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The Merchant of Venice

I.i.9 (112,2) [Argosies] [a ship from Argo. Pope.] Whether it be derived from Argo I am in doubt. It was a name given in our author's time to ships of great burthen, probably galleons, such as the Spaniards now use in their East India trade. [An Argosie meant originally a ship from Ragusa, a city and territory on the gulph of Venice, tributary to the Porte. Steevens.]

I.i.18 (112,3) [Plucking the grass, to know where sits the wind] By holding up the grass, or any light body that will bend by a gentle blast, the direction of the wind is found.

This way I used in shooting. Betwixt the markes was an open place, there I take a fethere, or a lytle grasse, and so learned

how the wind stood. Ascham.

I.i.27 (113,5) [And see my wealthy Andrew dock'd in sand] The name of the ship.

I.i.113 (116,3) [Is that any thing now?] All the old copies read, is that any thing now? I suppose we should read, is that any thing new?

I.i.146 (117,4) [like a wilful youth] [W: witless] Dr. Warburton confounds the time past and present. He has formerly lost his money like a wilful youth, he now borrows more in pure innocence, without disguising his former fault, or his present designs.

I.ii.44 (120,6) [Ay, that's a colt, indeed] Colt is used for a witless, heady, gay youngster, whence the phrase used of an old man too juvenile, that he still retains his colt's tooth. See Hen. VIII.

I.ii.49 (120,7) [there is the Count Palatine] I am always inclined to believe, that Shakespeare has more allusions to particular facts and persons than his readers commonly suppose. The count here mentioned was, perhaps, Albertus a Lasco, a Polish Palatine, who visited England in our author's time, was eagerly caressed, and splendidly entertained; but running in debt, at last stole away, and endeavoured to repair his fortune by enchantment.

I.ii.90 (122,3) [How like you the young German] In Shakespeare's time the duke of Bavaria visited London, and was made knight of the garter.

Perhaps in this enumeration of Portia's suitors, there may be some covert allusion to those of Queen Elizabeth.

I.iii.47 (125,4) [catch him once upon the hip] A phrase taken from the practice of wrestlers.

I.iii.63 (126,5) [the ripe wants of my friend] Ripe wants are wants come to the height, wants that can have no longer delay. Perhaps we might read, rife wants, wants that come thick upon him.

I.iii.100 (127,6)

[ An evil soul, producing holy witness, Is like a villain with a smiling cheek; A goodly apple rotten at the heart. O, what a goodly outside falshood hath?]

I wish any copy would give the authority to range and read the lines thus:

O, what a godly outside falshood hath! An evil soul producing holy witness, Is like a villain with a sailing cheek; Or goodly apply rotten at the heart.

Yet there is no difficulty in the present reading. Falsehood, which as truth means honesty, is taken here for treachery and knavery, does not stand for falshood in general, but for the dishonesty now operating. (1773)

I.iii.156 (129,8) [dwell in my necessity] To dwell seems in this place to mean the same as to continue. To abide has both the senses of habitation and continuance.

I.iii.176 (130,9) [left in the fearful guard] [W: fearless] Dr. Warburton has forgotten that fearful is not only that which fears, but that which is feared or causes fear. Fearful guard, is a guard that is not to be trusted, but gives cause of fear. To fear was anciently to give as well as feel terrours. (see 1765, I,402,4)

I.iii.180 (130,1) [I like not fair terms] Kind words, good language.

II.i.7 (131,2) [To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine] To understand how the tawney prince, whose savage dignity is very well supported, means to recommend himself by this challenge, it must be remembered that red blood is a traditionary sign of courage: Thus Macbeth calls one of his frighted soldiers, a lilly liver'd Lown; again in this play, Cowards are said to have livers as white as milk; and an effeminate and timorous man is termed a milksop.

II.i.18 (132,4) [And hedg'd me by his will] I suppose we may safely read, and hedg'd me by his will. Confined me by his will.

II.i.25 (132,5) [That slew the Sophy] Shakespeare seldom escapes well when he is entangled with geography. The prince of Morocco must have travelled far to kill the Sophy of Persia.

II.i.42 (133,7) [Therefore be advis'd] Therefore be not precipitant; consider well what we are to do. Advis'd is the word opposite to rash.

II.ii.38 (134,8) [try conclusions]--So the old quarto. The first folio, by a mere blunder, reads, try confusions, which, because it makes a kind of paltry jest, has been copied by all the editors.

II.ii.91 (136,1) [your child that shall be] The distinction between boy and son is obvious, but child seems to have some meaning, which is now lost.

II.ii.166 (138,3) [Well, if any man in Italy have a fairer table, which doth suffer to swear upon a book] Mr. Theobald's note is as obscure as the passage. It may be read more than once before the complication of ignorance can be completely disentangled. Table is the palm expanded. What Mr. Theobald conceives it to be cannot easily be discovered, but he thinks it somewhat that promises a full belly.

