« AnteriorContinuar »
fhe, you have been lavish of them to fome of your former miftreffes. Giannetto began to make excufes. She asked him where was the ring fhe had given him? It is no more than what I expected, cries Giannetto, and was in the right to fay you would be angry with me; but, I fwear by all that is facred, and by your dear felf, that I gave the ring to the lawyer who gained our caufe. And I can fwear, fays the lady, with as much folemnity, that you gave the ring to a woman: therefore fwear no more. Gi anneto protested that what he had told her was true, and that he faid all this to the lawyer, when he asked for the ring. The lady replied, you would have done much better to stay at Venice with your miftreffes, for I fear they all wept when you came away Gi annetto's tears began to fall, and in great forrow he affured her, that what the fuppofed could not be true. The lady feeing his tears, which were daggers in her bofom, ran to embrace him, and in a fit of laughter fhewed the ring, and told him, that she was herfelf the lawyer, and how the obtained the ring. Giannetto was greatly aftonished, finding it all true, and told the story to the nobles and to his companions; and this heightened greatly the love between him and his lady. He then called the damfel who had given him the good advice in the evening not to drink the liquor, and gave her to Anfaldo for a wife; and they spent the rest of their lives in great felicity and contentment.
Uggieri de Figiovanni took a refolution of going, for fome time, to the court of Alfonso king of Spain. He was graciously received, and living there fome time in great magnificence, and giving remarkable proofs of his courage, was greatly efteemed. Having frequent opportunities of examining minutely the behaviour of the king, he obferved, that he gave, as he thought, with little difcernment, caftles, and baronies, to fuch who were unworthy of his favours; and to himself, who might pretend to be of fome estimation, he gave nothing: he therefore thought the fittest thing to be done, was to demand leave of the king to return home.
His request was granted, and the king prefented him with one of the most beautiful and excellent mules, that had ever been mounted. One of the king's trufty fervants was commanded to accompany Ruggieri, and riding along with him, to pick up, and recollect every word he faid of the king, and then mention that it was the order of his fovereign, that he fhould go back to him. The man watching the opportunity, joined Ruggieri when he fet out, faid he was going towards Italy, and would be glad to ride in company with him. Ruggieri jogging on with his mule, and talking of one thing or other, it being near nine o'clock, told his companion, that they would do well to put up their mules a little, and as foon as they entered the ftable, every beat, except his, began to ftale. Riding on further, they came to a river, and
watering the beafts, his mule ftaled in the river you untoward beath, fays he, you are like your mafter, who gave you to me. The fervant remembered this expreffion, and many others as they rode on all day together; but he heard not a fingle word drop from him, but what was in praife of the king. The next morning Ruggieri was told the order of the king, and inftantly turned back. When the king had heard what he had faid of the mule, he commanded him into his prefence, and with a fmile, afked him, for what reafon he had compared the mule to him., Ruggieri aufwered, My reafon is plain, you give where you ought not to give, and where you ought to give, you give nothing; in the fame manner the mule would not ftale where he ought, and where the ought not, there fhe staled. The king faid upon this, If I have not rewarded you as I have many, do not entertain a thought that I was infenfible to your great merit; it is Fortune who hindered me; he is to blame, and not I; and I will fhew you manifeftly that I fpeak truth. My difcontent, fir, proceeds not, answered Ruggieri, from a defire of being enriched, but from your not having given the fmalleft teftimony to my deferts in your fervice: neverthelefs your excufe is valid, and I am ready to fee the proof you mention, though I can easily believe you without it. The king conducted him to a hall, where he had already commanded two large cafkets, shut close, to be placed: and before a large company told Ruggieri, that in one of them was contained his crown, fcepter, and all his jewels, and that the other was full of earth: choose which of them you like best, and then you will fee that it is not I, but your fortune that has been ungrateful. Ruggieri, chofe one. It was found to be the casket full of earth. The king faid to him with a fmile, Now you may fee Ruggieri that what I told you of fortune is true; but for your fake, I will oppofe her with all my ftrength. You have no intention, I am certain, to live in Spain, therefore I will offer you no preferment here, but that cafket which fortune denied you, fhall be yours in defpite of her: carry it with you into your own country, fhew it to your friends, and neighbours, as my gift to you; and you have my permiflion to boat, that it is a reward of your virtues.
