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affords a remarkable parallel to this beautiful passage. It is at the end of the first book of his celebrated "Ecclesiastical Polity," which was published about a year before the MERCHANT OF VENICE was written. It is quoted here, not because there is any reason whatever to suppose that Shakespeare was indebted to it in any way, but as a striking instance, among many, of the coincidence and resemblance of poetical spirit and philosophical thought between the greater minds of that wonderful age of English genius. "Of Law there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world: all things in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power; both angels and men and creatures of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy."
"Repent NOT you that you shall lose your friend"It may admit of doubt whether this reading, which is that of the folio, or "Repent but you," of the two quartos, ought to be adopted.
"any of the stock of Barabbas"-Shakespeare seems to have followed the pronunciation usual to the theatre, Barabbas being sounded Barabas throughout Marlowe's" Jew of Malta."
"Had I been judge, thou should'st have had ten more" i. e. A jury of twelve men to find him guilty and have him hanged;-a favourite joke, found in several of the dramatic writers of the age, which the Poet adopted without stopping to consider, what he could not but have known, that an allusion to the English jury was out of place at Venice.
(Costume of the Doge of Venice.)
ACT V.-SCENE I.
"The moon shines bright.-In such a night as this"The beauty and truth of this exquisite night-scene need not to be pointed out to the American reader, who is familiar under his own skies with such moons pouring floods of liquid radiance, and such nights "but little paler than the day"-such as many an English traveller and many a poet have described with wonder and delight when seen in Italy or the east. It is the intense feeling of reality in this scene that, to my mind, gives strong confirmation of the opinion that Shakespeare had, at some period prior to this drama, wandered beneath the skies and moons of Italy. Still it is not conclusive. England has her own brighter nights, which the Poet's
fancy might light up to the golden star-paved heavens and the brilliant moonlight gazed upon by lovers' eyes from the gardens of Belmont.
"-she doth stray about By holy crosses," etc.
"These holy crosses still, as of old, bristle the land in Italy, and sanctify the sea. Besides those contained in churches, they mark the spots where heroes were born. where saints rested, where travellers died. They rise on the summits of hills, and at the intersection of roads; aud there is now a shrine of the Madonna del Mare in the midst of the sea between Mestre and Venice, and another between Venice and Palestrina, where the gondolier and the mariner cross themselves in passing, and whose lamp nightly gleams over the waters, in moonlight or storm. The days are past when pilgrims of all ranks, from the queen to the beggar-maid, might be seen kneeling and praying for happy wedlock hours,' or for whatever else lay nearest their hearts; and the reverence of the passing traveller is now nearly all the homage that is paid at these shrines."-KNIGHT.
"Is thick inlaid with PATENS of bright gold"-Patines or "patens," as it is variously spelled, signifies a dish or plate; but is preserved in modern language only in ecclesiastical use for the plate used at the eucharist, generally of some precious metal, and in heraldry, where it means a round, broad, plate of gold. The folio of 1632 has patterns, which Collier prefers and adopts in his text. It seems to me a misprint, as patterns, in its modern sense, for the plan of a carpet or other similar work, (which alone could give any sense here,) is more modern than Shakespeare's text.
"There's not the smallest orb, which thou behold'st"Several occasions have been taken, in the course of the Notes of this edition, to trace, as an interesting part of literary history, the pedigree of some of the Poet's imagery or thoughts, not copied in the way of direct imitation, but as evidently suggested by passages of prior authors, who have themselves been indebted to a more remote antiquity. We may here trace a nobler genealogy of descent, in one of the most magnificent passages of English poetry, from one of the greatest conceptions of the most poetical philosophy of antiquity; and this again is almost rivalled by similar passages of succeeding poets, who were proud to own themselves the successful imitators of Shakespeare.
