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For neither friend nor foe could helpe
But he must spoyled bee.
The bloudie Jew now ready is
With whetted blade in hand, *
By forfeit of his bond.
And as he was about to strike
In him the deadly blow :
I charge thee to do so.
Sith needs thou wilt thy forfeit have,
Which is of flesh a pound:
Nor yet the man confound.
For if thou doe, like murderer,
Thou here shalt hanged be:
No more than longes to thee:
For if thou take either more or lesse
To the value of a mite,
As is both law and right.
The passage in Shakspeare bears so strong a resemblance to this, as to render it probable that the one suggested the other. See act iv. sc. 2. Bass.
Why doest thou whet thy knife so earnestly?" &c.
Gernutus now waxt franticke mad,
And wotes not what to say;
I will that he shall pay;
And so I graunt to set him free.
The judge doih answere make; You shall not have a penny given ;
Your forfeyture now take.
At the last he doth demaund
But for to have his owne.
Thy judgement shall be showne.
Either take your pound of flesh, quoth he,
Or cancell me your bond.
That doth against me stand !
And so with griping grieved mind
He biddeth them fare-well. • Then' all the people prays'd the Lord,
That ever this heard tell.
Good people, that doe heare this song,
For trueth I dare well say, That many a wretch as ill as hee
Doth live now at this day;
V. 61, griped. Ashmol. copy.
That seeketh nothing but the spoyle
Of many a wealthey man,
Deviseth what they can.
From whome the Lord deliver me,
And every Christian too,
That meaneth so to do.
Since the first edition of this book was printed, the Editor hath had reason to believe, that both Shakspeare and the author of this ballad, are indebted for their story of the Jew (however they came by it) to an Italian Novel, which was first printed at Milan in the year 1554, in a book entitled, n Pecorone, nel quale si contengono Cinquanta Novelle antiche, fc., republished at Florence about 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. (Vide Manni Istoria del Decamerone di Giov. Boccac. 4to. Fior. 1744.)
That Shakspeare 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 above, 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 abridgment of the Novel which Mr. Johnson has given us at the end of his Commentary on Shakspeare'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 Shakspear 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 Passionate Shepherd to his Lobe. This beautiful sonnet is quoted in the Merry Wives of Windsor, act iii. sc. 1, and is ascribed (together with the Reply) to Shakspeare himself by all the modern editors of his smaller poems. A copy of this Madrigal, containing only four stanzas (the 4th and 6th being wanting) accompanied with the first of the answer, being printed in The Passionate Pilgrime, and Sonnets to sundry Notes of Musicke, by Mr. William SHAKESPEARE. Lond. printed for W.Jaggard, 1599. Thus was this sonnet, &c. published as Shakspeare's in his life-time.
And yet there is good reason to believe that (not Shakspeare, but) Christopher Marlow, wrote the song, and Sir Walter Raleigh the Nymph's Reply. For so we are positively assured by Isaac Walton, a writer of some credit, who has inserted them both in his Compleat Angler, * under the character of “ that smooth song, which was made by Kit. Marlow, now at least fifty years ago; and... an Answer to it, which was made by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger days. . . . Old-fashioned poetry, but choicely good.” It
* First printed in the year 1653, but probably written some time before.
also passed for Marlow's in the opinion of his contemporaries; for in the old Poetical Miscellany, entitled Englund's Helicon, it is printed, with the name of Chr. Marlow subjoined to it: and the Reply is subscribed Ignoto, which is known to have been a signature of Sir Walter Raleigh. With the same signature Ignoto, in that Collection, is an imitation of Marlow's, beginning thus,
“ Come live with me, and be my dear,
And we will revel all the year,
In plains and groves," &c. Upon the whole, I am inclined to attribute them to Marlow and Raleigh, notwithstanding the authority of Shakspeare's Book of Sonnets. For it is well known, that as he took no care of his own compositions, so was he utterly regardless what spurious things were fathered upon him. Sir John Oldcastle, the London Prodigal, and the Yorkshire Tragedy, were printed with his name at full length in the title-pages while he was living, which yet were afterwards rejected by his first editors, Heminge and Condell, who were his intimate friends, (as he mentions both in his will,) and therefore no doubt had good authority for setting them aside.*
The following sonnet appears to have been (as it deserved) a great favourite with our earlier poets : for besides the imitation above mentioned, another is to be found among Donne's Poems, entitled The Bait, beginning thus,
“ Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands,” &c. As for Chr. Marlow, who was in high repute for his dramatic writings, he lost his life by a stab received in a brothel, before the year 1593. See A. Wood, i. 138.
* Since the above was written, Mr. Malone, with his usual discernment, hath rejected the stanzas in question from the other Sonnets, &c. of Shakspeare, in his correct edition of The Passionute Pilgrim, &c. See his Shakspeare, vol. X., p. 340.