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as if he slept soundly. The lady perceiving this, laid herself down by his side. Giannetto loses no time, but turning to the lady, embraces her, saying, Now am I in possession of my utmost wishes. When Giannetto came out of his chamber, he was knighted and placed in the chair of state, had the sceptre put into his hand, and was proclaimed sovereign of the country, with great pomp and splendour; and when the lords and ladies were come to the castle, he married the lady in great ceremony.
Giannetto governed excellently, and caused justice to be administered impartially. He continued some time in his happy state, and never entertained a thought of poor Ansaldo, who had given his bond to the Jew for ten thousand ducats. But one day, as he stood at the window of his palace with his bride, he saw a number of people pass along the piazza, with lighted torches in their hands. What is the meaning of this? says he. The lady answered, they are artificers, going to make their offerings at the church of St. John, this day being his festival. Giannetto instantly recollected Ansaldo, gave a great sigh, and turned pale. His lady enquired the cause of his sudden change. He said, he felt nothing. She continued to press with great earnestness, till he was obliged to confess the cause of his uneasiness; that Ansaldo was engaged for the money; that the term was expired; and the grief he was in was lest his father should lose his life for him: that if the ten thousand ducats were not paid that day, he must lose a pound of his flesh. The lady told him to mount on horseback, and go by land the nearest way, to take some attendants, and an hundred thousand ducats; and not to stop till he arrived at Venice; and if he was not dead, to endeavour to bring Ansaldo to her. Giannetto takes horse with twenty attendants, and makes the best of his way to Venice.
The time being expired, the Jew had seized Ansaldo, and insisted on having a pound of his flesh. He entreated him only to wait some days, that if his dear Giannetto arrived, he might have the pleasure of embracing him: the Jew replied he was willing to wait; but, says he, I will cut off the pound of flesh, according to the words of the obligation. Ansaldo answered, that he was
Several merchants would have jointly paid the money; the Jew
would not hearken to the proposal, but insisted that he might have the satisfaction of saying, that he had put to death the greatest of the Christian merchants. Giannetto making all possible haste to Venice, his lady soon followed him in a lawyer's habit, with two servants attending her. Giannetto, when he came to Venice, goes to the Jew, and (after embracing Ansaldo) tells him, he is ready to pay the money, and as much more as he should demand. The Jew said, he would take no money, since it was not paid at the time due; but that he would have the pound of flesh. Every one blamed the Jew; but as Venice was a place where justice was strictly administered, and the Jew had his pretensions grounded on public and received forms, their only resource was entreaty; and when the merchants of Venice applied to him, he was inflexible. Giannetto offered him twenty thousand, then thirty thousand, afterwards forty, fifty, and at last an hundred thousand ducats. The Jew told him, if he would give as much gold as Venice was worth, he would not accept it; and, says he, you know little of me, if you think I will desist from my demand.
The lady now arrives at Venice, in her lawyer's dress; and alighting at an inn, the landlord asks of one of the servants who his master was: the servant answered, that he was a young lawyer who had finished his studies at Bologna. The landlord upon this shows his guest great civility: and when he attended at dinner, the lawyer enquiring how justice was administered in that city, he answered, justice in this place is too severe, and related the case of Ansaldo. Says the lawyer, this question may be easily answered. If you can answer it, says the landlord, and save this worthy man from death, you will get the love and esteem of all the best men of this city. The lawyer caused a proclamation to be made, that whoever had any law matters to determine, they should have recourse to him: so it was told to Giannetto, that a famous lawyer was come from Bologna, who could decide all cases in law. Giannetto proposed to the Jew to apply to this lawyer. With all my heart, says the Jew; but let who will come, I will stick to my bond. They came to this judge, and saluted him. Giannetto did not remember him: for he had disguised his face with the juice of certain herbs. Giannetto, and the Jew, each told the merits of the cause to the judge; who, when he had taken the bond and read
it, said to the Jew, I must have you take the hundred thousand ducats, and release this honest man, who will always have a grateful sense of the favour done to him. The Jew replied, I will do no such thing. The judge answered, it will be better for you. The Jew was positive to yield nothing. Upon this they go to the tribunal appointed for such judgements: and our judge says to the Jew, Do you cut a pound of this man's flesh where you choose. The Jew ordered him to be stripped naked, and takes in his hand a razor, which had been made on purpose. Giannetto, seeing this, turning to the judge, This, says he, is not the favour I asked of you. Be quiet, says he, the pound of flesh is not yet cut off. As soon as the Jew was going to begin, Take care what you do, says the judge, if you take more or less than a pound, I will order your head to be struck off: and beside, if you shed one drop of blood, you shall be put to death. Your paper makes no