The origin of the thought in these lines is drawn from the philosophical imagination of Plato, who, in his "Republic" and "Timocus," nearly two thousand years before Shakespeare, had taught that the heavenly bodies in their revolutions produced, by their rapid motion, the most exquisite musical harmony, so loud, various, and sweet, as to exceed all proportion to the human ear; and therefore, to be inaudible to men. He taught too, that immortal souls had been formed, equal in number to the stars, each having a celestial orb assigned to it, as its original celestial abode; but that many of these spirits were banished thence to the earth, and there clothed for a time in human bodies, as in a sepulchre, or prison. These grand imaginations of the philosopher, combined with an allegorical doctrine of Fate or Destiny, and an ingenious theory of musical melodies, after having been expounded and explained by Proclus and other later Greek Platonists, passed into the philosophy of the Christian Church. On the revival of letters, the Platonic philosophy, as modified by Christianity, became the favourite theory of many of the most distinguished speculative scholars, such as Bessarion and Ficinus, in Italy, and afterwards More and Cudworth, in England. Shakespeare's illustrious contemporary, "the judicious Hooker," was familiar with this learning, and has intimated an opinion not unlike "the harmony in immortal souls" here spoken of. "Touching musical harmony, (says he,) it being but of high and low sounds in a due proportionable disposition, such notwithstanding is the force thereof, and so pleasing effects it hath in that very
part of man which is most divine, that some have thereby been induced to think that the soul itself by nature is, or hath in it, harmony." ("Ecclesiastical Polity," lib. v.) This part of the work was published in 1597, about the probable period that this play was written.
Another striking instance of the familiarity of this philosophy to the minds of the scholars of that age, is given by Mr. Hallam, ("History of Literature," vol. iii. chap. 3,) in his notice of the Italian Campanella, who, in unfolding the Platonic philosophy, was roused by his imagination to flights of impressive eloquence on his favourite themes. "The skies and stars (says he) are endowed with the keenest sensibility; nor is it at all unreasonable to suppose that they signify their mutual thoughts to each other by the transference of light, and that their sensibility is full of pleasure. The blessed spirits that inform such living and bright mansions, behold all things in nature and in the divine ideas; they have also a more glorious light, through which they are elevated to a supernatural beatific vision." Mr. Hallam justly adds, "We can hardly read this without recollecting the most sublime passage, perhaps, in SHAKESPEARE: Sit, Jessica,' etc. etc." Campanella wrote in Latin, and a little after the Poet. The poets of England early became familiar with the more splendid and imaginative parts of the Platonic doctrines. Spenser especially, drew largely upon them; as, in his Platonic Hymns to Beauty, in which he treats of Love and Beauty, earthly and heavenly, and describes the purer love as
-a celestial harmony
Of likely hearts, composed of stars' consent.
There are various indications in Shakespeare's style that his imagination had been kindled and enriched by these beautiful speculations, though in all probability his knowledge of them was attained in fragments, from the perusal of the poets and English writers of his own day, without any formal study of the philosophy itself, as a whole. In the next generation, Milton, alike familiar himself with Plato and with Shakespeare, with music and with philosophy, delighted to dwell on the same idea, so captivating to so many superior minds. He has repeatedly referred to it in his prose works, as well as in his "Penseroso" and in "Comus;" while in the "Arcades" he has blended together the loftiest inspiration of Plato and of Shakespeare :
In deep of night when drowsiness
That sit upon the nine infolded spheres,
And keep unsteady Nature to her law,
The editor of the Pictorial edition has added to these passages one from the "Remorse" of Coleridge, as worthy to stand by the side of Milton and Shakespeare. It is so. But it is also due to Coleridge to
add, that it is not an imitation of any passage of either of them, but rather an adaptation of another part of the Platonic theory, drawn from the Greek original, and borrowing only from Shakespeare its general spirit and his solemn rhythmical melody:
-Soul of Alvar!
Hear our soft suit, and heed my milder spell ;-
Who in broad circle, lovelier than the rainbow,
"Doth grossly close IT IN"-Nothing can be clearer than this reading, which is that of Heyes's quarto.
The other, and the first folio, print in it instead of "it in," which led to long notes by the commentators. Some editions read close us in.
