« PreviousContinue »
ACT I-SCENE I.
"-SALARINO and SALANIO"-There is much confusion in the early editions which it is not now easy to rectify, between the names of these characters and the speeches assigned to them, as designated by Sal., Salan., Sol., Salar.; and the names themselves are variously spelled. The text here differs from that of some of the modern editions in following the arrangement of the quartos, which receives some confirmation by its giving a larger and more lively share of the dialogue to Salarino, who had professed his wish to make Antonio merry. This discrimination of character, even in subordinate parts, slight as it is, is in Shakespeare's manner, and is lost by the more equal alternation of the dialogue given by Stevens, and retained by Collier.
There, where your ARGOSIES"-" Argosies" were large merchant vessels: the word is said by Stevens to he corrupted from Ragosies, or, ships of Ragusa, distinguished in their day for their size and value; but Douce derives it from the classical ship Argo, which is more probable, from argis being the word for ship in the Latin of the lower empire.
"And see my wealthy Andrew DOCK'D in sand""Andrew" is the ship's name, and was probably a common one for Italian vessels, in honour of the great admiral, Andrew Doria. For "dock'd in sand" all the old editions print "docks in sand;" and Collier proposes to read, "my wealthy Andrew's decks in sand."
"VAILING her high top"-To "vail" means to bow, to lower, to cast down, as in HAMLET, "vailed lids."
"-Now, by two-headed Janus, Nature hath fram'd strange fellows in her time." "By two-headed Janus' is meant those antique bifrontine heads, which generally represent a young and smiling face, together with an old and wrinkled one; being of Pan and Bacchus, of Saturn and Apollo, etc. These are not uncommon in collections of antiques, and in the books of the antiquaries, as Montfaucon, Spanheim, etc."-WARBURTON.
-WHEN I am very sure"-" So all the old copies. This reading is in Shakespeare's manner, who often left the nominative case of the verb to be understood.
"Is that any thing now ?"-All the early editions have, "It is that any thing now," which words Collier retains, with an altered punctuation, thus, "It is that:any thing now;" and explains thus: "Antonio's observation, It is that,' is addressed to Gratiano, concurring in his remark just before he made his exit; and then Antonio's bad spirits return upon him, and he adds, as if weary of Gratiano's talk, any thing now.' This naturally leads to Bassanio's criticism upon Gratiano." But on looking at the original quarto, it will be seen that there are marks of a misprint, thus, "An. It is that any thing now," for, as elsewhere, "Ant. Is that any thing now?" and this last reading suits the context.
"And I am PREST"-i. e. Ready: it is used in this sense by Chaucer, Spenser, Fox, and others: from the French prêt, anciently spelled preste.
"-he hath neither Latin, French, nor Italian "A satire," says Warburton, "on the ignorance of the
young English travellers in our author's time." Knight says, "Authors are not much in the habit of satirizing themselves; and yet, according to Farmer and his school, Shakespeare knew 'neither Latin, French, nor Italian.'
"What think you of the SCOTTISH lord, his neighbour"-" Portia's reply could not be palatable to King James, and the Scotch who came to England on his accession: therefore, in the folio, (1623,) other is substituted for 'Scottish; whereas the quartos, which were printed more than two years before James I. came to the throne, preserve the original reading."-Collier.
"SQUANDERED abroad"-In a letter in Woodfall's "Theatrical Repertory," 1801, it is stated that "Macklin, mistakenly, spoke the word with a tone of reprobation, implying that Antonio had, as we say of prodigals, unthriftly squandered his wealth." The meaning is simply, scattered; of which we find an example in "Howell's Letters:"-" The Jews, once an elect people, but now grown contemptible, and strangely squandered up and down the world." In Dryden's "Annus Mirabilis," we have the same expression applied to ships :
They drive, they squander, the huge Belgian fleet.
"What news on the RIALTO?"-The Rialto spoken of throughout this play is, in all probability, not the bridge to which belong our present associations with the name. The bridge was built in 1591.
Knight says "The Rialto of ancient commerce is an island, one of the largest of those on which Venice is built. Its name is derived from riva alta,-high shore, and its being larger, and somewhat more elevated than the others, accounts for its being the first inhabited. The most ancient church of the city is there; and there were erected the buildings for the magistracy and commerce of the infant settlement. The arcades used for these purposes were burned down in the great fire of 1513, and rebuilt on the same spot in 1555, as they now stand. Rialto Island is situated at the bend of the Grand Canal, by which it is bounded on two sides, while the Rio delle Beccarie and another small canal bound it on the other two. There is a vegetable market there daily; and, though the great squares by St. Mark's are now the places where merchants most do congregate,' the old rendezvous is still so thronged, and has yet so much the character of a 'mart,' as to justify now, as formerly, the question, 'What news on the Rialto ?'"
