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THE MERCHANT OF VENICE,' like 'A Midsummer-Night's Dream,' was first printed in 1600; and it had a further similarity to that play from the circumstance of two editions appearing in the same year-the one bearing the name of a publisher, Thomas Heyes, the other that of a printer, J. Roberts. The play was not reprinted till it appeared in the folio of 1623. In that edition there are a few variations from the quartos. All these editions present the internal evidence of having been printed from correct copies. 6 The Merchant of Venice' is one of the plays of Shakspere mentioned by Francis Meres in 1598, and it is the last mentioned in his list.

Stephen Gosson, who, in 1579, was moved to publish a tract called 'The School of Abuse, containing a pleasant invective against poets, pipers, players, jesters, and such like caterpillars of the commonwealth,' thus describes a play of his time:-"The Jew, shown at the Bull, representing the greedyness of worldly choosers, and the bloody minds of usurers." Whatever might have been the plot of The Jew' mentioned by Gosson, the story of the bond was ready to Shakspere's hand, in a ballad to which Warton first drew attention. He considers that the bal

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It was from an Ialian writer, Ser Giovanni, the author of a collection of tales called 'Il Pecorone,' written in the fourteenth century, and first published at Milan in 1558, that Shakspere unquestionably derived some of the incidents of his story, although he might be familiar with another version of the same tale.

"It is well known," says Mrs. Jameson, "that The Merchant of Venice' is founded on two different tales; and in weaving toge ther his double plot in so masterly a manner, Shakspere has rejected altogether the character of the astutious lady of Belmont, with her magic potions, who figures in the Italian novel. With yet more refinement, he has

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thrown out all the licentious part of the story, which some of his contemporary dramatists would have seized on with avidity, and made the best or the worst of it possible; and he has substituted the trial of the caskets from another source."a That source is the 'Gesta Romanorum.'

and the lowly, the learned and the igno-
rant:-

"There was in Asie, in a gret citee,
Amonges Cristen folk a Jewerie,
Sustened by a lord of that contree,
For foul usure, and lucre of vilanie,
Hateful to Crist, and to his compagnie."

It was scarcely to be avoided in those times that even Chaucer, the most genuine and natural of poets, should lend his great powers to the support of the popular belief that Jews ought to be proscribed as

In dealing with the truly dramatic subject of the forfeiture of the bond, Shakspere had to choose between one of two courses that lay open before him. The Gesta Romanorum' did not surround the debtor and the creditor with any prejudices. We hear nothing "Hateful to Crist, and to his compagnie." of one being a Jew, the other a Christian. But we ought to expect better things when There is a remarkable story told by Gregorio we reach the times in which the principles Leti, in his 'Life of Pope Sixtus the Fifth,' of religious liberty were at least germinated. in which the debtor and creditor of The And yet what a play is Marlowe's 'Jew of Merchant of Venice' change places. The Malta,'--undoubtedly one of the most popudebtor is the Jew,-the revengeful creditor lar plays even of Shakspere's day, judging the Christian; and this incident is said to as we may from the number of performances have happened at Rome in the time of Sir recorded in Henslowe's papers! That drama, Francis Drake. This, no doubt, was a pure as compared with the Merchant of Venice,' fiction of Leti, whose narratives are by no has been described by Charles Lamb, with means to be received as authorities; but it his usual felicity:-" Marlowe's Jew does not shows that he felt the intolerance of the old approach so near to Shakspere's as his story, and endeavoured to correct it, though Edward II. Shylock, in the midst of his in a very inartificial manner. Shakspere savage purpose, is a man. His motives, took the story as he found it in those narra. feelings, resentments, have something human tives which represented the popular preju- in them. 'If you wrong us, shall we not dice. If he had not before him the ballad revenge?' Barabas is a mere monster, of 'Gernutus' (upon which point it is difficult brought in with a large painted nose, to to decide), he had certainly access to the tale please the rabble. He kills in sport-poisons of the Pecorone.' If he had made the con- whole nunneries-invents infernal machines. test connected with the story of the bond He is just such an exhibition as, a century between two of the same faith, he would or two earlier, might have been played before have lost the most powerful hold which the the Londoners, by the Royal command, when subject possessed upon the feelings of an a general pillage and massacre of the Heaudience two centuries and a half ago. If brews had been previously resolved on in he had gone directly counter to those feel the cabinet." "The Jew of Malta' was ings (supposing that the story which Leti written essentially upon an intolerant printells had been known to him, as some have ciple. The Merchant of Venice,' whilst it supposed), his comedy would have been seized upon the prejudices of the multitude, hooted from the stage. and dealt with them as a foregone conclusion by which the whole dramatic action was to be governed, had the intention of making those prejudices as hateful as the reaction of cruelty and revenge of which they are the

"The Prioress's Tale' of Chaucer belonged to the period when the Jews were robbed, maimed, banished, and most foully vilified, with the universal consent of the powerful

■ Characteristics of Women,' vol. i., p. 72.

cause.

