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THE reader will find an epitome of the novel, from which the story of this play is supposed to be taken, at the conclusion of the notes. It should however be remembered, that if our poet was at all indebted to the Italian novelists, it must have been through the medium of some old translation, which has hitherto escaped the researches of his most industrious editors. It appears from a passage in Stephen Gosson's School of Abuse, &c. 1579, that a play, comprehending the distinct plots of this, had been exhibited before Shakspeare's, viz. "The Jew shown at the Bull, representing the greediness of worldly Choosers, and the bloody Minds of Usurers." "These plays, says Gosson, (for he mentions others with it) are goode and sweete playes, &c." It is therefore not improbable that Shakspeare new-wrote his piece, on the model already mentioned, and that the elder performance, being inferior, was permitted to drop silently into oblivion. STEEVENS.
Of The Merchant of Venice the style is even and easy, with few peculiarities of diction, or anomalies of construction. The comick part raises laughter, and the serious fixes expectation. The probability of either one or the other story cannot be maintained. The union of two actions in one event is in this drama eminently happy. Dryden was much pleased with his own address in connecting the two plots of his Spanish Friar, which yet, I believe, the critick will find excelled by this play.
friends to Antonio and Bassanio.
LORENZO, in love with Jessica.
SHYLOCK, a Jew:
TUBAL, a Jew, his friend.
LAUNCELOT GOBBO, a clown, servant to Shylock.
Old GOBBO, father to Launcelot.
SALERIO, a messenger from Venice.
Magnificoes of Venice, Officers of the Court of Justice, Jailer, Servants, and other Attendants.
SCENE-partly at Venice, and partly at Belmont, the... seat of Portia, on the continent