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And so with griped grieved minde
He biddeth them farewell :
That ever this heard tell.
Good people that do hear this song,
For truth I dare well say,
Doth live now at this day.
Of many a wealthie man,
Deviseth what they can.
And every Christian too,
That meaneth so to doo.
Printed at London by E. P. for J. Wright dwelling
It will be proper to subjoin what the ingenious Mr. Warton has observed upon this subject.-—“ It
may be objected, says he, that this Ballad might “ have been written after, and copied from Shak
speare's play. But if that had been the case, it is “ most likely, that the author would have preserved
Shakspeare's name Shylock for the Jew; and no. thing is more likely, than that Shakspeare in
copying from this Ballad, should alter the name « from Gernutus to one more Jewish. Another ar" gument is, that our Ballad has the air of a narra« tive written before Shakspeare's play; I mean, " that, if it had been written after the play, it « would have been much more full and circum" stantial: At present, it has too much the naked. ness of an original.”
Ir would, indeed, be absurd to think, that this Ballad was taken from Shakspeare's play, as they differ in the most essential circumstances.
The sum borrowed is in the latter three thousand ducats, in the former an hundred crowns: The time limited -for payment in the one is only three months, in the other a year and a day: In the play the merchant's motive for borrowing, (which is finely imagined by Shakspeare, and is conducive to the general plot) is not on account of his own necessities, but for the service of his friend. To these we may add, that the close of the story is finely heightened by Shakspeare. A mere copyist, such as we may suppose a ballad-maker, would not have given himself the trouble to alter circumstances: at least he would not have changed them so much for the worse. But this matter seems to be placed out of all doubt by the first stanza of the Ballad, which informs us, that the story was taken from some Italian novel. “ Thus “ much therefore is certain (as Mr. Warton observes) " that Shakspeure either copied from that Italian “ novel, or from this Ballad: Now we have no
translation, 1 persume, of such a novel into English; if then it be granted, that Shakspeare generally took his Italian stories from their English translations, and that the arguments above, con
cerning the prior antiquity of this Ballad are true, “ it will follow, that Shakspeare copied from this - Ballad.”
Upon the whole, it is very likely, that the Italian novel, upon which this Ballad seems founded, took its rise (with an inversion of the circumstances) from the above-mentioned story in the “ Life of Pope “ Sixtus V.” the memory of which must have been then recent. I should be glad, if any of your readers can give any further light into this affair, and, if possible, acquaint the public, from whencé Shakspeare borrowed the other part of his fable concerning Portia and the Caskets; which, it is more than probable, is drawn from some other novel well known in his time.
I CANNOT conclude without remarking, with what art and judgment Shakspeare has wove together these different stories of the Jew, and the Caskets ; from both which he has formed one general fable, without having recourse to the stale artifice of eking out a barren subject with impertinent underplots
I am Sir,
Your humble servant, &c.
AFTER all, one would be glad to know what authority Leti had for the foregoing fact, or at least for connecting it with the taking of St. Domina go by Drake ; for this expedition did not happen till 1585, and it is very certain that a play of the Jewe,“ representing the greedinesse of worldly “ chusers, and bloody minds of usurers," had been exhibited at the play-house called The Bull, before the year 1579, being mentioned in Steph. Gosson's. Schoole of abuse, * which was printed in that year.
As for Shakspeare's Merchant of Venice, the earliest edition known of it is in quarto 1600; though it had been exhibited before the year 1598, being mentioned together with eleven other of his plays in Meres's Wits Treasury, &c. 1598, 12mo. fol. 282. PERCY.
THE observations last cited are in the Reliquis of Ancient English Poetry, in which Dr. Percy has given the same ballad of Gernutus the Jew, which had appeared in the Connoisseur, with a few slight
• Warton, ubi supra.
and insignificant variations, printed, as he says, from an ancient black letter copy in the Pepys Collection, and compared with the Ashmole copy. The title of the ballad is the same in both copies, but to that which Dr. Percy followed are added the words “ To the tune of black and yellow." In both it is divided into a first and second part, but not in the same place. E.
IT has been lately discovered, that this fable is taken from a story in the Pecorone of Ser Gio. vanni Fiorentino, a novellist, who wrote in 1378, [The first novel of the fourth day.] The story has been published in English, and I have epitomized the translation. The translator is of opinion, that the choice of the caskets is borrowed from a tale of Boccace, which I have likewise abridged, though I believe that Shakspeare must have had some other novel in view. JOHNSON.
THERE lived at Florence, a merchant whose name was Bindo. He was rich, and had three sons. Being near his end, he called for the two eldest, and left them heirs : to the youngest he left nothing. This youngest, whose name was Giannetto, went to his father, and said, What has my father done? The father replied, Dear Giannetto, there is none to whom I wish better than to you. Go to Venice to your godfather, whose name is Ansaldo; he has no child, and has wrote to me often to send you thither to him.
He is the richest merchant amongst the Christians: if you behave well, you
will be certain ly a rich man. The son answered, I am ready to do whatever my dear father shall command: upon which he gave him his benediction, and in a few days died.
Giannetto went to Ansaldo and presented the letter given by the father before his death. Ansaldo reading the letter, cried out, My dearest godson is welcome to my arms. He then asked news of his father. Gian
netto replied, He is dead. I am much grieved, replied Ansaldo, to hear of the death of Bindo; but the joy I feel, in seeing you, mitigates my sorrow. He conducted him to his house, and gave orders to his servants, that Giannetto should be obeyed, and served with more attention than had been paid to himself. He then delivered him the keys of his ready money; and told him, Son, spend this money, keep a table, and make yourself known: remember, that the more you gain the good will of every body, the more you will be dear to me.
Giannetto now began to give entertainments. He was more obedient and courteous to Ansaldo, than if he had been an hundred times his father. Every body in Venice .was fond of him. Ansaldo could think of nothing but him; so much was he pleased with his good manners and behaviour,
It happened, that two of his most intimate acquaintance designed to go with two ships to Alexandria, and told Giannetto, he would do well to take a voyage and see the world. I would go willingly, said he, if my father Ansaldo will give leave. His companions go to Ansaldo, and beg his permission for Giannetto to go in the spring with them to Alexandria; and desire him to provide him a ship. Ansaldo immediately procured a very fine ship, loaded it with merchandize, adorned it with streamers, and furnished it with arms; and, as soon as it was ready, he gave orders to the captain and sailors to do every thing that Giannetto commanded. It happened one morning early, that Giannetto saw a gulph, with a fine port, and asked the captain how the port was called ? He replied, that place belongs to a widow lady, who has ruined many gentlemen. In what manner? says Giannetto. He answered, This lady is a fine and beautiful woman, and has made a law, that whoever arrives here is obliged to go to bed with her, and if he can have the enjoyment of her, he must take her for his wife, and be lord of all the country; but if he