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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.]
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.]
THE FIRST PART.
IN Venice towne not long agoe
Which never thought to dye,
To them in streets that lie.
Or like a filthy heap of dung,
2 hoard or heap.]
For feare the thiefe will him pursue
His heart doth thinke on many a wile,
His wife must lend a shilling,
And see, likewise, you keepe your day,
This was the living of the wife,
Within that citie dwelt that time
Desiring him to stand his friend
Whatsoever he would demand of him,
No, (quoth the Jew with flearing1 lookes)
"Was this inserted to make interest good?
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
But we will have a merry jeast,
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:
The marchants ships were all at sea,
And to Gernutus strait he comes
I pray you beare with mee.
My day is come, and I have not
With all my heart, Gernutus sayd,
goes his way; the day once past
And layd him into prison strong,
The marchants friends came thither fast,
'OME offered for his hundred crownes
And some a thousand, two or three,
And at the last ten thousand crownes
THE SECOND PART.
"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,