"He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice."
"It is almost incredyble what gaine the Venetians receive by the usurie of the Jewes, both privately and in common. For in everie citie the Jewes kepe open shops of usurie, taking gaiges of ordinarie for xv in the hundred by the yere; and if, at the yere's end, the gaige be not redeemed, it is forfeite, or at least dooen away to a great disadvantage, by reason whereof the Jewes are out of measure wealthie in those parts."-THOMAS'S "History of Italy," 1561.
"once UPON THE HIP"-Thus, in OTHELLO:I'll have our Michael Cassio on the hip. The expression is taken from the terms of wrestling. "-and my well-won thrift, Which he calls interest."
In order to understand this, and to enter into the feeling of the play, it must be borne in mind that the moral distinction between interest, as allowed by law, and usury, or excess extorted beyond the legal rates, was not then so distinctly marked as at present, and was rather a distinction in the law than in popular feeling or language. The old moral and religious objection was to any interest or payment for the use of money at all. This continued for a long time, and is not yet extinct. That acute and enlightened lawyer, Pothier, in the middle of the last century, more than once appears to
concede the general immorality of any such return for the use of money, so far as private conscience is concerned, and is content to treat the subject merely as permitted by positive law. In old English, use, usanceand usury, all alike meant interest for the use of money. Bacon so employs the words. After the legal rate was established, usury gradually acquired its pres ent distinct meaning, first in the courts and then in common language. The popular argument in Lord Bacon's time, was, as we find it stated by Meares, that it is against nature for money to beget money," which is what the Poet alludes to in his phrase of "a breed of barren metal," etc. Aristotle had long the credit, if such it be, of inventing this argument, but his later commentators have shown that it does not belong to him.
"And let us make incision for your love,
To prove whose blood is reddest, his, or mine." "Red blood is a traditionary sign of courage. Macbeth calls one of his frighted soldiers a lily-livered boy:' again, in this play, cowards are said to have livers as white as milk; and an effeminate and timorous man is termed a milksop."-Illust. Shak.
"It was customary in the East for lovers to testify the violence of their passion by cutting themselves in the sight of their mistresses; and the fashion seems to have been considered as a mark of gallantry in Shakespeare's time, when young men frequently stabbed their arms with daggers, and, mingling the blood with wine, drank it off to the healths of their mistresses."SINGER.
"And hedg'd me by his wIT"-"Wit" is here used in its ancient sense of mental power in general. To wite, from the Anglo-Saxon witan, is, to know.
"I would OUT-STARE the sternest eyes that look"This reading is that of Roberts's quarto, and sustained by the sense, and by the antithesis of the next line, out-brave." The other quarto, and the folio, have o're-stare a word not known, and giving no clear sense, though preferred in some late editions.
"beaten by his PAGE"-This is Theobald's happy emendation; adopted in all editions since his time. The old copies have "beaten by his rage." Lichas was the servant of Hercules.
"Enter LAUNCELOT GOBBO"-The old copies read, "Enter the Clown alone;" and throughout the play Launcelot Gobbo is called the Clown at most of his entrances, or exits.
"LAUNCELOT GOBBO"-"My notion of Launcelot, as I have seen him, has not been reflected from the stage. The patch is kind enough;' yet he is amazingly wrapped up in self, and his soliloquies are intense on that darling subject. An obtrusive feature in his character, is the conceit in his skull that he is better than he should be. Having been called by one who did not see him, master,' and young gentleman,' he insists, over and over again, on his being young master Launcelot,' and at last styles himself the young gentleman.' All this, like every thing he says, is a mixture of vanity and drollery; on the latter he stakes his fame as a wit. Nature never formed a more egregious coxcomb; he is Lord Foppington in low life, as far as his imbecility can reach. In the same strain he talks of his 'manly spirit,' and of the Jew's having 'done him wrong;' as if he and his master were on an equality. No doubt his solace as a servant was, that he must, sooner or later, owing to his intrinsic merit, come to excellent fortune. He spells his fate on his palm; where, though neither coronet nor mastership offers itself to his imagination, there is something of equal value to the young animal;-eleven widows, and nine maids, is a simple coming-in for one man.' His jokes are generally failures; but, coming from him, they are laughable. When suddenly reproached with his conduct towards the Moorish woman, his answer is'It is much that the Moor should be more than reason; but if she be less than an honest woman, she is, indeed, more than I took her for.' This elaborate nonsense, this grasp at a pun without catching it, uttered in confusion, and in eagerness to shuffle out of the accusation, is as natural as it is ridiculous. It gives occasion to Lorenzo's observing-How every fool can play upon the word!' which, together with what follows, may be mistaken for a self-condemnation, made at hazard, on the part of Shakespeare. By no means: the difficulty is to play well upon a word; besides, as Launcelot then and afterwards proves, the poverty of a jest may be enriched in a fool's mouth, owing to the complacency with which he deals it out; and because there are few things which provoke laughter more than feebleness in a great attempt at a small matter."-C. A. BROWN, Shak. Autobiog. P.
