enough left. play, I may take as a proof that it is not familiar But when the two friends with whom he had set to modern readers even of the studious sort; and out return rich from their voyage, and tell him since it is a very pretty story very prettily told, that if he will go with them again the next spring and loses nothing—I might say, gains consider- he may easily gain as much as he has lost, Anably—by the entire omission of the only part saldo, seeing that he could not be happy without which has excluded it from good company in making the trial, provides him with another ship, modern times, an account of it may be accept- more richly freighted than the first; and the three able to many. Its bearing upon the question set out again in company, as before. But Gianconcerning the secret purpose of the play will be netto, whose real aim was to get without their seen when it is before us.
knowledge into the port of Belmonte, contrives Giannetto, the youngest son of a rich mer- to elude them; sails in; is recognized and rechant in Florence, receives from his dying father ceived as before; undertakes the same task again; a letter addressed to his dearest friend, Ansaldo, again fails; and returns again to Venice, having the greatest of the Christian merchants in Venice, lost all, and saying that he had suffered another who, being a childless man and Giannetto's god- shipwreck. These repeated losses had nearly father, had long been anxious to adopt him. exhausted Ansaldo's means, but not his affection This letter, he tells him, is to be instead of any or his patience; and when the two friends return other provision. “Behave well,” he says, “and again very rich from their second voyage, and he you will certainly be a rich man." Ansaldo wel- finds that Giannetto can not be happy without comes his godson with delight, orders his ser one more effort to recover his losses, he sells all vants to attend to him as to himself, gives him that he has in order to provide a third ship for the keys of his money-boxes, and desires him to him; and because all that he has is not enough spend all freely in distinguishing himself and en- to do it as handsomely as he would, and he tertaining his friends; and to ren nber that “the "wants still ten thousand ducats, he applies himmore he gains the good will of everybody the more self to a Jew at Mestri, and borrows them on dear he will be to him." Giannetto follows his condition that if they are not paid on the Feast direction, quickly distinguishes himself in all the of St. John, in the next month of June, the Jew qualities of a gentleman, becomes a universal may take a pound of the merchant's flesh from favorite and the most accomplished youth in any part of his body he pleases. Ansaldo agrees, Venice, and behaves in all ways to his god- and the Jew has an obligation drawn and witfather's entire satisfaction. Such a man, it is nessed with all the form and ceremony necessary, thought by his friends, should have something and then counts him the ten thousand ducats of more to do-should see more, and be more seen gold, with which Ansaldo buys what was still -and two of the most intimate, intending a mer- wanting for the vessel. . .. When it is time to cantile voyage to Alexandria, urge him to go depart, Ansaldo tells Giannetto that, since he with them in a ship of his own. He would like well knows of the obligation to the Jew, he ento go if Ansaldo will give him leave; Ansaldo is treats him, in case any misfortune happens, that willing to furnish him if he would like to go. He he will return to Venice, that he may see him is provided with a fine ship richly freighted, and before he dies, and then he can leave the world the three friends set sail together. The ships with satisfaction. Giannetto promises to do keep each other company until Giannetto, early everything he conceives may give him pleasure. one morning, seeing a fine port and hearing that Ansaldo gives him his blessing, they take their it is the port of the Lady of Belmontema beauti- leave, and the ships set out.” ful widow, but dangerous to visit, every visitor Giannetto, still secretly bent upon the Lady being obliged to undertake a certain task on con- of Belmonte, contrives again to give his compandition that if he accomplishes it he shall take her ions the slip and find his way into her port; is for his wife and be lord of the port and all the recognized and received as before, and makes country, but if he fails he shall give up to her all himself as popular; but this time, by the help of that he brings with him, and many had gone in a friendly hint from a sympathetic damsel who rich and come out with nothing-resolves to take thinks it hard that such devotion should be so his chance; sails in, unperceived by his com- rewarded, he avoids the cause of his previous panions; is received with festive welcome; after failures, accomplishes his task triumphantly, mardue warning of the conditions, goes to his trial; ries the Lady of Belmonte, is proclaimed soverfails; loses all; and returns to Venice, much eign of the country, to the great joy both of herashamed, and obliged to say that his ship had self and all the people, and is still absorbed in been wrecked and all on board lost except him- the duties and enjoyments of his new fortune, self. Ansaldo makes light of the accident. Since when one day, seeing a procession with torches his son has come back safe, all is well; he may passing the window, and being told that it is a
company of artificers going to make their offer- vant as “a lawyer (un gentil' huomo giudice) ings at the church of St. John, the day being his who had finished his studies at Bologna, and was festival, he suddenly remembers with horror that returning to his own country.” And what folSt. John's festival was Ansaldo's pay-day, and lowed I must give from the old story, without he had forgotten all about it! His wife, observ- abridgment: ing his emotion, draws from him the confession
The landlord upon this shows his guest great that “ his father was engaged for ten thousand
civility; and when he attended at dinner, the lawyer ducats, that the term was expired, and if they inquiring how justice was administered in that city, were not paid that day he must lose a pound of he answered, “ Justice in this place is too severe.” his flesh.” She at once desires him to take a
“ How comes that ?" says the lawyer. "I will tell hundred thousand ducats, mount his horse, and how," says the landlord. “You must know that not stop till he arrives at Venice; and, if he ar
some years ago there came here a young man from rives in time to save him, to bring him to Bel- Florence, whose name was Giannetto; he was recmonte.