"The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark," etc.The animals mentioned in this play are all proper to the country, and to that part of it to which the play relates. The wren is uncommon; but its note is occasionally heard. The crow, lark, jay, cuckoo, nightingale, goose, and eel, are all common in Lombardy.
"The nightingale, if she should sing by day,
In Shakespeare's One Hundred and Second Sonnet,
And stops her pipe in growth of riper days.
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night;
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
"A TUCKET sounded"-From the Italian toccata, which Florio, in his " World of Words," 1611, construes, "a prelude in music."
"We should hold day with the Antipodes,
If you would walk in absence of the sun." That is-If you would walk in the night, it would be day with us, as it now is on the other side of the globe. "—a little SCRUBBED boy"-Warton, not understanding this, proposes to read stubbed boy-a stripling. But scrub and scrubbed is good old English for stunted, small of its kind: as Holland, in his translation of Pliny, has "Such will never prove fair trees, but scrubs only;" and we retain the same use familiarly on this side of the Atlantic in "scrub oaks," a name given from the first settlement of the country to the dwarf or bush oak.
"No woman had it; but a CIVIL doctor"-Some American readers may require to be informed, of what the professional division of labour makes more familiar in Europe, that "civil" does not refer to manners, but means a doctor of the civil law, as opposed to one of divinity or medicine.
"The MERCHANT OF VENICE is one of Shakespeare's most perfect works: popular to an extraordinary degree, and calculated to produce the most powerful effect on the stage; and at the same time, a wonder of ingenuity and art for the reflecting critic. Shylock, the Jew, is one of those inconceivable master-pieces of characterization of which Shakespeare alone furnishes us with examples. It is easy for the poet and the player to exhibit a caricature of national sentiments, modes of speaking, and gestures. Shylock, however, is every thing but a common Jew: he possesses a very determinate and original individuality, and yet we perceive a slight touch of Judaism in every thing which he says and does. We imagine we hear a sprinkling of the Jewish pronunciation in the mere written words, as we will sometimes find it in the higher classes of that people, notwithstanding their social refinement. In tranquil situations, what is foreign to the European blood and Christian sentiments is less perceivable; but in passion the national stamp appears more strongly marked. All these inimitable niceties the finished art of a great actor can alone properly
Shylock is a man of information, even a thinker in his own way; he has not only discovered the region where human feelings dwell: his morality is founded on the disbelief in goodness and magnanimity. The desire of revenging the oppressions and humiliations suffered by his nation, is, after avarice, his principal spring of action. His hate is naturally directed chiefly against those Christians who possess truly Christian sentiments: the example of disinterested love of our neighbour, seems to him the most unrelenting persecution of the Jews. The
letter of the law is his idol; he refuses to lend an ear to the voice of mercy, which speaks to him from the mouth of Portia with heavenly eloquence: he insists on severe and inflexible justice, and it at last recoils on his own head. Here he becomes a symbol of the general history of his unfortunate nation.
"The melancholy and self-neglectful magnanimity of Antonio is affectingly sublime. Like a royal merchant, he is surrounded with a whole train of noble friends. The contrast which this forms to the selfish cruelty of the usurer Shylock, was necessary to redeem the honour of human nature.
"The judgment scene, with which the fourth act is occupied, is alone a perfect drama, concentrating in itself the interest of the whole. The knot is now untied, and, according to the common idea, the curtain might drop. But the Poet was unwilling to dismiss his audience with the gloomy impressions which the delivery of Antonio, accomplished with so much difficulty, contrary to all expectation, and the punishment of Shylock, were calculated to leave behind: he has, therefore, added the fifth act, by way of a musical after-piece in the play itself. The episode of Jessica, the fugitive daughter of the Jew, in whom Shakespeare has contrived to throw a disguise of sweetness over the national features, and the artifice by which Portia and her companion are enabled to rally their newly-married husbands, supply him with materials.
"The scene opens with the playful prattling of two lovers in a summer moonlight:
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees.
It is followed by soft music, and a rapturons eulogy on this powerful disposer of the human mind and the world. The principal characters then make their appearance; and, after an assumed discussion, which is elegantly carried on, the whole ends with the most exhilarating mirth."-SCHLEGEL.