"-SCORN running with thy HEELS "-Stevens suggests the following marvellous emendation-Do not run: scorn running; withe thy heels, i. e. connect them with a withe, (a band made of osiers,) as the legs of cattle are hampered in some countries. But, in fact, "to scorn with heels" was a figurative phrase for thorough contempt. It is found also in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, as well as in other books of the age. It is here humorously applied to the running away.
"-away!' says the fiend; for the heavens,' etc.-Some of the editors think that the line needs correction, because it is not likely that the Poet would make the devil conjure Launcelot for heaven's sake. Singer observes, with better taste, that
"For the heavens' was merely a petty oath. make the fiend conjure Launcelot to do a thing for 'heaven's sake,' is a specimen of that 'acute nonsense which Barrow makes one of the species of wit, and which Shakespeare was sometimes very fond of."
"-being more than SAND-BLIND Having an imperfect sight, as if there was sand in the eye. Gravelblind, a coinage of Launcelot's, is the exaggeration of sand-blind. Pur-blind, or pore-blind, if we may judge from a sentence of Latimer's, is something less than sand-blind:-They be pur-blind and sand-blind.'"
"-which is the way to master Jew's"-"It does not appear that the Jew (hardly used everywhere) had more need of patience in Venice than in other states. The same traditional reports against them exist there as elsewhere, testifying to the popular hatred and prejudice: but they were too valuable a part of a commercial population not to be more or less considered and taken care of. An island was appropriated to them; but they long ago overflowed into other parts of the city. Many who have grown extremely rich by moneylending, have now fine palaces in various quarters; and of these, some are among the most respectable and enlightened of the citizens. The Jews who people their quarter are such as are unable to rise out of it. Its buildings are ancient and lofty, but ugly and sordid. 'Our synagogue' is, of course, there. It is situated on the canal which leads to Mestre. There are houses old enough to have been Shylock's, with balconies from which Jessica might have talked; and ground enough beneath, between the house and the water, for her lover to stand, hidden in the shadow, or a 'penthouse.' Hence, too, her gondola might at once start for the main land, without having to traverse any part of the city."-KNIGHT.
"By God's SONTIES"-"Sonties' is a corruption of sanctities," says Collier. It is more probably a corruption of sauntes, or saints.
"Your worship's friend, and Launcelot"-The same form of expression occurs in LOVE'S LABOUR LOST"Your servant, and Costard." It would seem, from the context, that the old man's name was Launcelot. "I beseech you, talk you of young master Launcelot," says the clown, when the old man has named himself.
"Dobbin, my PHILL-HORSE "-Phill-horse, or fillhorse, is the shaft-horse; the horse that goes between the shafts, or fills: in more modern use, the thill-horse.
"I have here a dish of doves"-Ch. A. Brown has expressed his decided conviction, that some of the dramas of Shakespeare exhibit the most striking proofs that our Poet had visited Italy. The passage before us is cited by Mr. Brown as one of these proofs:-"Where did he obtain his numerous graphic touches of national manners? where did he learn of an old villager's coming into the city with 'a dish of doves' as a present to his son's master? A present thus given, and in our days too, and of doves, is not uncommon in Italy. I myself have partaken there, with due relish, in memory of poor old Gobbo, of a dish of doves, presented by the father of a servant."-Shak. Autobiog. Poems.
"More GUARDED"-i. e. More laced, or fringed; the gold-livery binding being, as Malone explains the donation, the guards of the cloth.
"Well; if any man in Italy have a fairer table, which doth offer to swear upon a book.-I shall have good fortune."