ommended to the care of a relation, who is called The Jew in the mean time had seized Ansal- Ansaldo. He behaved here so well as to possess the do; but, in consideration of his wish to see Gi- esteem and affections of every living creature, and annetto before he died, consents to wait some never was a youth so well beloved. Now, this An. days, provided that the delay do not invalidate saldo sent him out three times, each time with a ship the bond. “But,' says he, if he comes a of great value. He every time was unfortunate; hundred times over, I will cut off the pound of and to furnish the last Ansaldo was forced to borrow flesh, according to the words of the obligation.
' he did not repay them in June, at the Feast of St.
ten thousand ducats of a Jew, on condition that if Ansaldo answered that he was content.” This determination to reject all proposals to
John, the Jew might take a pound of his flesh.
This excellent young man is now returned, and ofredeem the bond by paying the money with cost fers to pay a hundred thousand ducats. The wickand interest, which goes for so little with Shy- ed Jew won't take them, although the best merchants lock's modern apologists, is carefully marked and in the city have applied to him, but to no purpose." brought out by the teller of the story, who evi- Says the lawyer, “ This question may be easily andently thought it an important feature in the swered.” “If you can answer it,” says the landlord, case.
“and will take the trouble to do it, and save this “Every one,” he adds, “ at Venice who had worthy man from death, you will get the love and heard of the affair was much concerned. Sev- esteem of a most deserving young man and of all eral merchants would have jointly paid the mon the best men of this city." The lawyer caused a ey; the Jew would not hearken to the proposal, proclamation to be made that whoever had any law but insisted that he might commit this homicide matters to determine they should have recourse to (anzi voleva fare quello homicidio), to have the him. So it was told to Giannetto that a famous lawsatisfaction of saying (per poter dire) that he yer was come from Bologna, who could decide all
cases in law. Giannetto proposed to the Jew to aphad put to death the greatest of the Christian merchants."
“ With all my heart," says the ply to this lawyer.
Jew; "but, let who will come, I will stick to my Giannetto again, as soon as he arrives, offers bond.” Giannetto and the Jew each told the merits to pay the whole debt, and as much more as the of the cause to the judge, who, when he had taken Jew would demand. The Jew replies he will the bond and read it, said to the Jew, “I must have take no money, since it was not paid at the time you take the hundred thousand ducats and release due: he will have the pound of flesh. “Every this honest man, who will always have a grateful one blamed the Jew," says the narrator; “but, sense of the favor done to him." The Jew replied, as Venice was a place where justice was strictly “I will do no such thing.” The judge answered, administered, and the Jew had his pretensions " It will be better for you." The Jew was positive grounded on public and received forms, nobody to yield nothing. Upon this they go to the tribunal dared to oppose him, and when the merchants of appointed for such judgments; and our judge speaks Venice applied to him he was inflexible. Gian- in favor of Ansaldo, and, desiring that the Jew may netto offered him twenty thousand, which he re- stand forth, “Now,” says he,“ do you" (to the Jew] fused; then thirty thousand; afterward forty,
"cut off a pound of this man's flesh where you
choose." The Jew ordered him to be stripped fifty, and at last one hundred thousand ducats. The Jew told him if he would give him as much naked, and takes in his hand a razor, which had
been made on purpose. Giannetto seeing this, turngold as the city of Venice was worth he would ing to the judge, “ This,” says he,“ is not the favor not accept it. “And,' says he, ‘you know little I asked of you.” “Be quiet,” says he ; "the pound of me if you think I will desist from my de- of flesh is not yet cut off.” As soon as the Jew was mand.'”