Of The MERCHANT of VENICE the ftyle is even and easy, with few peculiaritics of diction, or anomalies of construction. The comick part raifes laughter, and the ferious fixes expecta tion. The probability of either one or the other flory cannot be maintained. The union of two actions in one event is in this drama eminently happy. Dryden was much pleased with his own addrefs in connecting the two plots of his Spanish Friar, which yet, I believe, the critick will find execelled by this play.
JOHNSON. P. 141. The Merchant of Venice.] The ancient ballad, on which the greater part of this play is probably founded, has been
mentioned in Obfervations on the Faery Queen, 1. 129. fpeare's track of reading may be traced in the common books and popular ftories of the times, from which he manifefly derived most of his plots. Hiftorical fongs, then very fashionable, often suggested and recommended a fubject. Many of his incidental allufions alfo relate to pieces of this kind, which are now grown valuable on this account only, and would otherwife have been defervedly forgotten. A ballad is still remaining on the fubject of Romeo and Juliet, which by the date appears to be much older than Shakspeare's time. It is remarkable, that all the particu lars in which that play differs from the ftory in Bandello, are found in this ballad. But it may be faid, that he has copied this ftory as it ftands in Paynter's Pallace of Pleafure, 1567, where there is the fame variation of circumftances. This, however, fhews us that Shakspeare did not first alter the original story for the worse, and is at least a prefumptive proof that he never faw the Italian.
Shakspeare alludes to the tale of King Cophetua and the Beg gar, more than once. This was a ballad; the oldest copy of which, that I have feen, is in A Crown Garland of golden Rofes gathered out of England's royall Garden, 1612. The collector of this mifcellany was Richard Johnfon, who compiled, from various romances, The Seven Champions. This ftory of Cophetua was in high vogue, as appears from our author's manner of introducing it in Love's Labour's Loft, act iv. fc. 1. As likewife from John Marston's Satires, called the Scourge of Villanie, printed, 1598, viz.
"Go buy fome ballad of the fairy king,
"And of the BEGGAR WENCH fome rogie thing." Sign. B. ii.
The first stanza of the old ballad begins thus:
"A prince that there did reign,. "Who had to name Cophetua,
"As poets they do feign, &c.
The prince, or king, falls in love with a female beggar, whom he fees accidentally from the windows of his palace, and afterwards marries her. Sign. D 4.] The fong, cited at length by the learned Dr.Grey, on this fubject, is evidently fpurious, and much more modern than Shakipeare's time. The name Cophetua is not once mentioned in it. Notes on Shakspeare, vol. ii p. 267.
However, I fufpect, there is fome more genuine copy than that of 1612, which I before mentioned. But this point may be, perhaps, adjusted by an ingenious enquirer into our old English lite rature, who is now publishing a curious collection of ancient ballads, which will illuftrate many paffages in Shakspeare.
I doubt not but he received the hint of writing King Lear from a ballad on that subject. But in most of his hiftorical plays, he copies Hall, Holinthed, and Stowe, the reigning hiftorians of that age. And although thefe Chronicles were then univerfally known and read, he did not fcruple to tranfcribe their materials with the most circumftantial minutenefs. For this he could not efcape an oblique ftroke of fatire from his envious friend, Ben Jonfon, in the comedy called, The Devil's an Afs, act ii. fc. 4.
"Fitz-dot. Thomas of Woodstock, I'm fure, was duke: and he was made away at Calice, as duke Humfrey was at Bury. And Richard the Third, you know what end he came to.
"Meer-er. By my faith you're cunning in the Chronicle. "Fitz-dot. No, I confefs, I ha't from the play-books, and think they're more authentick."
In Antony Wood's collection of ballads, in the Afhmolean Mufeum, I find one with the foilowing title: "The lamentable and tragical Hiftorie of Titus Andronicus, with the fall of his five and twenty fons in the wars with the Goths; with the murder of his daughter Lavinia, by the emprefs's two fons, through the means of a bloody Moor, taken by the fword of Titus in the war; his revenge upon their cruel and inhumane acte."
You noble mindes and famous martiall wights."
The ufe which Shakspeare might make of this piece, is obvious. WARTON.