The best explanation of this passage is given by Mr. Tyrwhitt :-"Launcelot, applauding himself for his success with Bassanio, and looking into the palm of his hand, (which, by fortune-tellers, is called the table,) breaks out into the following reflection:-Well, if any man in Italy have a fairer table, which doth offer to swear upon a book I shall have good fortune: that is, a table which doth not only promise, but offers to swear upon a book that I shall have good fortune."
"Go to; here's a simple LINE OF LIFE!"-" Palmistry, or chiromancy, had once its learned professors as well as astrology. The printing-press consigned the delusion to the gypsies. Chiromancy and physiognomy were once
kindred sciences. The one has passed away among other credulities belonging to ages which we call ignorant and superstitious. The other, although fashionable half a century ago, is professed by none, but, more or less, has its influence upon all. In the Pictorial edition there is a woodcut, copied from a book with which Shakespeare must have been familiar:- Briefe introductions, both natural, pleasaunte, and also delectable, unto the Art of Chiromancy, or manuel divination, and Phisiognomy: with circumstances upon the faces of the Signes. Also certain Canons or Rules upon Diseases and Sicknesses, &c. Written in ye Latin tongue by Jhon Indagine, Prieste, and now lately translated into Englishe, by Fabian Withers. For Richard Jugge, 1558.' Launcelot, as well as his betters, were diligent students of the mysteries interpreted by Jhon Indagine, Prieste;' and a simple or complex line of life were indications that made even some of the wise exult or tremble."KNIGHT.
"sad OSTENT"-i. e. Ostentation; not, as now, confined to the show of vanity, but for any external show, as here, of grief or gravity.
"If a Christian Do not play the knave, and get thee, I am much deceived"-The three original authorities agree in this reading, and the meaning is clearly, "if a Christian do not play the knave and obtain thee," etc. Instead of the fellow's shrewd guess at Jessica's inclinations, the editors have generally preferred the later reading of did for "do," intimating a doubt as to her birth, which the poor joke it conveys has made the popular reading.
"Enter SHYLOCK and LAUNCELOT."
The old stage-direction is, "Enter Jew and his man, that was the Clowne."
"on BLACK MONDAY last"-Stowe, the Chronicler,
thus describes the origin of this name:-": Black-Monday
is Easter-Monday, and was so called on this occasion: in the 34th of Edward III., (1360,) the 14th of April, and the morrow after Easter-day, King Edward, with his host, lay before the city of Paris: which day was full dark of mist and hail, and so bitter cold, that many men died on their horses' backs with the cold. Wherefore unto this day it hath been called Black-Monday."
"And the vile SQUEALING of the wry-neck'd fife" Two out of the three original editions read thus. One quarto has squalling. In Shylock's mouth the former is more expressive of disgust.
"the wry-neck'd FIFE"-Commentators differ as to whether the "fife" is here the instrument or the musician. Boswell has given a quotation from " "Barnaby Rich's Aphorisms," (1618,) which to me seems decisive. "A fife is a wry-neckt musician, for he always looks away from his instrument." But Knight still maintains that Shakespeare intended the instrument, principally from the circumstance that the passage is an imitation of Horace, in which the instrument is decidedly meant :
Prima nocte domum claude; neque in vias, Sub cantu querulæ despice tibiæ.—(Carm. lib. iii. 7.) Knight adds that—“Independent of the internal evidence derived from the imitation, the form of the old English flute-the fife being a small flute-justifies, we think, the epithet 'wry-neck'd.' This flute was called the flute à bec, the upper part or mouth-piece resembling the beak of a bird. And this form was as old as the Pan of antiquity."
But "fife," for fifer, was undoubtedly the old phrase. Wry-neck'd," as applied to the musician, is far more graphically descriptive, and therefore, more Shakespearian; and I have no belief in any intended imitation of Horace, for the thought was equally obvious to both poets
"Will be worth a JEWESS' eye"-" The play upon this word alludes to the common proverbial expression, 'worth a Jew's eye.' That worth was the price which the persecuted Jews paid to avoid mutilation and death. When the rapacious King John extorted an enormous sum from the Jew of Bristol by drawing his teeth, the threat of putting out an eye would have the like effect upon other Jews. The former prevalence of the saying is proved from the fact that we still retain it, although its meaning is now little known."-KNIGHT.
"that MANY may be meant By the fool multitude," etc.
