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in homely Saxon and Germanic forms, yet it soon displayed a freshness and a vigour, which as much excelled the imitations of ancient models in originality, as it fell behind them in polish and form. In English literature, it is fortunate that we possess one of the very finest specimens of each kind of poetry. Milton is purely classic. His style is formed entirely on the model of the ancient poets: his imagery is drawn from their writings ; his whole nature replete with their spirit and genius. In Shakspere, on the contrary, we have the very noblest specimens of native Saxon genius. Probably he could not even read Greek or Latin, though classical subjects were not unfamiliar to him. His whole mind and thought are purely Teutonic, and his style is idiomatic English. He abounds in Saxon phrases, idioms, abbreviations, proverbs, and illustrations. We find, accordingly, in Shakspere not always that close and correct grammatical structure which we have in Milton, and which is really a pure reflex of the Latin form of syntax; but in place of it we have an English style, terse, pithy, and colloquial—the real English of his day, and, with some exceptions, the real English of our own.
The play we have selected as a specimen is based upon two distinct incidents: One, the story of the revengeful Jew, who insists upon claiming his hond-namely, a pound of flesh cut from the breast of his creditor; and the other, the story of Portia and the caskets. These two stories have been skilfully blended together by the poet. In the earlier part of the play, it is true, they remain to a great extent distinct from each other; but in the scene of the judgment hall, at the end, they are combined with wonderful power and effect. Some of the less interesting portions have been omitted, but all those which show the gradual unfolding of the plot have been retained. We shall leave the play to tell its own tale, simply indicating in the text the subjects of those portions which have been left out.
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.
DUKE OF VENICE.
JESSICA, daughter to Shylock.
and other Attendants. SCENE–PARTLY AT VENICE, AND PARTLY AT BELMONT, THE SEAT OF
PORTIA, ON THE CONTINENT.
ACT I. SCENE 1.—Venice. A Street. Enter ANTONIO, SALARINO, and SOLANIO. Ant. In sooth, I know not | why I am so sad ; | It wearies me ;| you say | it wearies you ; | 1. In sooth.-In truth. The old noun use of the verb, like the Latin tædet me. “sooth,” only exists now in composition, as The meaning is, I am low-spirited or down. soothsayer, i.e. truth-teller, and forsooth. hearted.
2. It wearies me.-This is an impersonal 2. You say it wearies you.—Here is a
But) how I caught it, | found it,] or came by it,]
What stuff ’tis made of, / whereof it is born, | 5 I am to learn ;)
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, |
Salar. Your mind is tossing on the ocean ;
There, where your argosies with portly sail, 10 Like signiors and rich burghers, on the flood,
Or, [as it were,] the pageants of the sea,
As they fly by them with their woven wings. | 15 Solan. Believe me, sir,] had I such venture forth, |
The better part of my affections would
Peering in maps, for ports, and piers, and roads ;] 20 And every object) that might make me fear
Misfortune to my ventures, | out of doubt,
My wind, cooling my broth, Would blow me to an ague | when I thought | 25 What harm a wind too great might do at sea. I
I should not see the sandy hour-glass run, |
play upon the word wearies, which is now used in the ordinary sense of tiring, and as a personal verb. You will say, my sadness
3. But how I caught it.-A fine description of the indefinite feeling of ennui.
5. The unfinished verse indicates Antonio's unsettled state of mind.
6. Want-wit. - A fool.
8. Ocean is here to be read as a word of three syllables. Shakspere invariably makes use of the right of a poet, to extend or contract words, wherever the metre requires,
and the phonetic laws of the language allow it.
9. Argosies.-Large merchant vessels, probably so named from the ship Argo.
11. Pageants.-Triumphal cars, used of any grand procession.
12. Over-peer.- Overlook. Obsol. See v. 19. Hence peer-glass, improperly spelt picr-glass.
15. Had I such venture forth.—If I bad such a risk out on the ocean,
28. Andrew.-The name of the ship, is probably from Andrea Doria, Doge of Venice.
28. Dock'd, i.e. entrenched.
Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs,
And see the holy edifice of stone,]
Would scatter all her spices on the stream ; | 35 Enrobe the roaring waters with my silks ;]
And, in a word, but even now worth this,]
That such a thing, bechanced, would make me sad ? |
Ant. Believe me, no ;] I thank my fortune for it, |
to one place ;| nor is my whole estate
Salar. Why, then you are in love.
[Fie, fie !]
For you to laugh, and leap, and say you are merry, |
Some) that will evermore peep through their eyes, 55 And laugh, like parrots, at a bagpiper :]
And other of such vinegar aspéct)
29. Vailing.–From Fr. avaler. To lower or sink. Obsolete.
36. Even now.—Just now, a short time ago. Supply that it was.
39. Bechanced -Falling to my lot. Obsol.
40. Tell not me. I do not need to be told.
41. This whole speech gives a beautiful illustration of the tendency in every mind
to feed its dominant anxieties with the most distant associations.
49. Scan let's say you're sad. Similar contractions are very frequent.
56. Other.-Now, when we use other substantively in the Plural we always say others. The form other is still found in Dryden, “ While other images for altars give." — Translat. of Juv. Sat. ili.
That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile,
Enter BASSANIO, LORENZO, and GRATIANO.
Solan. Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman, 60 Gratiano, and Lorenzo : | Fare you well ; We leave you now with better company. |
Salar. I would have stay’ds till I had made you merry, | If worthier friends had not prevented me.
Ant. Your worth is very dear in my regard. I 65 I take it, your own business calls on you, | And you embrace the occasion to depart. |
Salar. Good morrow, my good lords.]
[Exeunt SALARINO and SOLANIO.
Bass. I will not fail you.]
You have too much respect upon the world : 1
Ant. I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano ;
58. Nestor.-The grave nonagenarian in Homer.
63. If worthier friends, &c., i.e., if these worthier gentlemen, who are now just entering, had not relieved me of the necessity of doing so.
67. Good morrow.--A salutation. Morrow means originally morning. Compare German, morgen, Welsh, bori (mori).
68. Signiors.-Italian, from Latin senior, elder.
69. You grow exceeding strange, i.e., we see little of your company.
70. To attend on, i.e., to accommodate themselves to.
76. You have too much respect upon the world, i.e., you are too much concerned with your worldly affairs.
77. That do buy it.--Shakspere uses the auxiliary verb do merely as an expletive without any emphasis on it. Instances are very numerous throughout this play.