« PreviousContinue »
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 judgments: 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 ed; 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. The Jew, after much wrangling, says 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 bave 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 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 Gian. netto; 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, say 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 embark. ed, and left Venice. Giannetto took leave of his Venetian friends, and carried Ansaldo with him, and some of his old acquaintance accompanied them. The lady arrived some days before, and hav. ing 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
She 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 dag
gers in her bosóm, 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.
RUGGIERI de Figiovanni took a resolution of going, for some time, to the court of Alfonso King of Spain. He was graciously received, and living there some time in great magnificence, and giving remarkable proofs of his courage, was greatly esteemed.. Having frequent opportunities of examining minutely the behaviour of the king, he observed, that he gave, as he thought, with little discernment, castles, and baronies, to such who were unworthy of his favours; and to himself, who might pretend to be of some estimation, he gave nothing: he therefore thought the fittest thing to be done, was to demand leave of the king to return home.
His request was granted, and the king presented him with one of the most beautiful and excellent mules, that had ever been mounted. One of the king's trusty servants was commanded to accompany Ruggieri, and riding along with him, to pick up, and recollect every word he said of the king, and then mention that it was the order of his sovereign, that he should go back to him. The man watching the opportunity, joined Ruggieri when he set out, said he was going towards Italy, and would be glad to ride in company with him. Ruggieri jogging on with his mule, and talking of one thing or other, it being neår nine o'clock, told his companion, that they would do well to put up their mules a little ; and as soon as they entered the stable, every beast, except his, began to stale. Riding on further, they came to a river, and watering the beasts, his mule staled in the river: you untoward beast, says he, you are like your master, who gave you to me. The servant remembered this expression, and many others as they rode on all day together; but he heard not a single word drop from him, but what was in praise of the king. The next morning Ruggieri was told the order of the king, and instantly turned back. When the king had heard what he said of the mule, he commanded him into his presence, and with a smile, asked him, for what reason he had compared the mule to him. Ruggieri answered, My reason is plain, you give where you ought not to give, and where you ought to give, you give nothing; in the same manner the mule would not stale where she ought, and where she ought not, there she staled. The king said upon this, If I have not rewarded
you as I have many, do not entertain a thought that I was insensible to your great merit; it is Fortune who hindered me; she is to blame, and not l; and I will show you manifestly that I speak truth. My discontent, sir, proceeds not, answered Ruggieri, from a desire of being enriched, but from your not having given the smallest testimony to my deserts in your service: nevertheless your excuse is valid, and I am ready to see the proof you mention, though I can easily believe you without it. The king conducted him to a hall, where he had already commanded two large caskets, shut close, to be placed: and before a large com. pany, told Ruggieri, that in one of them was contained his crown, sceptre, and all his jewels; and that the other was full of earth: choose which of them you like best, and then you will see that it is not I, but your fortune that has been ungrate. ful. Ruggieri chose one. It was found to be the casket full of earth. The king said to him with a smile, Now you may see Ruggieri that what I told you of fortune was true ; but for your sake, I will oppose her with all my strength. You have no intention I am certain, to live in Spain, therefore I will offer you no preferment here; but that casket which fortune denied you, shall be yours in despite of her: carry it with you into your own country, show it to your friends and neighbours, as my gift to you; and you have my permission to boast, that it is a reward of your virtues.
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 expecta. tion. 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.
Yohnson. Of the incident of the bond, no English original has hitherto been pointed out. I find, however, the following in The Orator : handling a hundred severall Discourses, in form of Declamations : some of the Arguments being drawne from Titus Livius and other ancient Writers, the rest of the Author's own invention: Part of which are of Matters happened in our Age.-Written in French by Alexander Silvayn, and Englished by L. P. [i. e. Lazarus Pilot.*] London, Printed by Adam Islip, 1596.—(This book is not mentioned by Ames.) See p. 401 :
“ DECLAMATION 95. “Of a Few, who would for his debt have a pound of the flesh of a
Christian. “ A Jew, unto whom a Christian merchant ought nine hundred crownes, would have summoned him for the same in Turkie: the merchant because he would not be discredited, promised to pay
* Lazarus Pyot, (not Pilot,) is Anthony Mundy. Ritson,
the said summe within the tearme of three months, and if he paid it not, he was bound to give him a pound of the flesh of his bodie. The tearme being past some fifteene daies, the Jew refused to take his money, and demaunded the pound of flesh: the ordinarie judge of that place appointed him to cut a just pound of the Christian's flesh, and if he cut more or lesse, then his own head should be smitten off: the Jew appealed from this sentence, unto the chiefe judge, saying: .
“ Impossible is it to breake the credit of trafficke amongst men without great detriment to the commonwealth : wherefore no man ought to bind himselfe unto such covenants which hee cannot or will not accomplish, for by that means should no man feare to be deceaved, and credit being maintained, every man might be assured of his owne; but since deceit hath taken place, never wonder if obligations are made more rigorous and strict then they were wort, seeing that although bonds are made never so strong, yet can no man be very certaine that he shall not be a loser. It seemeth at the first sight that it is a thing no less strange than cruel, to bind a man to pay a pounde of the flesh of his bodie, for want of money: surely, in that it is a thing not usuall, it appeareth to me somewhat the more admirable; but there are divers others that are more cruell, which because they are in use seeme nothing terrible at all: as to binde all the bodie unto a most lothsome prison, or unto an intolerable slaverie, where not only the whole bodie but also all the sences and spi. rits are tormented; the which is commonly practised, not only betwixt those which are in either sect or nation contrary, but also even amongst those that are of one sect and nation; yea amongst Christians it hath been seene that the son hath impri. soned the father for monie. Likewise in the Roman commonwealth, so famous for lawes and armes, it was lawful for debt to imprison, beat, and afflict with torment the free citizens: how manie of them (do you thinke) would have thought themselves happie, if for a small debt they might have been excused with the paiment of a pounde of their flesh? who onght then to marvile if a Jew requireth so small a thing of a Christian, to discharge him of a good round summe? A man may aske why I would not rather take silver of this man, then his flesh: I might alleage many reasons ; for I might say that none but my selfe can tell what the breach of his promise hath cost me, and what I have thereby paied for want of money unto my creditors, of that which I have lost in my credit: for the miserie of those men which esteem their reputation, is so great, that oftentimes they had rather endure any thing secretlie, then to have their discredit blazed abroad, because they would not be both shamed and harmed: neverthelesse, I doe freely confesse, that I had rather lose a pounde of my flesh then my credit should be in any sort cracked: I might also say, that I have need of this flesh to cure a friend of mine of a certaine maladie, which is otherwise incur. able; or that I would have it to terrifie thereby the Christians for ever abusing the Jews once more hereafter: but I will onlie