Dr. Warburton understood the word, but puzzles himself with no great success in the pursuit of the meaning. The whole matter is this: Launcelot congratulates himself upon his dexterity and good fortune, and, in the height of his rapture, inspects his hand, and congratulates himself upon the felicities in his table. The act of expounding his hand puts him in mind of the action in which the palm is shewn, by raising it to lay it on the book, in judicial attestations. Well, says he, if any man in Italy have a fairer table, that doth offer to swear upon a book----Here he stops with an abruptness very common, and proceeds to particulars.

II.ii.194 (140,5) [Something too liberal] Liberal I have already shewn to be mean, gross, coarse, licentious.

II.ii.205 (141,9) [sad ostent] Grave appearance; shew of staid and serious behaviour.

II.vi.5 (146,1) [O, ten times faster Venus' pigeons fly] [W: widgeons] I believe the poet wrote as the editors have printed. How it is so very high humour to call lovers widgeons rather than pigeons. I cannot find. Lovers have in poetry been alway called Turtles, or Doves, which in lower language may be pigeons.

II.vi.51 (148,3) [a Gentile, and no Jew] A jest rising from the ambiguity of Gentile, which signifies both a Heathen, and one well born.

II.vii.8 (149,4) [This third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt] That is, as gross as the dull metal.

II.vii.69 (151,5) [Gilded tombs do worms infold] In all the old editions this line is written thus:

Gilded timber do worms infold.

From which Mr. Rowe and all the following editors have made

Gilded wood may worms infold.

A line not bad in itself, but not so applicable to the occasion as that which, I believe, Shakespeare wrote,

Gilded tombs do worms infold.

A tomb is the proper repository of a death's-head.

II.vii.72 (151,6) [Your answer had not been inscrol'd] Since there is an answer inscrol'd or written in every casket, I believe for your we should read this. When the words were written y'r and y's, the mistake was easy.

II.vii.79 (151,7) [chuse ce so] The old quarto edition of 1600 has no distribution of acts, but proceeds from the beginning to the end in an unbroken tenour. This play therefore having been probably divided without authority by the publishers of the first folio, lies open to a new regulation, if any more commodious division can be proposed. The story is itself so wildly incredible, and the changes of the scene so frequent and capricious, that the probability of action does not deserve much care; yet it may be proper to observe, that, by concluding the second act here, time is given for Bassanio's passage to Belmont.

II.viii.42 (153,8) [Let it not enter in your mind of love] So all the copies, but I suspect some corruption.

II.viii.52 (153,9) [embraced heaviness] [W: enraced] Of Dr. Warburton's correction it is only necessary to observe, that it has produced a new word, which cannot be received without necessity.

When I thought the passage corrupted, it seemed to me not improbable that Shakespeare had written entranced heaviness, musing, abstracted, moping melancholy. But I know not why any great efforts should be made to change a word which has no uncommodious or unusual sense. We say of a man now, that he hugs his sorrows, and why might not Anthonio embrace heaviness.

II.ix.46 (155,2) [How much low peasantry would then be gleaned From the true seed of honour?] The meaning is, How much meanness would be found among the great, and how much greatness among the mean. But since men are always said to glean corn though they may pick chaff, the sentence had been more agreeable to the common manner of speech if it had been written thus,

How much low peasantry would then be pick'd From the true seed of honour? how much honour Glean'd from the chaff?

II.ix.70 (157,4) [Take what wife you will to-bed] Perhaps the poet had forgotten that he who missed Portia was never to marry any woman.

III.i.47 (160,7) [a bankrupt, a prodigal] There is no need of alteration. There could be, in Shylock's opinion, no prodigality more culpable than such liberality as that by which a man exposes himself to ruin for his friend.

III.ii.21 (163,9) [And so though yours, not yours.--Prove it so] It may be more grammatically read,

And so though yours I'm not yours.

III.ii.54 (165,2) [With no less presence] With the same dignity of mien.

III.ii.73 (166,5) [So may the outward shows] He begins abruptly, the first part of the argument has passed in his mind.

III.ii.76 (166,6) [gracious voice] Pleasing; winning favour.

III.ii.112 (167,9) [In measure rain thy joy] The first quarto edition reads,

In measure range thy joy.

The folio and one of the quartos,

In measure raine thy joy.

I once believ'd Shakespeare meant,

In measure rein thy joy.

The words rain and rein were not in these times distinguished by regular orthography. There is no difficulty in the present reading, only where the copies vary some suspicion of error is always raised, (see 1765, I,437,1)

III.ii.125 (168,1) [Methinks, it should have power to steal both his, And leave itself unfurnish'd] I know not how unfinish'd has intruded without notice into the later editions, as the quartos and folio have unfurnished, which Sir Tho. Banner has received. Perhaps it

might be

And leave himself unfurnish'd.

III.ii.191 (170,4) [you can wish none from me] That is, none away from me; none that I shall lose, if you gain it.

III.v.70 (182,5) [how his words are suited!] I believe the meaning is: What a series or suite of words he has independent of meaning; how one word draws on another without relation to the matter.

IV,i.21 (184,6) [apparent] That is, seeming; not real.

IV.i.22 (184,7) [where] for whereas.

