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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 pres. he, “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," Gian. might 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 de. the 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 Bel. nothing, 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 exbave 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 ca. says 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,” Gigave 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 she obtained the ring. Giannetto was greatly as
this he did in careful conformity with the fundatonished, 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 come 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
only be sought in marriage upon the perilous the operation upon the Jewish debtor, or from
condition of losing all if a riddle were not rightly any other of the fifteen versions of the bond story
read. To furnish himself for the adventure he enumerated by Miss Toulmin Smith,t that he
has to borrow money from his kinsman and dearderived his idea not only of “the forfeiture of the
est friend and benefactor, Antonio; who, in order
to supply him without delay, borrows it from Shypound of flesh," but of the entire train of incidents, and the characters and relations of the
lock on the security of the pound of flesh. Thus persons in the drama. Those who are most
we have Bassanio and Antonio essentially in the 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;
while Bassanio, as soon as he has chosen the movement which resulted in the removal of Jewish disabilities” | 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
appointed task; and in all the scenes that follow strained to begin the work by transferring to a 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
adopted son excepted) which, in the degree to popular prejudice, and he reproduced it in all its essential features exactly as he found it.
which it is carried in the novel, he appears to
have thought impossible in nature after all, and * Introduction to Clarendon Press edition of “The
has therefore shown in Antonio much mitigated; 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 "The Theatre," p. 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-mak- 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
I hate him, for he is a Christian, content to die provided only that he may see
But more for that in low simplicity Bassanio again before he is put to death. But
He lends out money gratis, and brings down there is a great difference between accepting
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 a 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
He seeks my life : his reason well I know : uttered which would not sting the less for being just and well deserved. And that this was the
I oft delivered from his forfeitures
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. Hawkins calls “sympathy," but I should rather he found hints of in the novelist's account of the call respect. Why? Not because he was a lady's proceedings between her discovery of Andown-trodden Jew-he would have done as much saldo's position and her reception of him and for the most orthodox and prosperous Christian her husband at Belmonte. in the land, and has done as much for men as What need, then, have we to seek further, thoroughly depraved as lago and Edmund in either for the source of the plot, or the choice of “Lear”—but because, though not the hero of the subject, or the manner of its treatment? To the comedy, he had a conspicuous part in it, and hear our modern apologists, one would suppose Shakespeare never puts in a conspicuous part a that the argument of the play was the persecuman absolutely devoid of all qualities that can tion of a Jew by Christians; a description of it inspire respect or sympathy. Of the Jew in the for which, if the Venetian law had been represtory we know nothing except in relation to the sented in it as sanctioning the claim of a Chris. bond and the forfeiture, and in that part Shake- tian to cut the flesh out of the body of a few, speare has kept close to his original. But, hav- there would have been some color. As it is, to ing also to show him in his relation to other men, call it the persecution of a Christian by a Jew he endows him with such respectable qualities as would be nearer the mark. But the truth is, that are not incompatible with the work he has to do the question at issue has nothing to do with the -courage, intellect, eloquence, force of charac- question of religion. The law of Venice, in so ter, strength of will, attachment to his race and far as it is brought before us in the action, knows creed, and a show of respect for his law. I say a distinction between citizens and aliens, but not a "show"; for, though he makes a great profes- between Christians and Jews. It is administered sion of religious scruples, he never lets them in- strictly, without respect of race or creed. Nor is terfere with business. His religion forbids him there anything in the play, from the first scene to to eat or drink with Christians; and yet, when he the last, from which it can be inferred that a remembers that by “ feeding upon the prodigal Jew in Venice labored under any disadvantage, Christian” he may help to disable Antonio from political or social, as compared with a Christian. payment of his debt at the day, he overcomes On the contrary, pains have been taken to remind his objection to the smell of pork and consents us that there was none, all such inequality of to dine with Bassanio. He refuses payment of dealing being against the cardinal policy of the his debt in full, with two hundred per cent. inter- state. See act ii., scene 3: est for the few days' delay, because he dares not break his oath; he has sworn by the holy Sab
I am sure the Duke bath to have the pound of flesh and nothing
Will never grant this forfeiture to hold. else; to forbear would be to “lay perjury upon
Antonio, The Duke can not deny the course of law: his soul," which he will not do for Israel. But,
For the commodity that strangers have
With us in Venice, if it be denied, when he finds that he can not take the other
Will much impeach the justice of the state ; man's life except at the peril of his own, he does
Since that the trade and profit of the city forbear; leaves his soul to settle with the perjury
Consisteth of all nations. as it can; is ready for any compromise, even though " involving a renunciation of a cherished Shylock, it is true, who hates Antonio because faith." * What he would not do for Israel he he is a Christian, naturally assumes that Antonio will yet do for himself. From all which I con- quarrels with his usances because he is a Jew. clude that Shakespeare did not mean us to be But that is only his own fancy; and even if it taken in by the solemnity of his professions, or had been true it would not have been in point; to look up to him as the martyr-hero of “an old, for his quarrel with Antonio was a private one, untainted religious aristocracy,” but only to re- with which the state had nothing to do. If gard him with a certain interest as a man quali- Shakespeare had meant his audience to feel that fied by nature for a better part than he has cho- the Hebrew race was suffering under Christian sen.
