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credence in the days of Elizabeth, especially as Jews had long been banished from England, and were not readmitted till the Commonwealth. This question has been satisfactorily answered by Mr. S. L. Lee in a paper in the Gentleman's Magazine on "The Original of Shylock.” (February, 1880.) In that paper Mr. Lee shows that Jews were by no means unknown in England, and in particular he tells the story of a certain Dr. Roderigo Lopez, a Jew, the Queen's physician, who was executed in 1594 on the charge of being bribed by the King of Spain to poison the Queen. Mr. Lee calls attention to the excitement which the doctor's trial and execution made in London. “No less than five official accounts of Lopez's treason, with many semi-official pamphlets, were prepared for publication to keep the facts well before the public mind.” From the diary of Henslowe, the stage-manager, we learn that the plays most frequently produced in the latter half of the year were The Jew and The Jew of Malta four representations of the one and fifteen of the other being chronicled between April and the following February.

Mr. Lee's essay shows very clearly that although there were Jews in England, and some even holding high positions, before their formal re-admission by Cromwell, yet the popular prejudice against them, when anything occurred to arouse it, was not different in kind from the temper which invented the story of the pound of flesh. The SolicitorGeneral Coke at Lopez's trial “laid especial stress on the fact that Lopez was a Jew.” “This perjured and murdering traitor and Jewish doctor," he said, “ is worse than Judas himself.” His judges too spoke of him as " that vile Jew." On the scaffold he was interrupted with the cruelest jeers, and as the bolt fell the people shouted, “He is a Jew !""

At the time then of these occurrences the story of the

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bond, which to us seems so incredible, would have presented no difficulty to faith. If a Jew could plot against a Christian queen, he might easily be credited with a plot against a Christian merchant. Accordingly the character of Shylock is drawn in the darkest colours.

It was certainly intended to arouse, not sympathy, but horror and resentment. Shylock's motive, like that of Lopez, was avarice. He hated Antonio for lending money without interest, and laid his trap, though at the time there seemed little chance of its succeeding, in order to remove from Venice the one man who stood in the way of his greed. (i. 3. 39; iii. 1. 112 ; iii. 3. 21.) It may have been that Shakespeare himself had no sympathy, and intended us to have none, with Antonio's methods of showing his dislike to Shylock's occupation, however fashionable they may have been at the time. into the Jew's mouth a most passionate vindication of the rights of his people to their equal share with Christians in a common humanity ; but this does not alter the fact that Shylock was meditating an inhuman crime, and it is noticeable that Shylock himself never assigns Antonio's discourtesies as his motive for revenge, but always his interference with what he considered lawful money-making.

Of course Shakespeare has not made his Shylock a monster like Marlowe's Barabas. If he has shown in the person of the Jew to what extremities the love of money and of revenge may carry a man, he has not omitted from his portrait such other characteristics as the patriarchal dignity of his home-life (ii. 5. 27) and his strong tribal sentiment and religious separatism. But he has shown too how even these will give way before the stronger passion. Shylock's recollection of Leah, and the ring she gave him when he was a bachelor (iii. I. 106), serve to point the contrast between his old and his present self from which his daughter flies without compunction. (ii. 3. 2.) Even his aversion to eating with Gentiles gives way to his desire to witness something of the prodigality with which Bassanio will waste his borrowed means. (ii. 5. 14, 49.)

The other persons of the drama are but roughly characterised. We meet and converse, but we know less about them when the play is over than about Shakespeare's people in general. Not that they are unreal; for to become a character in a play of Shakespeare is in this like being born into the world, it ensures reality ; but we have only a passing acquaintance with them, and they do not reveal themselves. Antonio is a kind, courteous gentleman, for whom his friends have a great regard ; a good friend to Bassanio, a good friend to the poor ;

and that is almost all we know about him, except the fact of his melancholy, which is wholly unexplained. Of Bassanio we know even less. He is the principal lover of the piece, and makes love with a certain grace ; but by the side of Romeo, or even Valentine, he is a shadow. Lorenzo is an artist who has fallen in love with Jessica for her beauty ; to him we must ever be grateful for the moonlight scene of the fifth act, Of Jessica we know too little to judge of her character. It may be that Lorenzo, in calling her “wise, fair, and true," judges with a lover's partiality. She repels us by her want of natural affection, and by the light fingers she lays upon her father's property. Perhaps we are meant to see how the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children. Gratiano is a rattle, sufficiently described by himself and Bassanio. Salarino and Salanio (or Salerio)* have more in common than the letters of their names, and need not be distinguished ; they are friends of Antonio, and help to fill the stage and the pauses in

* See note on iii. 2. 214.

the action. Launcelot recalls Launce, but he is inferior to him in humour. In short, the interest of the play is not the interest of character, but of plot. The hinges of the play are the bond scene and the trial scene ; and it is to these that Shakespeare has devoted himself. (As to Portia, see what is said on p. viii., and in the notes on her different speeches.)

The date of the play has not been finally determined. It is mentioned by Meres in his Wits' Treasury in 1598, and was entered in that year at Stationers' Hall ; but the latest probable date for its first appearance is two years earlier, since in a play, Wily Beguiled, probably written in 1596,* the moonlight scene between Lorenzo and Jessica is imitated. Two years earlier still mention is made in Henslowe's diary (August 25th, 1594) of a play called The Venesyon Comodey, which Malone judged to be the Merchant of Venice. It certainly seems a not unlikely description of the play from a stage manager's point of view ; for not only is the scene laid principally in Venice, but many of the properties, such as the dresses of the doge and magnificoes, would be peculiar to Venice. And this date of 1594 is probable on another ground. It is the year of the Lopez case ; and it may very well have been that Shakespeare was engaged to re-write the old play of The Jew to meet the occasion. As an objection to identifying the Venesyon Comodey with the Merchant of Venice, it has been stated by Mr. Fleay that Shakespeare's plays were never acted at the “Rose," which was Henslowe's theatre ; but the history of the companies in that year is at present too uncertain for the statement to be received unsupported by evidence. The Rev. W. A. Harrison has pointed out a passage in Munday's

* The date of Wily Beguiled is fixed in this year by Prof. Hales and Dr. Furnivall, because of the reference to the Cadiz expedition.

translation of Silvayn's Orator (in which amongst others the case is argued “of a Jew who would for his debt have a pound of the flesh of a Christian”) which certainly

а looks as if it had suggested Shylock's argument from the slaves in Venice. (See note on iv. I. 87.) The translation did not appear until 1596 ; so that if the reference be granted, unless we assume that Shakespeare was acquainted with the French original, the date would seem to be fixed. It is certain, however, that Shakespeare altered some of his plays, and probable that he altered this play (see note on i. 2. 114), after the first appearance; and as the argument referred to is the one good thing in Silvayn's defence of the Jew, Shakespeare would probably have adopted it when the book appeared. On the whole, we may say that the date of the play lies about the year 1595, and with such an approximate date the evidence of style is in agreement.

*** Acknowledgment must be made here of the help I have received in preparing this edition. To Dr. Abbott I am especially indebted for his kindness in revising the proof-sheets of the notes, a process under which they could not but improve. I have also to thank Mr. A. H. Bullen, and Mr. Bowyer Nichols, for several suggestions. Other obligations are acknowledged in their place, except in the case of the Glossary, which, it will be understood, is compiled from the latest authorities.

H. C. B.

YATTENDON, August, 1887.

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