"Since the restoration of Charles II., the MERCHANT OF VENICE has been one of the most popular plays on the English stage, and the appearance of Shylock has been the ambition of its greatest actors. In the picture of the Jew there is not the tragic grandeur of RICHARD III.; but there is a similar force of mind, and the same subtlety of intellect, though it is less selfish. In point of courage I would give the palm to Shylock, for he was an ill-used man, and the champion of an oppressed race; nor is he a hypocrite, like Richard. In fact, Shakespeare, while he lends himself to the prejudices of Christians against Jews, draws so philosophical a picture of the energetic Jewish character, that he traces the blame of its faults to the iniquity of the Christian world. Shylock's arguments are more logical than those of his opponents, and the latter overcome him only by a legal quibble. But he is a usurer, and lives on the interest of lent moneys; and what but Christian persecution forced him to live by this means! But he is also inhuman and revengeful. Why! because they called him dog, and spat upon his gaberdine. They voided their rheum upon him, and he in return wished to void his revenge upon them. All this is natural, and Shylock has nothing unnatural about him. His daughter, Jessica, is a very faithful picture of a love-inclined young woman; betraying the oriental warmth of her race.
But she is not to be taken
as a true sample of a Jewish daughter, for among no people are the ties of domestic life held more sacred than among the Hebrews. The scene of the caskets is objected to by Hazlitt, but he gives no why or wherefore: I am not, therefore, bound to argue against his no-arguments; but have only to say that I like the pomp of Portia's courtship, at the arrival of the Prince of Morocco, when he swears by his scimitar
That won three fields from Sultan Solyman.
Let us remember that we are here in the romantic drama.
"Throughout this whole piece there is a flow of incident and richly-imagined language that bears us, on a spring-tide of interest, to the settlement of the plot in the trial-scene, which is a drama in itself. Yet there Shakespeare does not forsake us, as a vulgar writer would have done. On the contrary, he prolongs our voluptuous sympathy, in the union of the happy characters, by a little pleasantry about the rings, and by a moonlight serenade of music. Our imaginations retire from the play soothed and gratified, and perhaps with more hints to our understanding respecting the charity which we owe to the Jews than Shakespeare has ventured to insinuate."-T. CAMPBELL.
The intention of the Poet in relation to the great question of the rights of conscience and opinion, which is involved in the greater part of the plot and dialogue of this piece, has been the subject of much discussion.
Some of his critics have contended that the Poet chose his subject with the express object of inculcating the great duty of respect for liberty of conscience; while, in the eyes of others, the Poet does not appear to have himself risen above the level of his age in the spirit of toleration, whether Christian or philosophical, but to have partaken of and employed the narrowest and most bitter prejudices of his age.
The probable truth seems to me to be, that Shake speare did not select his subject with any definite plan of depicting the injustice and absurdity of religious persecution, but merely with regard to its poetic and dramatic effect. But he had lived among the rage of civil and religious discord, and he still walked over the yet warm ashes of the fires of persecution. When, therefore, the subject expanded itself in his mind, he described and he reasoned from his own observation of man and society. He therefore painted men as he had seen them-the wisest and kindest blinded by the prejudices of their education or their country, and becoming hardened to inflicting insolence and injury;-the injured, the insulted, the trampled upon, goaded by continual wrongs into savage malignity. Had the Poet invested the despised and injured man with the gentle and more amiable qualities of our nature, and enlisted our sympathy wholly on his side, whatever additional interest he might have given to his plot, he would have painted a far less true view of human nature, and have conveyed a much less impressive and useful lesson of practical morality.
With this view of the origin and design of the character of Shylock, I otherwise fully concur with the remarks of Mr. Brown, as follows:
"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 man, 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?' etc., 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 vir, 50
tuous 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. For the benefit of those who could apply, or might hereafter apply Antonio and Shylock to themselves, Shakespeare pourtrayed 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."-Shak. Autobiog. Poems.