« AnteriorContinuar »
too manifest to leave any doubt. Thus the scene being laid at Venice; the residence of the lady at Belmont; the introduction of the person bound for the principal; the double infraction of the bond, viz. the taking more or less than a pound of flesh, and the shedding of blood, together with the after-incident of the ring, are common to the novel and the play. The whetting of the knife might perhaps be taken from the ballad of Gernutus. Shakspeare was likewise indebted to an authority that could not have occurred to the original author of the play in an English form; this was Silvayn's Orator, as translated by Munday. From that work Shylock's reasoning before the senate is evidently borrowed; but, at the same time, it has been most skilfully improved.*
There are two distinct collections under the title of Gesta Romanorum. The one has been frequently printed in Latin, but never in English: there is, however, a manuscript version, of the reign of Henry the Sixth, among the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum. This collection seems to have originally furnished the story of the bond. The other Gesta has never been printed in Latin, but a portion of it has been several times printed in English. The earliest edition referred to by Warton and Dr. Farmer, is by Wynken de Worde, without date, but of the beginning of the sixteenth century. It was long doubted whether this early edition existed; but it has recently been described in the Retrospective Review, The latter part of the thirty-second history in this collection may have furnished the incidents of the caskets.
But as many of the incidents in the bond story of the Merchant of Venice have a more striking resemblance to the first tale of the fourth day of the Pecorone of Ser Giovanni, this part of the plot was most probably taken immediately from thence. The story may have been extant in English in Shakspeare's time, though it has not hitherto been discovered.
The Pecorone was first printed in 1550, (not 1558, as erroneously stated by Mr. Steevens,) but was written almost two centuries before.
After all, unless we could recover the old play of The Jew, mentioned by Gosson, it is idle to conjecture how far Shakspeare improved upon the plot of that piece. The various materials which may have contributed to furnish the complicated plct of Shakspeare's play, are to be found in the Variorum Editions, and in Mr. Douce's very interesting work.
*" The Orator, handling a hundred several Discourses, in form of Declamations, &c.; written in French by Alexander Silvayn, and Englished by L. P. (Lazarus Pyol, i. e. Anthony Munday.) London : printed by Adam Islip, 1596.” Declamation 95_" or a Jew who would for his debt have a pound of flesh of a Christian.” VOL. 11.
Duke of Venice.
Portia, a rich Heiress.
Magnificoes of Venice, Officers of the Court of Justice,
Jailer, Servants, and other Attendants.
SCENE, partly at Venice, and partly at Belmont, the
Seat of Portia, on the Continent.
This enumeration of the Dramatis Persona is by Mr. Rowe.
MERCHANT OF VENICE.
SCENE I. Venice. A Street.
Enter Antonio, Salarino, and SALANIO.
Salar. Your mind is tossing on the ocean ;
Salan. Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,
1 Argosies are large ships either for merchandise or war. The word has been supposed to be derived from the classical ship Argo, as a vessel eminently famous; and this seems the more probable from Argis being used for a ship in low Latin.
Misfortune to my ventures, out of doubt,
My wind, cooling my broth,
Ant. Believe me, no. I thank my fortune for it,
Salan. Why, then, you are in love.
i To vail is to lower, to let fall; from the French, avaler.
That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile,
Enter Bassanio, LORENZO, and GRATIANO.
Ant. Your worth is very dear in my regard.
Salar. Good morrow, my good lords.
Say, when ? You grow exceeding strange. Must it be so ? · Salar. We'll make our leisures to attend on yours.
[Exeunt Salar. and Salan. Lor. My lord Bassanio, since you have found
Bass. I will not fail you.
Ant. I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
Let me play the fool.