Sidor som bilder

the year 1748, or 9.* The author was Ser. Giovanni Fiorentino, who wrote in 1378; thirty years after the time in which the scene of Boccace's Decameron is laid. (Vid. Manni, Istoria del Decamerone di Giov. Boccac. 4to. Fior. 1744.)

That Shakespeare had his plot from the novel itself, is evident from his having some incidents from it, which are not found in the ballad: and I think it will also be found that he borrowed from the ballad some hints that were not suggested by the novel. (See pt. ii. ver. 25, &c. where, instead of that spirited description of the whetted blade, &c. the prose narrative coldly says, The Jew had prepared a razor, &c." See also some other passages in the same piece.) This however is spoken with diffidence, as I have at present before me only the abridgement of the novel which Mr. Johnson has given us at the end of his Commentary on Shakespeare's Play. The translation of the Italian story at large is not easy to be met with, having I believe never been published, though it was printed some years ago with this title,-" The Novel, from which the Merchant of Venice written by Shakespeare is taken, translated from the Italian. To which is added a translation of a novel from the Decamerone of Boccaccio. London, Printed for

M. Cooper, 1755, 8vo."

The following is printed from an ancient black-letter copy in the Pepys collection,† intitled, “A New Song, shewing the crueltie of Gernutus, a Jewe, who, lending to a merchant an hundred crowns, would have a pound of his fleshe, because he could not pay him at the time appointed. To the tune of Black and Yellow."

[This is the first of four ballads printed by Percy as probable sources for the plots of four of Shakspere's plays, but as we are unable to fix any satisfactory date for the first appearance of the ballads, it is well-nigh impossible to settle their claim to such distinction.

The story of the Jew who bargained for a pound of a Christian's flesh in payment of his debt is so widely spread, that there is no necessity for us to believe that Shakspere used this rather poor ballad, more especially as it is probable from the extract from Gosson mentioned above that Shakspere found the two plots of the bond and the caskets already joined together. There is, however, something in Percy's note about the whetting of the knife in verses 25-26, and it would be quite in accordance with the poet's constant practice for him to take this one point from the ballad of Gernutus. The ballad was probably versified from one of the many stories extant, because, even if it be later than Shakspere's

[* This book has been frequently reprinted.]
† Compared with the Ashmole Copy.

play, it is impossible to believe that the ballad-writer could have written so bald a narration had he had the Merchant of Venice before him.

Some forms of the story are to be found in Persian, and there is no doubt that the original tale is of Eastern origin. The oldest European forms are in the English Cursor Mundi and Gesta Romanorum, and the French romance of Dolopathos. See Miss Toulmin Smith's paper "On the Bond-story in the Merchant of Venice," "Transactions of the New Shakspere Society," 1875-6 p. 181. Professor Child prints a ballad entitled The Northern Lord and Cruel Jew (English and Scottish Ballads, vol. viii. p. 270), which contains the same incident of the "bloody minded Jew." Leti's character as an historian stands so low that his story may safely be dismissed as a fabrication.]


IN Venice towne not long agoe
A cruel Jew did dwell,
Which lived all on usurie,
As Italian writers tell.
Gernutus called was the Jew,

Which never thought to dye,
Nor ever yet did any good

To them in streets that lie.
His life was like a barrow hogge,'
That liveth many a day,
Yet never once doth any good,
Until men will him slay.

Or like a filthy heap of dung,
That lyeth in a whoard;2
Which never can do any good,
Till it be spread abroad.
So fares it with the usurer,
He cannot sleep in rest,
['a castrated hog.

2 hoard or heap.]

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For feare the thiefe will him pursue
To plucke him from his nest.

His heart doth thinke on many a wile,
How to deceive the poore;
His mouth is almost ful of mucke,
Yet still he gapes for more.

His wife must lend a shilling,
For every weeke a penny,
Yet bring a pledge, that is double worth,
If that you will have any.

And see, likewise, you keepe your day,
Or else you loose it all:

This was the living of the wife,
Her cow she did it call.

Within that citie dwelt that time
A marchant of great fame,
Which being distressed in his need,
Unto Gernutus came:

Desiring him to stand his friend
For twelve month and a day,
To lend to him an hundred crownes:
And he for it would pay

Whatsoever he would demand of him,
And pledges he should have.

No, (quoth the Jew with flearing1 lookes)
Sir, aske what you will have.

"Was this inserted to make interest good?
Or are your gold and silver Ewes and rams?
Shy. I cannot tell, I make it breed as fast."

[1 sneering.]






Ver. 32. Her Cow, &c. seems to have suggested to Shakespeare Shylock's argument for usury taken from Jacob's management of Laban's sheep, act i. to which Antonio replies,

No penny for the loane of it
For one year you shall pay;
You may doe me as good a turne,
Before my dying day.

But we will have a merry jeast,
For to be talked long :
You shall make me a bond, quoth he,
That shall be large and strong:

And this shall be the forfeyture;

Of your owne fleshe a pound. If you agree, make you the bond,

And here is a hundred crownes.

With right good will! the marchant says:
And so the bond was made.
When twelve month and a day drew on
That backe it should be payd,

The marchants ships were all at sea,
And money came not in;
Which way to take, or what to doe
To thinke he doth begin :

And to Gernutus strait he comes
With cap and bended knee,
And sayde to him, Of curtesie

I pray you beare with mee.

My day is come, and I have not
The money for to pay:
And little good the forfeyture
Will doe you, I dare say.

With all my heart, Gernutus sayd,
Commaund it to your minde:
In thinges of bigger waight then this
You shall me ready finde.









goes his way; the day once past
Gernutus doth not slacke
To get a sergiant presently;
And clapt him on the backe

And layd him into prison strong,
And sued his bond withall;
And when the judgement day was come,
For judgement he did call.

The marchants friends came thither fast,
With many a weeping eye,
For other means they could not find,
But he that day must dye.

'OME offered for his hundred crownes
Five hundred for to pay;

And some a thousand, two or three,
Yet still he did denay.1

And at the last ten thousand crownes
They offered, him to save.
Gernutus sayd, I will no gold:
My forfeite I will have.


"Of the Jews crueltie; setting foorth the mercifulnesse of the Judge towards the Marchant. To the tune of Blacke and Yellow."

A pound of fleshe is my demand,
And that shall be my hire.
Then sayd the judge, Yet, good my friend,
Let me of you desire

[1 refuse.]

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