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But of all the passages in this part of the play, or indeed in any other that we have seen, his delivery of that speech in which the Jew pleads to Salarino and Salanio his own wrongs and those of his tribe in vindication of his purpose, seemed to us to display this great actor's talents to most advantage; more particularly, when we first saw him in the character.
Salanio. If he forfeit, thou wilt not have his flesh-what's that good for?
Shylock. “ To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and hindered me of half a million: laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated my enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? All this Cook urged in a highly wrought climax of earnest, passionate ratiocination, rising from vehement complaint to sharp expostulation, and then to a bold assertion of the rights of his tribe as human beings; in which he exhibited some as happy discriminations as any we have ever had occasion to eulogize in this most extraordinary master of his art; and which in the part of Shylock gives him precedence to all other actors even to Macklin himself. Having accomplished a climax of passion, which we have never seen equalled, and beyond which it appears impossible for human powers to raise it, his heart seemed big, almost to suffocation, with his feelings; he made a momentary pause. Struggling emotions seemed to half stifle his utterance. His voice sunk to a tone that denoted poignant sensibility; and in a soft pathetic strain expressive of a harassed suffering spirit, he continued to say, “ If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?” When, again resuming his vindictive shape, he said, in that fiendlike undertone, with which he at will can infuse the spirit of the devil into his words, “ And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" We doubt whether there ever was an actor who, in any passage of any play, could boast of more sterling merit or more perfect originality than Mr. Cooke showed, in this fine speech. The impression it first made upon us is too deep ever to be forgotten; and it is bound still more lastingly to our remembrance by a circumstance that occurred at the time. A gentleman of rare taste and rich intellectual endowments, now a thriving member of the bar of Westminster Hall, sitting beside us, at the first night's representation of the Jew by Cooke, having heard him deliver this VOL. III.
speech, emphatically said, “With a few more such speeches, so uttered, this Jew would make converts of all good christians.”
Though Shakspeare has furnished the Jew with some very plausible arguments, the appeal to our sympathies, in the speech just adverted to, owed more to the power of the player than to the design of the poet, who has certainly exerted all his art to make the character perfectly detestable; and this is the reason why, acknowledging the general superiority of Macklin's Shylock to Cooke's, we have received more pleasure from the latter. Macklin's delivery of that speech was the infuriate ebullition of long treasured arguments of hatred, malice, and revenge; Cooke's the spontaneous effusion of a heart, malicious and revengeful, no doubt; but at the same time bleeding with the wounds of a quick and poignant sensibility to personal and national wrong. That Shakspeare intended Shylock to be perfectly detestable, is proved not only by the Jew's own words and actions, but by the characters of those opposed to him; for while he is displayed in every hateful shape; as cunning, cautious, irascible, servile, fawning, and cruel, Antonio and Bassanio are trimmed out, in contrast to him, with every private virtue: even Lorenzo is amiable. Gratiano's lively temper is finely opposed to Shylock's gloominess, selfishness, and subtlety; and the very buffoonery of Launcelot is made to lighten on the Jew, and illustrate his baseness. What an exquisite appeal is made against him, to every feeling heart, in the second scene of the third act! -Let us consider it.
Bassanio having, to the pleasure of all parties, chosen the fortunate casket, nothing appears to stand between him and perfect fe. licity: the cup of joy is at his lips, and all are in full measure sympathizing with him, when, unexpectedly, every thing is reversed; and a black thunder storm rises—in the shape of the Jew-and darkens their whole horizon. We know nothing which, for delicacy, tenderness, true pathos, and faithful friendship, surpasses the letter of Antonio, disclosing his dangerous circumstances to his friend. “ Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all miscarried, my creditors
grow 6 cruel, my estate is very low, my bond to the Jew is forfeit; and, 66 since in paying it, it is impossible I should live, all debts are clear“ed between you and me, if I might but see you at my death: Not« withstanding, use your pleasure: If your love do not persuade you “ to come, let not my letter.” Bassanio's feeling, also, shows him worthy of such friendship, and places him in a state of happy contrast
with the Jew, as does the charming Portia's too, her. As no man ever possessed equal powers for painting human villany in its most loathsome deformity, so no one has ever exhibited human goodness in such lovely colours as Shakspeare; and it is observable, that in the latter he seems least to labour, shows least art, and is ever most plain, express, and simple. For the letter of Bassanio we should in vain search for an equal among the most exquisite specimens of the simple epistolary style. A full match to it, but in another style, is Bassanio's delicate and pathetic manner of unfolding his unhappy affairs to Portia.
0, sweet Portia,
Nor is the following tribute of Bassanio to his friend's character less delightful:
The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,
These and such as these are the models to which a country's youth should be directed, whether the object be to cultivate and improve the understanding, or to purify and amend the heart. Let it be observed that, still true to his text, Shakspeare's drift is to enhance the moral deformity of Shylock by contrast and juxtaposition with the most exalted virtue. For there is but one line between this
lovely picture of Antonio, and a hellish one of the Jew, given by Salanio, who brings him the letter:
Never did I know
Portia's amiable and generous conduct equals every conception that the most warm and gallant imagination can conceive of female excellence; and the slighting manner in which she mentions the three thousand ducats, at once bespeaks her wealth and munificence:
What, no more?
Thus admirably has our necromantic poet prepared every auditor to meet the Jew at trial with feelings suitable to the occasionfeelings of pity and alarm for the good Antonio, and of abhorrence and apprehension of the sanguinary Shylock.
In marking the character of the Jew, Shakspeare has made a climax in his relentlessness, so natural that the probability of the story appears in every scene to gain new strength. His first wish to catch Antonio on the his, may be a transient effusion of anger, and no more; his obtaining the bond may be only an expedient to terrify the merchant, and demonstrate to him in the end that he had wronged the Jew: his after expressions may be only the ungo vernable effusions of a rancour which yet would melt away before compunction when the execution of the bloody purpose approached; and the heart would still persuade itself that no man could be so remorseless as to persevere in a purpose so diabolical. Even at the opening of the trial the duke expresses as much
Shylock, the world thinks, and I think so too,
In order to slope the way to the Jew's inexorable determination to have his pound of flesh by judicial decree, which would else appear improbable, the monster is introduced to the audience, followed by the unfortunate merchant, whom the very jailer, in pity, brings abroad to solicit
which the unrelenting monster not only refuses, but chides the jailer for letting him abroad: and here it is observable that, to make the Jew's motives more odious, he is made, as he proceeds in his bloody career, to lose sight of the cause of his tribe, and to bottom his vengeance solely on his own personal feelings and Antonio's benevolence to others.
Tell me not of mercy;-
I'll have no speaking: I will have my bond. To know Cooke's general acting; to have heard his voice, attentively viewed his manner, and noted his vigorous emphasis, would be enough to assure even those who have never seen him play this character, that every word he utters in this scene answers the most sanguine expectations. It is the trial scene however in which, next to the first scene of the third act already descanted upon, he blazed out with the most astonishing powers. In this, though he has much to say, he does not utter a line in which the most fastidious critic could imagine an improvement: though he has much to do, every action is perfect, characteristic, and impressive,-some indeed astonishing, novel and delightful.
To the duke, who, in a humane and pathetic speech, exhorts him to be merciful, Shylock returns an answer, in which he boldly avows his cruel determination, and attempts to justify it on the ground of antipathy:
So I can give no reason, nor I will not,