mention of the shedding of blood; but says expressly, that you may take a pound of flesh, neither more nor less. He immediately sent for the executioner to bring the block and ax; and now, says he, If I see one drop of blood, off goes your head. At length the Jew, after much wrangling, told him, Give me the hundred thousand ducats, and I am content. No, says the judge, cut off your pound of flesh according to your bond: why did not you take the money when it was offered? The Jew came down to ninety, and then to eighty thousand but the judge was still resolute. Giannetto told the judge to give what he required, that Ansaldo might have his liberty: but he replied, let me manage him. Then the Jew would have taken fifty thousand: he said, I will not give you a penny. Give me at least, says the Jew, my own ten thousand ducats, and a curse confound you all. The judge replies, I will give you nothing: if you will have the pound of flesh, take it; if not, I will order your bond to be protested and annulled. The Jew seeing he could gain nothing, tore in pieces the bond in a great rage. Ansaldo was released, and conducted home with great joy by Giannetto, who carried the hundred thousand ducats to the inn to the lawyer. The lawyer said, I do not want money; carry it back to your lady, that she may not say, that you have squandered it away idly. Says Giannetto, my lady is so kind, that I might spend four times as much without incurring her displeasure. How are you pleased
with the lady? says the lawyer. I love her better than any earthly thing, answers Giannetto: nature seems to have done her utmost in forming her. If you will come and see her, you will be surprised at the honours she will show you. I cannot go with you, says the lawyer; but since you speak so much good of her, I must desire you to present my respects to her. I will not fail, Giannetto answered; and, now, let me entreat you to accept of some of the money. While he was speaking, the lawyer observed a ring on his finger, and said, if you give me this ring, I shall seek no other reward. Willingly, says Giannetto; but as it is a ring given me by my lady, to wear for her sake, I have some reluctance to part with it, and she, not seeing it on my finger, will believe that I have given it to a woman. Says the lawyer, she esteems you sufficiently to credit what you tell her, and you may say you made a present of it to me; but I rather think you want to give it to some former mistress here in Venice. So great, says Giannetto, is the love and reverence I bear to her, that I would not change her for any woman in the world. After this he takes the ring from his finger, and presents it to him. I have still a favour to ask, says the lawyer. It shall be granted, says Giannetto. It is, replied he, that you do not stay any time here, but go as soon as possible to your lady. It appears to me a thousand years till I see her, answered Giannetto: and immediately they take leave of each other. The lawyer embarked, and left Venice. Giannetto took leave of his Venetian friends, and carried Ansaldo with him, and some of his old acquaintance accompanied them. days before, and having resumed her female habit, pretended to have spent the time at the baths; and now gave order to have the streets lined with tapestry: and when Giannetto and Ansaldo were landed, all the court went out to meet them. When they arrived at the palace, the lady ran to embrace Ansaldo, but feigned anger against Giannetto, though she loved him excessively: yet the feastings, tilts, and diversions went on as usual, at which all the lords and ladies were present. Giannetto seeing that his wife did not receive him with her accustomed good countenance, called her, and would have saluted her. She told him, she wanted none of his caresses: I am sure, says she, you have been lavish of them to some of your former mistresses. Giannetto began to make excuses. She Mer. of Ven.
The lady arrived some
asked him where was the ring she had given him: It is no more than what I expected, cries Giannetto, and was in the right to say you would be angry with me; but, I swear by all that is sacred, and by your dear self, that I gave the ring to the lawyer who gained our cause. And I can swear, says the lady, with as much solemnity, that you gave the ring to a woman: therefore swear no more. Giannetto protested that what he had told her was true, and that he said all this to the lawyer, when he asked for the ring. The lady replied, you would have done much better to stay at Venice with your mistresses, for I fear they all wept when you came away. Giannetto's tears began to fall, and in great sorrow he assured her, that what she supposed could not be true. The lady seeing his tears, which were daggers in her bosom, ran to embrace him, and in a fit of laughter showed the ring, and told him, that she was herself the lawyer, and how she obtained the ring. Giannetto was greatly astonished, finding it all true, and told the story to the nobles and to his companions; and this heightened greatly the love between him and his lady. He then called the damsel who had given him the good advice in the evening not to drink the liquor, and gave her to Ansaldo for a wife; and they spent the rest of their lives in great felicity and contentment.
Of the Merchant of Venice the style is even and easy, with few peculiarities of diction, or anomalies of construction. The comic 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 critic will find excelled by this play. JOHNSON.
This comedy, I believe, was written in the beginning of the year 1598. Meres's book was not published till the end of that year. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ix. MALONE.