going to begin, “Take care what you do,” says the While matters stood thus there alighted at an judge ; "if you take more or less than a pound I inn in Venice a young man, described by his ser will order your head to be struck off, and I tell you
besides, that if you shed one drop of blood you sake, I have some reluctance to part with it, and shall be put to death. Your paper makes no men- she may think, not seeing it on my finger, and will tion of the shedding of blood, but says expressly believe that I have given it to a woman that I love, that you may take a pound of flesh, neither more nor and quarrel with me, though I protest I love her less ; and if you are wise you will take great care much better than I love myself.” “Certainly,” says what you do." He immediately sent for the execu the lawyer, “she esteems you sufficiently to credit tioner to bring the block and ax. “And now," says what you tell her, and you may say you made a preshe, “if I see one drop of blood, off goes your head.” ent of it to me ; but, I rather think you want to give The Jew began to be in great fear, and Giannetto in it to some former mistress here in Venice.” “So great joy. At length the Jew, after much wrangling, great,” says Giannetto, “is the love and reverence told him: “You are more cunning than I can pre- that I bear to her that I would not change her for tend to be ; however, give me the hundred thousand any woman in the world, she is so accomplished in ducats, and I am content." “No," says the judge ; every article." After this he takes the ring from his
cut off your pound of flesh, according to your finger and presents it to him; and embracing each bond ; I will not give you a farthing. Why did you the other, “I have still a favor to ask," says the lawnot take the money when it was offered ?" The yer. * It shall be granted,” says Giannetto. “ It Jew came down to ninety, and then to eighty thou- is,” replied he, “that you do not stay any time here, sand ; but the judge was still resolute. Giannetto but go as soon as possible to your lady,” “ It aptold the judge to give what he required, that Ansaldo pears to me a thousand years till I see her,” Gianmight have his liberty; but he replied, “Let me netto answered. And immediately they take leave manage him.” Then the Jew would have taken fifty of each other. The lawyer embarked and left Venthousand. He said, “I will not give you a penny.” ice. Giannetto made entertainments and presents “Give me at least," said the Jew, “my own ten of horses and money to his former companions; and, thousand ducats, and a curse confound you all !" having made a great expense for several days, he The judge replies: “I will give you nothing. If you took leave of his Venetian friends, and carried Anwill have the pound of flesh, take it ; if not, I will saldo with him, and some of his old acquaintance order your bond to be protested and annulled.” accompanied them. Everybody shed tears at his Every one present was greatly pleased, and, deriding departure, both men and women ; his amiable dethe Jew, said, “He who laid traps for others is portment had so gained the good will of all. In caught himself.” The Jew, seeing he could gain this manner he left Venice and returned to Belnothing, tore in pieces the bond in a great rage. monte. Ansaldo was released, and conducted home with The lady arrived some days before, and gave great joy by Giannetto. The hundred thousand duc- orders to have everything prepared, and the streets ats he carried to the inn to the lawyer, whom he lined with tapestry and filled with men armed for found making ready to depart. “You have done the tiltings and exercises; and, when Giannetto and me,” says he,“ a most important service, and I en- Ansaldo were landed, all the court went out to meet treat of you to accept of this money to carry home, them, crying, “ Long live our sovereign lord ! Long for I am sure you have earned it." "I thank you,” live our sovereign lord !” When they arrived at the replied the lawyer ; “I do not want money. Keep palace the lady ran to embrace Ansaldo, but feigned it and carry it back to your lady, that she may not anger against Giannetto, though she loved him exhave occasion to say that you have squandered it cessively; yet the feastings, tilts, and diversions away idly.” Says Giannetto: "My lady is so good went on as usual, at which all the lords and ladies and kind that I might venture to spend four times as assisted. Giannetto, seeing that his wife did not much without incurring her displeasure ; and she or receive him with her accustomed good countenance, dered me, when I came away, to bring with me a called her, and inquiring the reason would have larger sum."
How are you pleased with the lady?” saluted her. She told him she wanted not his casays the lawyer. “I love her better than any earth- resses. “I am sure,” says she, "you have been ly thing,” answers Giannetto. “Nature never pro- lavish of them to some of your former mistresses at duced any woman so beautiful, discreet, and sensi. Venice.” Giannetto began to make excuses. She ble, and seems to have done her utmost in forming asked him where was the ring she had given him. her. If you will do me the favor to come and see “It is no more than what I expected,” cries Gianher you will be surprised at the honors she will show netto, “and I was in the right to say you would be you, and you will be able to judge whether I speak angry with me ; but I swear by all that is sacred, truth or not." “I can not go with you," says the and by your dear self, that I gave the ring to the lawyer; “I have other engagements ; but, since you lawyer who gained our cause."
