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were not, as we know, always made immediately after the performance of a play; sometimes years elapsed before an entry was made. Thus 1 allot to the first fourteen years, after Shakespeare's arrival in London, eighteen plays, including his adaptations.

This some may think incredible, as too extraordinary a fertility; yet Malone, Drake, and Chalmers, ascribe about the same number to a space of only eight years, beginning in 1591. We may never arrive at any thing near exactness; and my attempt to mark the order of the plays is, for the most part, formed on my own view of the internal evidence belonging to each. Should I offer to explain this evidence, the task would be tedious, and, after all, it could not but be considered otherwise than as merely my self-persuasion, open on all sides to objections. Accordingly 1 leave my opinion without a plea in its favour, unwilling to expatiate on anything, unless it appears to me supported

by a fact.

More forbearance is required than I had imagined in passing by, without a word, whole plays and numerous characters; and this forbearance will be increased as I proceed. But conscious that the observations and analyses of my predecessors ought to render me nearly always mute on the same topics, I shall continue to be silent where I do not differ from them. When their omissions give me an opportunity to speak, I may lawfully be indulged. On this play, I beg leave to make several remarks.

Toleration is an intolerable word, never used by our poet, unless, possibly, in a disapproving manner, under cover of Dogberry's ignorance,—“most tolerable, and not to be endured.” To call it therefore, in kindlier words — respect for another's sincere opinions—has hitherto made but slow progress in the world; though, bereaved of The Merchant of Venice, it might have been slower. No argument in its favour could be more complete, or put in a stronger light, than that which we find here. Shylock, a usurer, a suspicious father, and altogether a bad inan, compels us to grant him a portion of our involuntary good-will, solely on account of his being persecuted for constancy in his creed; and, thwarted in his hopes of a hateful revenge, we look at his ominous scales, balance his injuries against his rancour, and cannot forbear granting him our pity when he is defeated. How careful the author has been to maintain our fellow-feeling, and to make Shylock's religion meet persecution at every step! Not only Antonio is his reviler – he runs the gauntlet of abuse through Venice; his daughter forsakes and robs him because of his religion; wherever he turns, his misfortunes are a subject of exultation; and his fall is hailed with insulting open triumph. His claim to be enrolled among his fellow beings, in that powerful language, “ Hath not a Jew eyes ?” &c. has nothing urged against it, nor could a word be said in denial, yet his claim is allowed by none; and he is never treated with a show of respect until he is feared. We acknowledge his right, and are glad to see him at last, by any resource, treated with respect; we only recoil at his appalling vengeance.

On the other hand, Antonio is a man justly honoured for every virtue, with one exception,-a want of charity, a good feeling, a decent behaviour towards a fellow-creature, purely because he is an unbeliever. The religious animosity of Shylock was no more than retaliation. Antonio, indeed, may have had reason to accuse Shylock of extortion ; but his calling him “misbeliever,” and “dog," spitting on him, and spurning him, force us instantly to side with the usurer against the christian of unblemished fame. When reminded of these injuries, the virtuous merchant is ready to repeat them, so unconscious is he of acting with injustice. Representing the persecutor, on all other points truly estimable, and the persecuted in no degree estimable, yet entirely unanswerable in his defence, puts personal merit out of the question, and places the argument on the broadest principle, including the worst as well as the best among believers and infidels. Shakespeare strove to alleviate the bitter persecutions, not only towards the Jews, but towards all others. Catholics and Protestants, though the burnings in Smithfield existed no more in his day, were fearfully hateful to each other; when good men were contaminated by evil, and worse men by revenge, rendering the persecutor blind to his want of charity, and giving all the truth of reasoning to the persecuted, however unreasonable might be the creed to the more powerful party. For the benefit of those who could apply, or might hereafter apply Antonio and Shylock to themselves, Shakespeare portrayed them. Should any one think the application was unthought of, and accidental, let him contend that wheat grows into nourishment by chance ; or try what philosophic works he can write by chance.

That there was an older play, by twenty years, on the same subject, hardly admits of supposition. The punishment of an avaricious Jew had previously afforded delight to the town, witness Marlowe's Jew of Malta ; and it may be that other despised Jews had been brought on the stage, though not the Jew of Venice

Instead of the exceptionable and extra-romantic commencement to the tale in the Pecorone, Shakespeare selected the story of the caskets. There was great skill in annexing an equal improbability to the Jew's bond. Both are difficult of belief; but the one tempts us to give credit to the other. The poet thus places us in the realm of strange events, and our pleasurable wonder is unalloyed by a sight of common life. Had an every-day occurrence been exhibited side by side with the Jew's bond, the latter might have appeared verging on the impossible.

Portia is a greater favourite with me than with Hazlitt; but I do not think her quite so amiable as she is described by Mrs. Jameson. Laying down the law, in which Portia seems to rejoice, cannot be perfectly amiable, though it were in a male counsel ; for then we could feel no more than admiration at his professional talents. It is true, circumstances forced her into that situation; and, feudal lady as she was, she executes her task thoroughly. All she does is consistent ; yet I much question if she does not experience a triumphant delight while she detains the court in suspense. Shakespeare has done much in softening the objection; but, somehow, it could not be entirely overcome.

It is my fate in this play, but in no other, to differ from Mrs. Jameson in her female characters. I cannot see that Jessica is intellectual or kind-hearted. Her eulogy on Portia, appropriately dashed with her new fledged piety, is elegantly cold, like a dedication; and her classical moonlight talk with Lorenzo, though very elegant, has nothing to do with the affections, and is more a proof of ready-wit and a good education, than of intellect.

Jessica, the pretty Jewess,-I beg pardon, 66 Mistress Lorenzo,” the christian,-has her character, such as it is, hit off by a few masterly strokes. Beauty is her best recommendation. I imagine she is small of stature; a little plump, with a delicate hand and foot, and remarkable for a well-turned ancle. Her eye is full and lustrous; there is great richness in her lips, especially when she smiles; she has a profusion of glossy black ringlets; and there is a touch of slyness in addition to her native expression of countenance. To these charms, she possesses, we know, an arch and pleasant style of chatting, well suited to the hours of dalliance. Here she is at home ; even

more than when she talks with her merry devil” Launcelot. But when she has to speak as a lady, which she seldom attempts, we perceive a constraint, arising from her former recluse life, and perhaps from a poorness in her ideas, where her inclinations are not her prompters. In order to be married to Lorenzo, Jessica is made a christian; and her love for him, and her new faith, may be poised against her hatred of the 6 tediousness” of the “ hell,” her father's house. Had she been gifted with

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