oppression, he would surely have shown them If the characters of Bassanio, Antonio, and some case in illustration. Yet the only Hebrews Shylock are manifestly and directly derived from he shows us or tells us of are Shylock himself Ser Giovanni's story, it need hardly be said that and his friend Tubal-both of them rich, and at the Lady of Belmonte suggested the idea of liberty to make their bargains in their own way, Portia, every one of whose qualities, as we see and assisted by the laws to enforce the terms acthem brought out in the play by Shakespeare's cording to the letter, even when most iniquitous own hand - the generosity, the affection, the and unjustifiable. And what oppression by the spirit, the intellect, the gayety and playfulness- state has Shylock to complain of, either on his
own behalf or on that of his sacred nation ? *"The Theatre," December, 1879, p. 261. When he demands judgment on his bond, the
court warns him that if he insists on exacting a self; to escape from a house which to her was a penalty involving the death of a citizen he will hell, with only the "merry devil ” Launcelot to himself have to pay the penalty prescribed by cheer it; from a father of whose manners she the law for shedding Christian blood-namely, was (not without reason and to her credit, though confiscation of land and goods. When he de- to her regret) ashamed; and from the chance, clines to press his demand on this condition, the should it suit him, of having to take “any of the court informs him that he has already incurred stock of Barrabas " for a husband; nor do many the penalty prescribed by the law for “ seeking of us object to see advantage taken by Antonio the life” of a citizen-namely, the forfeiture of of the pressure which the law enables him to put one half of his goods to the person whose life he on Shylock for the purpose of securing a comhad sought, of the other half to the state, and fortable provision for her. But we all feel that his life to the Duke's mercy. Of which penalty she ought to have left the ducats and jewels bethe court enforces so much only as amounts to hind; and the fact that Shakespeare allowed her the sequestration of one half of his property for to carry them off without a hint of disapprobathe benefit of his daughter; the rest being re- tion from anybody (there being no dramatic nemitted on two conditions—one, that he bind him- cessity for it) suggests a doubt whether in those self to leave her the whole after his death; the early days he was fully alive to the impropriety. other, that in the mean time he “ become a Chris- Perhaps the easy morality of the comic theatre tian," whatever that may mean. This is the full in all such questions—the large privilege which extent of the oppression, in consideration of which the young lovers have always enjoyed of deceivwe are called on to excuse him-as the repre- ing and overreaching the stern parent—had besentative victim of unreasoning prejudice against come so familiar as to hide from him the true naJews in general—for contriving by a fraudulent ture of the transaction; which in so tragic a contract to murder a rival; these the “ inherited business as Shylock's revenge can not be regardand personal wrongs " by which “his fine nature ed with the levity which comedy permits. But, has become so warped and soured."*
however that may be, I can not doubt that the This strange notion, that the secret purpose effect would be much better in modern eyes if of the play was to expose the mischiefs of reli- Jessica were allowed to escape without the treagious intolerance, was probably suggested by the sure. The loss of his daughter to her race and last of the two conditions of pardon. And though faith would supply Shylock with as fair a motive I do not think that Shakespeare meant it to be so for vengeance; he could make as much noise taken-for I suspect that in the eyes of a Globe about it; and the secret that he really cared audience a Jew consenting to “become a Chris- more for the ducats than the daughter would not tian" was simply an infidel seeking admission be forced upon the knowledge of his admirers, into the fold and qualifying his soul for salvation who regard paternal tenderness as one of his
-I admit that to modern ears it sounds like a most conspicuous virtues. Two lines struck out wanton insult, and (as producing on a modern from Jessica's part in the sixth scene of the secaudience an effect the very opposite to that which ond act, a few from Salanio's in the eighth, and was intended) ought to be left out. Nothing a few more in the interview with Tubal at the would be lost by the omission, and it would be beginning of the third act, would (without at all universally felt that Christianity could have no disturbing the action of the play) remove cominterest in enlisting such a recruit.
pletely our only remaining scruple as to the poetic The other condition has reference to an episode justice of the final settlement. For, though Shywhich is not to be found in the original story, but lock has escaped with a punishment which any one was introduced into the play partly to vary and who considers the character of his crime must enliven the action, and partly, perhaps, to account feel to be very far short of his desert, he is far for Shylock's determination to revenge himself on away in Venice among his money-bags, and does one Christian by giving him a just ground of not trouble us. We saw him baffled and disquarrel with another. In the course of which missed in the fourth act with general satisfaction, episode the moral sensibilities of a modern spec- and can leave him to meditate upon the example tator suffer a little shock, from which a judicious of Christian mercy which he owes to the generadapter might relieve him by the omission of a osity of his intended victim at the suggestion of few lines. Not that I would debar Jessica from the “wise young judge," and hope that he may seeking relief from her Jewish disabilities by the profit by it. In the mean time Antonio's fortunes nearest way. We are all glad to see her at liber- are happily restored by the safe arrival of his arty to choose her husband and her religion for her- gosies with all their merchandise, and everybody
is well pleased. * " The Theatre," November, 1879, p. 194.
JAMES SPEDDING (Cornhill Magazine).