“ And I can swear," speak so much good of her, I must desire you to says the lady with as much solemnity, “that you present my respects to her." “I will not fail,” Gi- gave the ring to a woman, and I know it certainly; annetto answered. “And now let me entreat you to therefore swear no more." Giannetto said, if what accept some of the money." While he was speak- he had told her was not true, he wished every mising the lawyer observed a ring on his finger, and fortune to fall upon him that might destroy him, and said, “If you will give me this ring I shall seek no that he said all this to the lawyer when he asked for other reward.” “Willingly,” says Giannetto; " but the ring. The lady replied : “You would have done as it is a ring given me by my lady to wear for her better to have staid at Venice with your mistresses,
and have sent Ansaldo here; for I hear they all wept The changes which he introduced were only when you went away.” Giannetto's tears began to such as the conversion of a narrative into an actfall, and in great sorrow he assured her that what able play required. The action had to be brought she supposed could not possibly be true. The lady, within compass; the stage to be peopled; the seeing his tears, which were daggers in her bosom, persons to speak and act, instead of being deran to embrace him, and in a fit of laughter showed scribed; new incidents to be invented or imhim the ring, told everything which he had said to ported for entertainment and variety. But all the lawyer, that she was herself the lawyer, and how this he did in careful conformity with the fundashe obtained the ring. Giannetto was greatly astonished, finding it all true, and was highly delighted mental conception of the several characters as with what he had heard, and went out of the cham- indicated in the old story. Giannetto's first two ber and told the story to the nobles and to his com
voyages being ignored, the play begins at once panions; and this heightened greatly the love be- with the preparations for the third, which involves tween him and his lady. He then called the damsel the bargain with the Jew; whereby, without sacwho had given him the good advice, and gave her to rificing anything material, the action is considAnsaldo for a wife ; and they spent the rest of their erably shortened. The original condition of the lives in great felicity and contentment,
marriage, being at once unpresentable to a ShakeThis is the story told “in a collection of tales spearean audience and irreconcilable with the called “Il Pecorone,' written by Ser Giovanni, a
lady's character as shown in the sequel, is renotary of Florence, about the year 1378," * and jected altogether; but, in substituting for it the published at Milan in 1558; and though it is not device of the three caskets, care is taken to preknown to have been translated into English be- serve all the essential features of the situation. fore 1755, I suppose nobody who reads it and Bassanio, having run into debt by living beyond knows the play-two conditions which do not
his income, resolves to try his chance with a seem to have been generally united—will doubt great heiress—a lady for whom, in her father's that Shakespeare had either read or heard it, and time, he had conceived an affection which he had that it was from this, and not from Leti's story reason to believe was mutual—but who could of the Christian creditor who wanted to perform condition of losing all if a riddle were not rightly
only be sought in marriage upon the perilous the operation upon the Jewish debtor, or from any other of the fifteen versions of the bond story has to borrow money from his kinsman and dear
read. To furnish himself for the adventure he enumerated by Miss Toulmin Smith,t that he derived his idea not only of “the forfeiture of the est friend and benefactor, Antonio; who, in order pound of flesh,” but of the entire train of inci- to supply him without delay, borrows it from Shydents, and the characters and relations of the lock on the security of the pound of flesh. Thus
we have Bassanio and Antonio essentially in the persons in the drama. Those who are most anxious to give him the credit of originating in
same position toward each other as Giannetto the last decade of the sixteenth century " the and Ansaldo when parting for the final voyage; movement which resulted in the removal of Jew- while Bassanio, as soon as he has chosen the ish disabilities ” I in the last half of the nine- right casket, is in exactly the same position as teenth will be glad to find that he was not con
Giannetto after the successful performance of his strained to begin the work by transferring to a
appointed task; and in all the scenes that follow Jew the crime of a Christian, and this, too, not
we have only to imagine Giannetto in Bassanio's only in contradiction of the legend, but in de place, and we feel that he would have both spoken fiance of all probability” (that particular mode and acted in the same way—that the characters of murder being, I suppose, one that none but a
are, in fact, identical. So, again, the Ansaldo of Christian would have been likely to think of), the story and the Antonio of the play are only and all for the sole purpose of conciliating the two portraits of the same man by different artists, audience by flattering their prejudices. That
one of whom sees further into him than the other. Shakespeare ever, on any occasion, flattered a
We are not told by the novelist that Ansaldo popular prejudice which he did not share, I have suffered from a constitutional depression of spirits, yet to learn; but on this occasion at least he had but it probably occurred to Shakespeare as neno motive for it. The story which he had to cessary to account for that extraordinary indifferexhibit was sufficiently in accordance with the ence to all mortal accidents (the happiness of his popular prejudice, and he reproduced it in all its adopted son excepted) which, in the degree to essential features exactly as he found it.