"The Prince of Arragon intends to say-By that 'many' may be meant the foolish multitude. The fourth folio first introduced a phraseology more agreeable to our ears at present-Of the fool multitude. But change, merely for the sake of elegance, is dangerous. Many modes of speech were familiar in Shakespeare's age that are now no longer used. I have met with many examples of this kind of phraseology. So in Plutarch's 'Life of Cæsar,' as translated by North, (1575,)-He answered that these fair long-haired men made him not afraid, but the lean and whitely-faced fellows; meaning that by Brutus and ssius.'"-MALONE.
"So begone: you are sped"-Capell misprints this line, "So farewell, sir, you are sped;" and from whence he derived the corruption it is difficult to say. Malone and others interpolate sir after "begone," although there is no warrant for it in any of the oldest editions. It first found its way into the second folio, and certainly lessens the force of the line. ·
"Patiently to bear my WROTH"-Stevens says that "wroth" is here put for ruth, or misfortune; and it is thus spelled in Chapman's "Homer," and other old poets.
"Enter a MESSENGER"-" This is the stage-direction in all the old copies, for which modern editors have substituted Enter a Servant.' It is clear that he was not a mere servant, not only from the language put into his mouth, but because, when he asks, Where is my lady?' Portia replies, Here; what would my lord?' The messenger was a person of rank attending on Portia."— COLLIER.
ACT III.-SCENE I.
KNAPPED ginger”—i. e. Snapped, or broke ginger.
"-Thou torturest me, Tubal: it was my turquoise"— "The turquoise is a well-known precious stone, found in the veins of the mountains on the confines of Persia to the east. In old times its value was much enhanced by the magic properties attributed to it in common with other precious stones, one of which was, that it faded or brightened its hue as the health of the wearer increased or grew less. This is alluded to by Ben Jonson in his Sejanus:'—
many for which the editors of SHAKESPEARE are answerable." 66- whose hearts are all as false As STAIRS of sand," etc.
The comparison refers to the difficult ascent of any sandy elevation giving way under the feet; and like other transient colloquial comparisons, is not meant to be carried out in particulars. The old spelling of "stairs" was staiers, as in the quartos, or stayers, as in the folio. Knight retains the folio spelling in his text, as giving the meaning of "bulwarks of sand"-an assumption of strength without reality.
"And these assume but valour's EXCREMENT," etc.
The last word is used, as in HAMLET, WINTER'S TALE, and the COMEDY OF ERRORS, in its derivative sense, from excresco, for every thing growing or proceeding from the body.
"Thus ornament is but the GUILED shore," etc.
For guileful, the participle used adjectively, as was frequent in the poetic language of Elizabeth's age. Thus we find, in OTHELLO, "delighted" beauty, for delightful beauty.
"Thy PALENESS moves me more than eloquence," etc. Many of the later editors, adopting Warburton's conjecture, read, "thy plainness;" but the early editions all read "paleness," and this epithet is considered as peculiarly appropriate to lead, in the writers of the sixteenth century. "Paleness like lead," and similar phrases, may be found in Skelton and others.
The chief recommendation to the proposed change is that silver has just been called "pale," and some other epithet seems now required. It is probably merely the carelessness of rapid composition-such repetitions of words being one of the most frequent blemishes in all writings, which subsequent revisions generally remove. Yet if, as Malone suggests, a strong emphasis is laid on "thy," so as to contrast the paleness of lead with that of silver, no amendment will be wanted. But if an amendment be required, I prefer Farmer's alteration— leaving "paleness" to stand, and changing "pale and common drudge" to stale and common, as applied to silver.
you are a noble gentleman,
Will't please you bring a friend; we are two of us, And pity, either of us should be unfurnish'd.
The hint for this passage appears to have been taken from Greene's History of Faire Bellora;' afterwards published under the title of A Paire of Turtle Doves:' If Apelles had beene tasked to have drawne her counterfeit, her two bright burning lampes would have so dazzled his quick-seeing sences, that quite dispairing to expresse with his cunning pensill so admirable a worke of nature, he had been inforced to have staid his hand, and left this earthly Venus unfinished.' A preceding passage in Bassiano's speech might have been suggested by the same novel: 'What are our curled and crisped lockes, but snares and nets to catch and entangle the hearts of gazers,' etc."-MALONE and STEVENS.
"-sum of NOTHING"-So the folio. Both quartos read "sum of something;" which is the ordinary text. We agree with Mason, Knight and Collier, in preferring the reading of the folio, as it is Portia's intention in this speech to undervalue herself in comparison with what she would wish to be for Bassanio's sake.
"and SALERIO"-" A Messenger from Venice" is added in the stage-direction of the quartos. Knight thinks this should be Salanio But in the scenes just