IV.i.29 (184,8) [Enough to press a royal merchant down] This epithet was in our poet's time more striking and better understood, because Gresham was then commonly dignified with the title of the royal merchant.

IV.i.42 (185,1) [I'll not answer that; But, say, it is my humour] [Cf: By saying] Dr. Warburton has mistaken the sense. The Jew being asked a question which the law does not require him to answer, stands upon his right, and refuses; but afterwards gratifies his own malignity by such answers as he knows will aggravate the pain of the enquirer. I will not answer, says he, as to a legal or serious question, but since you want an answer, will this serve you?

IV.i.56 (187,4)

      [For affection,
  Masters of passion, sway it to the mood
  Of what it likes, or loaths]

As for affection, those that know how to operate upon the passions of men, rule it by making it operate in obedience to the notes which please or disgust it. (1773)

[Woollen bag pipe] As all the editors agree with complete uniformity in this reading, I can hardly forbear to imagine that they understood it. But I never saw a woollen bag-pipe, nor can well conceive it. I suppose the authour wrote wooden bag-pipe, meaning that the bag was of leather, and the pipe of wood.

IV.i.90 (189,5) [many a purchas'd slave] This argument considered as used to the particular persons, seems conclusive. I see not how Venetians or Englishmen, while they practise the purchase and sale of slaves, can much enforce or demand the law of doing to others as we would that they should do to us.

IV.i.105 (189,6) [Bellario, a learned doctor, Whom I have sent for] The doctor and the court are here somewhat unskilfully brought together. That the duke would, on such an occasion, consult a doctor of great reputation, is not unlikely, but how should this be forknown by Portia?

IV.i.214 (193,8) [malice bears down truth] Malice oppresses honesty, a true man in old language is an honest man. We now call the

jury good men and true.

IV.i.382 (198,8) [I am content] The terms proposed have been misunderstood. Antonio declares, that as the duke quits one half of the forfeiture, he is likewise content to abate his claim, and desires not the property but the use or produce only of the half, and that only for the Jew's life, unless we read, as perhaps is right, upon my death.

V.i.63 (204,3) [Such harmony is in immortal souls] [W: sounds] This passage is obscure. Immortal sounds is a harsh combination of words, yet Milton uses a parallel expression:

Spiritus & rapidos qui circinat igneus orbes, Nunc quoque sidereis intercinit ipse choreia Immortale melos, & inenarrabile curmen.

It is proper to exhibit the lines as they stand in the copies of the first, second, third, and fourth editions, without any variation, for a change has been silently made, by Rowe, and adopted by all the succeeding editors.

Such harmony is in immortal souls, But while this muddy vesture of decay Doth grosly close in it, we cannot hear it.

That the third is corrupt must be allowed, but it gives reason to suspect that the original was,

Doth grosly close it in.

Yet I know not whether from this any thing better can be produced than the received reading. Perhaps harmony is the power of perceiving harmony, as afterwards, Musick in the soul is the quality of being moved with concord of sweet sounds. This will somewhat explain the old copies, but the sentence is still imperfect; which might be completed by reading,

Such harmony is in th' immortal soul, But while this muddy vesture of decay Doth grosly close it in, we cannot hear it. (1773)

V.i.66 (205,4) [wake Diana with a hymn] Diana is the moon, who is in the next scene represented as sleeping.

V.i.99 (207,6) [Nothing is good, I see, without respect] Not absolutely good, but relatively, good as it is modified by circumstances.

V.i.129 (208,7) [Let me give light] There is scarcely any word with which Shakespeare delights to trifle as with light, in its various significations.

V.i.203 (210,2)

[What man is there so much unreasonable, If you had pleas'd to have defended it With any terms of zeal, wanted the modesty To urge the thing held as a ceremony?]

This is a very licentious expression. The sense is, What man could have so little modesty or wanted modesty so much, as to urge the demand of a thing kept on an account in some sort religious. (see 1785, 1,476,7)

V.i.249 (212,4) [I once did lend my body for his wealth] For his advantage; to obtain his happiness. Wealth was, at that time, the term opposite to adversity, or calamity.

V.i.294 (213,5) [Lor. Fair ladies, you drop manna in the way Of starved people] [Shakespeare is not more exact in any thing, than in adapting his images with propriety to his speakers; of which he has here given an instance in making the young Jewess call good fortune, manna. Warburton.] The commentator should have remarked, that this speech is not, even in his own edition, the speech of the Jewess.

V.i.307 (214,6) [Exeunt omnes] It has been lately discovered, that this fable is taken from a story in the Pecorope of Ser Giovauni Fiorentino, a novellist, who wrote in 1378. The story has been published in English, and I have epitomised the translation. The translator is of opinion, that the choice of the caskets is borrowed from a tale of Boccace, which I have likewise abridged, though I believe that Shakespeare must have had some other novel in view.

(223) General Observation. Of The Merchant of Venice the stile is even and easy, with few peculiarities of diction, or anomalies of construction. The comick 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 critick will find excelled by this play.

Samuel Johnson