which it is carried in the novel, he appears to * Introduction to Clarendon Press edition of "The has therefore shown in Antonio much mitigated;
have thought impossible in nature after all, and Merchant of Venice." + “New Shakespeare Society's Transactions," 1875
for whereas Ansaldo, knowing himself to be 76, Part I.
ruined, signs the bond with a clear presentiment 1“ The Theatre," D. 198.
of the consequence, and yet asks Giannetto for
nothing more than a promise that he will see turns) rested upon any such sentimental considhim before he dies, Antonio, when he signs, erations. He makes a great parade about them though short of ready money for the moment, is when he replies to the remonstrances of Antostill in the full flow of his fortunes, and laughs at nio's friends, but Shakespeare has not forgotten the idea of being called on to pay the forfeit. It to inform us, through his confidential communiis true that when the danger fronts him, and can cations to himself and his own countrymen, what not be escaped, he meets it as patiently, and with his real motive was for this determination. In as much apparent indifference, as Ansaldo-make his first soliloquy, which is the expression of his ing no vain remonstrance, not complaining of the secret thoughts, he explains it frankly enough: rigor of the law, but justifying its execution, and content to die provided only that he may see
I hate him, for he is a Christian, Bassanio again before he is put to death. But
But more for that in low simplicity there is a great difference between accepting
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice. such a fate with equanimity when it is inevitable
If I can catch him once upon the hip, and deliberately incurring it when it is foreseen
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him. and may be declined.
Then, again, the absolute inoffensiveness of And when he learns from Tubal, a wealthy HeAnsaldo, who does not seem to have uttered a brew of the same trade, that he has a good harsh word or entertained an unkind thought chance of “catching him upon the hip,” he reagainst anybody—with whom the very man who peats both the why and the how without any reis avowing his determination to take his life, serve or flourish. “ I will have the heart of him though all Venice were offered him to spare it, if he forfeit; for, were he out of Venice, I can does not pretend any cause except his being the make what merchandise I will.” The Jew in greatest of the Christian merchants—seemed to the novel is a sentimentalist in comparison; he make the Jew's proceeding too monstrous to be wants “to be able to say that he has put to endurable by an English audience. Such malice death the greatest of the Christian merchants." needed some provocation to make it credible Shylock is a mere utilitarian and man of business. enough for the human imagination, and a prob- Nor are we left in doubt as to the manner of able cause of provocation readily offered itself in Antonio's interference with Shylock's merchanthe disputes which must have occurred on the dise, and the arts by which he has “thwarted his Rialto between two such men. A man who bargains" and "hindered him of half a million." would enforce his contract for the pound of flesh As evidence of the fact itself, indeed, Antonio's in such a case was sure in all his transactions to word will not go for much with a modern apolotake advantages of the helpless, which a liberal gist for Shylock; but our question is what Shakeand beneficent merchant would be sure to be speare meant us to believe as to the fact, and of disgusted with and interfere to thwart. On such this Antonio's words are good evidence : occasions feelings would be expressed and words uttered which would not sting the less for being
He seeks my life : his reason well I know:
I oft delivered from his forfeitures just and well deserved. And that this was the
Many that have at times made moan to me : real history of the revengeful hatred on one side,
Therefore he hates me. and the contemptuous dislike on the other, we are made to understand at once, as soon as they That Shakespeare meant us to understand meet, by the irritating and sarcastic speech of that Shylock insisted upon the pound of flesh Shylock (finding himself for the first time at an because he wanted to remove from his path a advantage) and the angry retort which it pro- man who was in the habit of rescuing debtors vokes from Antonio. This revelation of their from his clutches by helping them to pay their respective feelings toward each other shows debts, does not in my mind admit of a doubt. ground enough for Shylock's malice to bring it That he did not mean us to regard it as an interwithin the range, not indeed of human sympathy, ference which Shylock had a right to resent, or which was not intended, but of possibility in hu- his mode of resenting it as a just retaliation, or man nature. We can imagine nature so diseased himself as entitled to one drop of pity for the and perverted as to be capable of it without miscarriage of his plot, or the delight of the byceasing to be human.
standers at his discomfiture—who (according to But, though we can accept these manifesta- the story), deriding the Jew, said, “ He who laid tions of dislike and scorn (the only wrongs he traps for others is caught himself” -as other has to complain of) as accounting for Shylock's than the expression of a natural, just, and healthy general disposition toward Antonio, we are not popular sentiment, appears to me no less certain. allowed to suppose that his determination to kill And, yet it is true that he has contrived to enlist him (upon which the whole action of the play on his behalf“ a certain measure" of what Mr.