Imagens das páginas

the bond there is no mention of blood; and, if, in taking the flesh, he take one drop of that, the whole force of the law will be used against him. Thoroughly discomfited, Shylock asks to have his money and to be allowed to go off. But Portia arrests him as one who has conspired against the life of a Venetian citizen; and the lowest punishment for this is the forfeiture of all his wealth, one half of which shall go to Antonio and the other to the state.

Portia retires from the court without being discovered and hurries home before the arrival of her husband, on whom, however, she has contrived, even after the solemn scene in court, to play off a merry prank, which shall afford food for laughter when they meet again. In the last act she re-enters, at midnight, the splendid home which is to be the scene of her wedded happiness, while the full-moon shines on the marble terraces, and gentle music floats over the banks of flowers; and, as we follow the youthful figure, radiant with the bliss of doing good, from the encompassing air above her the words seem to breathe which she uttered in the court-of-law and which contain Shakspeare's noblest definition of the essence of Christianity

1 The fine due to the state is, however, ultimately remitted, and Antonio is to administer the other half for the benefit of the Jew's daughter and her husband. So, it may be argued, Shylock makes not so bad a bargain. Yet, I am certain, it is the design of the play not only to humiliate but punish the Jew.

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed :
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway:
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute to God Himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this—
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation; we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.





ABOUT the year 1600, when Shakspeare was six-and thirty years of age and had still sixteen years of his earthly course to run, his genius underwent a natural modification. His comic vein, out of which the brilliant series of his Gayer Comedies had been produced, ceased to yield material of the same quality and quantity; and his muse turned, by preference, to tragic themes. This was the period in which his great tragedies came into existence. Yet he still went on, at intervals, writing comedies, though without the same riotous abundance of inspiration. To this period belong six productions which we may designate his Graver Comedies; their titles are printed on the opposite page.

Another name which has been proposed for theseor for some of them-is Romances. As a rule they have not the compactness of comedies, but rely for

1 In the First Folio Cymbeline appears among the Tragedies; while, by a lucky chance, The Tempest stands first among the Comediesthat is, first in the entire volume-where, by its perfection, it may have lured readers on who might have been dismayed by some of the earlier comedies. There seems to be no order in the arrangement of the Comedies or the Tragedies in the First Folio; but the English Histories follow the chronological order of the reigns.

« AnteriorContinuar »