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THE reader will find an epitome of the novel, from which the story of this play is supposed to be taken, at the conclusion of the notes. It should however be remembered, that if our poet was at all indebted to the Italian novelists, it must have been through the medium of some old translation, which has hitherto escaped the researches of his most industrious editors.
It appears from a passage in Stephen Gosson's School of Abuse, &c. 1579, that a play, comprehending the distinct plots of this, had been exhibited before Shakspeare's, viz.
“ The Jew shown at the Bull, representing the greediness of worldly Choosers, and the bloody Minds of Usurers." “ These plays, says Gosson, (for he mentions others with it) are goode and sweete playes, &c." It is therefore not improbable that Shak. speare new-wrote his piece, on the model already mentioned, and that the elder performance, being inferior, was permitted to drop silently into oblivion.
STEEVENS. Of The Merchant of Venice the style is even and easy, with few peculiarities of diction, or anomalies of construction. The comick part raises laughter, and the serious fixes expectation. The probability of either one or the other story cannot be maintained. The union of two actions in one event is in this drama eminently happy. Dryden was much pleased with his own address in connecting the two plots of his Spanish Friar, which yet, I believe, the critick will find excelled by this play.
Prince of Arragcon; } suitors to Portia.
friends to Antonio and Bassani.
Duke of Venice.
ANTONIO, the merchant of Venice :
BASSANIU, his friend.
LORENZO, in love with Jessica.
SHYLOCK, a Jew :
TUBAL, a Jew, his friend.
LAUNCELOT Gobbo, a clown, servant to Shylock.
Old GOBBO, father to Launcelot.
SALERIO, a messenger from Venice.
LEONARDO, servant to Bassanio.
servants to Portia.
PORTIA, a rich heiress.
NERISSA, her waiting-maid.
JESSICA, daughter to Shylock.
Magnificoes of Venice, Officers of the Court of Justice,
Jailer, Servants, and other Attendant 8.
SCENE-partly at Venice, and partly at Belmont, the
seat of Portia, on the continent.
SCENEI.-Venice. A Street. Enter ANTONIO, SAL
ARINO, and SALAN10.
In sooth, I know not why I am so sad ;
It wearies me ; you say, it wearies you ;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn ;
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.
Sal. Your mind is tossing on the ocean ;
There, where your argosies1 with portly sail, -
Like signiors and rich burghers of the flood,
Or, as it were the pageants of the sea,-
Do overpeer the petty traffickers,
That curt'sy to them, do them reverence,
As they fly by them with their woven wings.
Sala. Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,
The better part of my affections would
Be with my hopes abroad. I should be still
Plucking the grass, 2 to know where sits the wind ;
Peering in maps, for ports, and piers, and roads ;
And every object that might make me fear
Misfortune to my ventures, out of doubt,
Would make me sad.
Sal. My wind, cooling my broth,
Would blow me to an ague, when I thought
What harm a wind too great might do at sea.
[!] Argosies-A name given in our author's time to ships of great burthen, probably galleons, such as the Spaniards use in their West India trade. Joh.
 By holding up the grass, or any light body that will bend by a gentle blast, the direction of the wind is found. This way I used in shooting. Betwixt the markes was an open place, there I take a fethere, or a lyttle light grasse, and so learned how the wind stood.” Ascham. JOHNSON
I should not see the sandy hour-glass run,
But I should think of shallows and of flats ;
And see my wealthy Andrew3 dock'd in sand,
Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs,
To kiss her burial. Should I go to church,
And see the holy edifice of stone,
And not bethink me straight of dangerous rocks?
Which, touching but my gentle vessel's side,
Would scatter all her spices on the stream ;
Enrobe the roaring waters with my silks ;
And, in a word, but even now worth this,
And now worth nothing ? Shall I have the thought
To think on this ; and shall I lack the thought,
That such a thing, bechanc'd, would make me sad ?
But, tell not me ; know, Antonio
Is sad to think upon his merchandize.
Ant. Believe me, no : I thank my fortune for it,
My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,
Nor to one place ; nor is my whole estate
Upon the fortune of this present year :
Therefore my merchandize makes me not sad.
Sala. Why then you are in love.
Ant. Fie, fie !
Sala. Not in love neither? Then let's say, you are sad,
Because you are not merry : and 'twere as easy
For you, to laugh, and leap, and say, you are merry,
Because you are not sad. Now, by two-headed Janus,
Nature hath fram’d strange fellows in her time :
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes,
And laugh, like parrots, at a bag-piper ;
And other of such vinegar-aspect,
That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile, 5
Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.
Enter BASSANIO, LORENZO, and GRATIANO.
Sal. Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman,
Gratiano, and Lorenzo : Fare you well ;
We leave you now with better company.
Sala. I would have staid till I had made you merry,
If worthier friends had not prevented me.
Ant. Your worth is very dear in my regard.  Andrew-The name of the ship. JOHNSON  This gives a very picturesque image of the countenance in laughing when the eyes are half shut. (5) Because such are apt enough to show their teeth in anger. WARB:
I take it, your own business calls on you,
And you embrace the occasion to depart.
Sal. Good-morrow, my good lords.
Bass. Good signiors both, when shall we laugh ? Say,
You grow exceeding strange: Must it be so ?
Sal. We'll make our leisures to attend on yours.
[Exe. SALARINO and SALANIO. Lor. My lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio, We two will leave you : but, at dinner time, I pray you, have in mind where we must meet. Bass. I will not fail you.
Gra. You look not well, signior Antonio ;
You have too much respect upon the world :
They lose it, that do buy it with much care.
Believe me, you are marvellously chang’d.
Ant. I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano ;
A stage, where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.
Gra. Let me play the Fool : 6
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come ;
And let my liver rather heat with wine,
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster ?
Sleep when he wakes ? and creep into the jaundice
By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio,
I love thee, and it is my love that speaks ;-
There are a sort of men, whose visages
Do cream and mantle, like a standing pond ;
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be drest in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit;
As who should say, I am sir Orá:le,
And, when I ope my lips, let no dog bark !
O, my Antonio, I do know of these,
That therefore only are reputed wise,
For saying nothing ; who, I am very sure,
If they should speak, would almost damn those ears,
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers, fools.
(6) Alluding to the common comparison of human life to a stage-play. So that he desires his may be the fool's or buffoon's part, which was a constant character in the old farces ; from whence came the phrase, to play the fool.