The two principal incidents of this play are to be found feparately in a collection of odd ftories, which were very popular, at least five hundred years ago, under the title of Gefla Romanorum. The first, Of the bond, is in ch. xlviii. of the copy, which I chufe to refer to, as the completeft of any which I have yet feen. MS. Harl. n. 2270. A knight there borrows money of a merchant, upon condition of forfeiting all his fef for non-payment. When the penalty is exacted before the judge; the knight's mistress, difguifed, in forma viri & veftimentis pretiofis induta, comes into court, and, by permiffion of the judge, endeavours to mollify the merchant. She first offers him his money, and then the double of it, &c. to all which his answer is-Conventionem meam volo habere. -Puella, cum hoc audiffet, ait coram omnibus, Domine mi judex, da rectum judicium fuper his quæ vobis dixero.-Vos fcitisquod miles nunquam fe obligabat ad aliud per literam nifi quod mercator habeat poteftatem carnes ab offibus fcindere, fine fanguinis effufione, de quo nihil erat prolocutum. Statim mittat manum in eum; fi vero fanguinem effuderit, Rex contra eum actionem habet. Mercator, cum hoc audiffet, ait; date mihi pecuniam & omnem actionem ei remitto. Ait puella, Amen dico tibi, nullum denarium habebis-pone ergo manum in eum, ita ut fanguinem non effundas. Mercator vera videns fe confufum abfceffit; & fic vita militis falvata eft, & nullum denarium dedit.
The other incident, of the cafkets, is in ch. xcix. of the fame collection. A king of Apulia fends his daughter to be married to the fon of an emperor of Rome. After fome adventures, (which are nothing to the prefent purpose) she is brought before the emperor; who fays to her, "Puella, propter amorem filii mei multa adverfa fuftinuifti. Tamen fi digna fueris ut uxor ejus PRIMUM fuit de auro fis cito probabo. Et fecit fieri tria vafa. puriffimo & lapidibus pretiofis interius ex omni parte, & plenum offibus mortuorum; & exterius erat fubfcriptio: Qui me elegerit, in me inveniet quod meruit. SECUNDUM vas erat de argento puro, & gemmis pretiofis, plenum'terra; et exterius erat fubfcriptio: Qui me elegerit, in me inveniet quod natura appetit. TERTIUM, vas de plumbo plenum lapidibus pretiofis interius gemmis nobiliffimis; & exterius erat fubfcriptio talis,: Qui me elegerit, in me inveniet quod deus difpofuit. Ifta tria oftendit puellæ, & dixit, fi unum ex iftis elegeris in quo commodum & proficuum eft, filium meum habebis. Si vero elegeris quod nec tibi aliis eft commodum, ipfum non habebis." The young lady, after mature confideration of the veffels and their infcriptions, chufes the leaden, which being opened, and found to be full of gold and precious stones, the emperor fays: "Bona puella, bene elegistiideo filium meum habebis."
From this abftract of these two stories, I think it appears fuffi cientely plain that they are the remote originals of the two inci dents in this play. That of the cafkets Shakspeare might take from the English Gefla Romanorum, as Dr. Farmer has obferved; and that of the bond might come to him from the Pecorone; but upon the whole I am rather inclined to fufpect, that he has followed fome hitherto unknown novellift, who had faved him the trouble of working up the two ftories into one. TYRWHITT.
Of the incident of the bond, no English original has hitherto been pointed out. I find, however, the following in The Orator: bandling a hundred feverall Difcourfes, in form of Declamations: fome of the Arguments being drawne from Titus Livius and other ancient Writers, the rest of the author's own invention: Part of which are of Matters happened in our Age. -Written in French by Alexander Silvayn,and Englished by L. P. [i. e. Lazarus Pilot] London, printed by Adam flip, 1596.(This book is not mentioned by Ames.) See p. 401.
"Of a Jew, who would for his debt have a pound of the flesh of a Chriftian.
"A Jew, unto whom a Chriftian merchant ought nine hundred crownes, would have fummoned him for the fame in Turkie: the merchant, because he would not be difcredited, promifed to pay the faid fumme within the tearme of three months, and if he paid it not, he was bound to give him a pound of flesh of his bodie.