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Each Critic must be allowed to be ingenious : some word, or phrase, or line, expressive of an irresistible influence over our likings and loathings, (for Shylock speaks of both) as well as governing the verb sways, is most certainly the grand Desideratum, the one thing requisite to regulate and explain this difficult passage. The passage,
as it stands in the old books, is evidently defective or corrupt, or both, and though the reading Mistress for Masters may remedy the corruption, and bring the noun and verb, according to the rules of Syntax, to accord with each other, still there remains an imperfection in the context, which has driven the commentators, as their last resource, to a new mode of punctuation. My own method may, perhaps, appear still more desperate; but desperate diseases require desperate remedies, and without some topical applications the case under consideration is confessedly incurable : and I cannot well explain myself without some dissection. I must beg leave therefore to give a brief analysis of Shylock's reply to the Duke, who tells him that the court recommend lenity to Anthonio, and expect a gentle answer from the prosecutor.--His answer is to this effect.
“ I have taken a solemn oath to exact the penalty
on the bond, and deny me justice at your peril! “ If you demand why I prefer a pound of flesh to “ three thousand ducats, Lanswer, it is my humour. " Or, if that answer be unsatisfactory; I add that “ there is an uncontroulable and unaccountable in“ fluence, affecting the mind, predominating so ab
solutely over the passions, as to impell them, in spite of reason, and of will, acting in some men by Antipathy, and in others by Sympathy. There are instances of both. I ain an instance of Anti
pathy. I abhor, I hate Anthonio : and this “ Hatred, this Antipathy, is the only answer that
“ I will
“ I will or can give, why I prefer a losing suit to “ a lucrative composition.”
This I take to be a fair abstract of Shylock's answer, who, waving the sic volo with which he follows ap his oath, proceeds to defend his conduct by the example of other men, subject, 'like himself, to the irresistible dominion of Sympathy and Antipathy.
On the whole therefore I conceive that the ori. ginal punctuation should be maintained, that the word "Maisters in the old copies should be read Mistress, and that the imperfection in the sense, according to that reading, arises from a line or two lost or dropt at the press, in which the words Sympathy and Antipathy, so congenial to the argument, had most probably a place.
To submit this opinion, and the whole of my comment fairly to the reader, I shall conclude these observations with a transcript of the whole speech from the second folio, oaly introducing in another character the variation of Mistress for Maisters, together with one intercalary line, meant (like the day in Leap-year) to complete the system, and to convey the real meaning of the author. His real words are now irrecoverable.
The Duke concludes the address to Shylock, in behalf of the Senate and himself, with these words.
“ We do expect a gentle answer, Jew."
Shylock's answer is as follows. “ I have possesst your Grace with what I purpose, “ And by our holy Sabbath I have sworne " To have the due and forfet of
bond, “ If you deny it, let the danger light
Upon your Charter, and your Cities freedome. " You'l aske me why I rather choose to have “ A weight of carrion flesh, then to receive « Three thousand Ducats, lle not answer that; " But say it is my humor; Is it answered ?
“ What if my house be troubled with a Rat “ And I be pleased to give ten thousand Ducates • To have it bain'd? What, are you answer'd yet? • Some men there are love not a gaping pigge: “ Some that are madde, if they behold a cat: “ And others, when the bagpipe sings i'th' nose, « Cannot contain their urine for affection.
Sovereign Antipathy, or Sympathy, “ Mistress of passion, swayes it to the moode « Of what it likes or loaths, now for your answer-« As there is no firme reason to be rendred
Why he cannot abide a gaping pigge?
Why he a woollen bagpipe but of force “ Must yeeld to such inevitable shame, “ As to offend himself being offended : “ So can I give no reason, nor I will not, “ More than a lodg'd hate, and a certaine loathing “ I beare Anthonio, that I follow thus “ A loosing suit against him? Are you answered ?”
If this exposition is not convincing and conclusive, it were in vain to add more arguments to enforce it. Valeat, quantum valere potest ! The few faults in the punctuation of the old copy are so obvious, that they cannot mislead the attentive reader ; but the defect in the construction, without addition or alteration, is irremoveable. The last expedient having, in my humble opinion, proved unsuccessful, a close consideration of the whole passage suggested the former. With what propriety the reader will determine. COLMAN.
After all that has been said about this contested passage, I am convinced we are indebted for the true reading of it to Mr. Waldron, the ingenious editor and continuator of Ben Jonson's Sad Shepherd.
In his Appendix, p. 212, he observes that “ Mis“ tress was formerly spelt Maistresse or Maistres." In Upton's and Church's Spenser we have,
-Young -Young birds which he had taught to sing “ His maistresse praises.” B. 3. c. 7. st. 17. This, I presume, is the reading of the first edition of the three first books of The Fairy Queen, 1590, which I have not; in the second edition, 1596, and the folios 1609 and 1611, it is spelt mistresse.
In Bulleyn's Dialogue we have, “my maister, “ and my maistress." See page 219 of this Appendix.
Perhaps Maistres (easily corrupted, by the transposition of the r and e, into Maisters, which is the reading of the second folio of Shakspeare) might have been the poet's word.
Mr. Steevens, in his note on this difficult passage, gives a quotation from Othello, which countenances this supposed difference of gender in the noun: " And though we have here a substitute of most " allowed sufficiency, yet opinion, a sovereign mistress
of effects, throws a more safe voice on you ;"
Admitting maistres to have been Shakspeare's word, we may, according to modern orthography, read the
“ Of what it likes, or loaths." In the Latin, it is to be observed, Affectio and passio are feminine.”
To the foregoing amendment, so well supported, and so modestly offered, I cannot refuse a place in the text of our author.
This emendation may also receive countenance from the following passage in the fourth book of Sidney's Arcadia :
-She saw in him how “ much fancy doth not only darken reason, but
beguile sense; she found opinion mistresse of the “ lover's judgment."
So likewise in the Prologue to a MS. entitled The Boke of Huntyng, that is cleped Mayster of game. ymaginacion maistresse of alle workes,” &c.
It is due to the character of persons engaged in studies and pursuits, such as those of Mr. Steevens and Mr. Waldron, to suppose that if either of these gentlemen had been acquainted with the above note, placed here just before their own, he would not have wanted the candour or justice to confess it. Indeed the aspect of Mr. Capell's annotations, une der their present form, is of so unpleasant and forbidding a kind, that we cannot be surprised if the number of those, who find in themselves an inclination to consult them, is extremely small. Much information is, notwithstanding, sometimes to be gleaned from them.
The reading just recommended is, after all, no other than one of those originally suggested by Dr. Thirlby, as Mr. Capell himself has not scrupled to ackpowledge. The effect of the words “ sways “ it to the mood,” &c. in the passage
thus adjusted, seems to be this
-“ disposes it (passion) to yield to, or, comply with the nature of the thing “ it (affection) either likes or loaths, by producing « such effects as that thing has a tendency to make “ it produce.” This is the clearest idea that I am capable of forming of it, which, at the same time, cannot be denied to labour under very considerable obscurity. E.
Page 192. In reply to Dr. Johnson's remark. As Dr. Bellario was the relation of Portia, is it not very natural to suppose that, after Bassanio was called away in such haste to Venice, on account of the prosecution carried on against his friend Anthonio, his bride Portia would send a messenger to her cousin, in order to ask his opinion,