« PreviousContinue »
The same reafons, which induced the Editor to reject the first A&t of King John, determined him to omit a great part of the Fifth Act of the Merchant of Venice. The circumstance of the rings is worthy of a tale of GIOVANNI FIORENTINO, or of Boccaccio; but is inconsistent with that purity of style and sentiment, which does so much credit to the present taste of the British Nation. It is also productive of an anti-climax after the interest excited by the Senate scene; a scene, which is not exceeded in any part of the writings of the great Poet. Were it permitted to hazard fo bold an expreslion, it might almost be said that he had exhausted his genius in the wonderful effect of that great catastrophe. But the probable cause of this defect is his undeviating adherence to the original story, which forms the ground word of his plays. The taste of the age, in which he lived, might induce him to add this unessen, tial part of the plot into a piece, which is in every other reSpeat conducted with a consummate felicity of art and judgment.
The Editor cannot flatter himself that the liberty, which he has taken in this alteration, will escape the censure of some Critics. This liberty has been not only exercised, but jutified and applauded in DRYDEN, Tate, CIBBER, GARE RICK, and COLMAN. If the Editor's attempt were censured only for the inferiority of the execution, he would pay a ready afsent to the truth of the criticism. Bus if the principle is admitted in one case; and denied in the other,
Non eft quod multa loquamur ; Nil intra éjt oleam, nil extra eft in nuce duri :* In King John, in Henry IV, in Henry VI, and in the present play, it has been his principal object to retain, as far as he thought it confiitent with grammatical correctness and mo· tal delicacy, the language of SHAKESPEARE. He has seen an alteration of the Merchant of Venice by George, Lord LÁNSDOWNe, printed in 1701, in which the Noble Editor appears to have adopted a contrary plan, and to have made even Shylock, perhaps the most natural character in SHAKESPEARE, speak a language totally different from the original. The following passage may be quoted as an instance :
.$6 Be this the forfeiture:
The propriety of one slight omission no Critic, it is hoped, will refuse to acknowledge. Feeling that the principles of Christianity ought to be inculcated by the arguments of love and charity, addressed to the heart, the Editor could not retain that more than Mahometan violence, which obliges the bewildered Jew to renounce his religious tenets. The audi.
* It is remarkable that some Critics expressed their disapprobation ; at the omissions in the character of Falstaff, while others thought that it might have been fill more abbreviated. And the very fame, who condemned the alterations of SHAKESPEARE, in King John and Henry IV, had passed an unqualified cacomiuin on Henry VI, in which a new secne, and several acw speeches were introduced.
ences, for which SHAKESPEARE wrote, had been familiarized, during the struggles of religious opinions, to those threats of the infliction of temporal punishments. But the liberality of the present times revolts at the idea of arming the followers of the Prince of Peace with the weapons of persecution. Those, who can hear only with awful reverence the mention of the name and attributes of the Deity, will not be displeased at the alteration of some passages, in which that name and those attributes are introduced in a familiar manner, particularly in the mouth of Launcelot. If the Editor can show the posfibility of making a new progress in the purification of the Stage, he will have cause to rejoice in the reflection that his labor has not been employed in vain.