PERSONS REPRESENTED.

DUKE OF VENICE.

Appears, Act IV. sc. 1.

PRINCE OF ARRAGON, suitor to Portia.

Appears, Act II. sc. 9.

PRINCE OF MOROCCO, suitor to Portia.
Appears, Act II. sc. 1; sc. 7.
ANTONIO, the Merchant of Venice.
Act II. sc. 6. Act III. sc. 3.
Act IV. sc. 1. Act V. sc. 1.

Appears, Act I. sc. 1; sc. 3.

BASSANIO, friend to Antonio.

Appeurs, Act I. sc. 1; sc. 3. Act II. sc. 2. Act III. sc. 2.
Act IV. sc. 1. Act V. sc. 1.

SOLANIO, friend to Antonio and Bassanio.
Appears, Act I. sc. 1. Act II. sc. 4; sc. 8.
Act III. sc. 1; sc. 2. Act IV. sc. 1.

SALARINO, friend to Antonio and Bassanio.
Appears, Act I. sc. 1. Act II. sc. 4; sc. 6; sc. 8.
Act III. sc. 1; sc. 3. Act IV. sc. 1.

GRATIANO, friend to Antonio and Bassanio.
Appears, Act I. sc. 1. Act II. sc. 2; sc. 4; sc. 6.
Act III. sc. 2. Act IV. sc. 1; sc. 2. Act V. sc. 1.

LORENZO, in love with Jessica.
Appears, Act I. sc. 1. Act II. sc. 4; sc. 6.
Act III. sc. 2; sc. 4; sc. 5. Act V. sc. 1.

SHYLOCK, a Jew.

Appears, Act I. sc. 3. Act II. sc. 5. Act III. sc. 1; sc. 3.

Act IV. sc. 1.

TUBAL, a Jew, friend to Shylock.
Appears, Act III. sc. 1.

LAUNCELOT GOBBO, a clown, servant to

Shylock.

Appears, Act II. sc. 2; sc. 3; sc. 4; sc. 5. Act III. sc. 5. Act V. sc. 1.

Old GOBBO, father to Launcelot.

Appears, Act II. sc. 2.

LEONARDO, servant to Bassanio.

Appears, Act II. sc. 2.

BALTHAZAR, servant to Portia.

Appears, Act III. sc. 4.

STEPHANO, servant to Portia.

Appears, Act V. sc. 1.

PORTIA, a rich heiress.

Appears, Act I. sc. 2. Act II. sc. 1; sc. 7; sc. 9. Act III. sc. 2; sc. 4. Act IV. sc. 1; sc. 2. Act V. sc. 1.

NERISSA, waiting-maid to Portia.

Appears, Act I. sc. 2. Act II. sc. 1; sc. 7; sc. 9. Act III. sc. 2; sc. 4. Act IV. sc. 1; sc. 2. Act V. sc. 1.

JESSICA, daughter to Shylock.

Appears, Act II. sc. 3; sc. 5; sc. 6.
Act III. sc. 2; sc. 4; sc. 5. Act V. sc. 1.

Magnificoes of Venice, Officers of the Court of Justice, Gaoler, Servants, and other Attendants.

SCENE, PARTLY AT VENICE; and partly at Belmont, the SeAT OF PORTIA, ON THE CONTINENT.

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• Salarino. Nothing can be more confused than the manner in which the names of Salarino and Solanio are indicated in the folio of 1623. Neither in that edition, nor in the quartos, is there any enumeration of characters. In the text of the folio we find Salarino and Slarino; Salanio, Solanio, and Salino. Further, in the third act we have a Salerio, who has been raised to the dignity of a distinct character by Steevens. Gratiano calls this Salerio "my old Venetian friend;" and there is no reason whatever for not receiving the name as a misprint of Solanio, or Salanio. But if there be confusion even in these names when given at length in the text, the abbreviations prefixed to the speeches are "confusion worse confounded." Salanio begins with being Sal., but he immediately turns into Sola., and afterwards to Sol.; Salarino is at first Salar., then Sala., and finally Sal. We have adopted the distinction which Capell recommended to prevent the mistake of one abbreviation for another-Solan. and Salar.; and we have in some instances deviated from the usual assignment of the speeches to each of these characters, following for the most part the quarto, which in this particular is much less perplexed than the folio copy. The modern editors appear to have exercised only their caprice in this matter; and thus they have given Salarino and Solanio alternate speeches, after the fashion of Tityrus and Meliboeus; whereas Salarino is decidedly meant for the liveliest and the greatest talker.

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