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ON THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION OF THE
MERCHANT OF VENICE.
It has been lately difcovered, that this fable is taken from a story in the Pecorne of Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, a novelist, who wrote in 1378. The story has been published in English, and I have epitomized the translation. The transator 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.
JOHNSON. “ There lived at Florence, a merchant whose name was Bindo. He was rich, and had three fons. Being near his end, he called for the two eldeft, and left them heirs: to the youngest he left nothing. This youngest, whose name was Giannetto, went to his father, and said, What has my father done? The father replied, Dear Giannetto, there is none to whom I wish better than to you. Go to Venice, to your godfather, whose name is Anfaldo: he has no child, and has wrote to me often to send you thither to him. He is the richest merchant amongst the Christians: if you behave well, you will be certainly a rich man. The son answered, I am ready to do whatever my dear father shall command: upon which he gave him his benediction, and in a few days died.
“Giannetto went to Ansaldo, and presented the letler given by the father before his death. Ansaldo read. ing the letter, cried out, My deareft godson is wel. come to my arms. He then asked news of his father. Giannetto replied, He is dead. I am much grieved, replied Ansaldo, to hear of the death of Bindo; but the joy I feel, in seeing you, mitigates my sorrow. He
conducted him to his house, and gave orders to his servants, that Giannetto should be obeyed, and served with more attention than had been paid to himself. He then delivered him the keys of his ready money; and told him, Son, spend this money, keep a table, and make yourself known: remember, that the more you gain the good-will of every body, the more you will be dear to me.
“Giannetto now began to give entertainments. He was more obedient and courteous to Ansaldo, than if he had been an hundred times his father. Every body in Venice was fond of him. Ansaldo could think of nothing but him; so much was he pleased with his good manners and behaviour.
“ It happened, that two of his most intimate acquaintance designed to go with two fhips to Alexandria, and told Giannetto, he would do well to take a voyage, and see the world. I would go willingly, said he, if my father Ansaldo will give leave. His companions go to Ansaldo, and beg his permission for Giannetto to go in the spring with them to Alexandria ; and defire him to provide him a ship. Ansaldo immediately procured a very fine thip, loaded it with merchandize, adorned it with streamers, and furnished it with arms; and, as foon as it was ready, he gave orders to the captain and failors to do every thing that Giannetto commanded. It happened one morning early, that Giannetto saw à gulph, with a fine port, and asked the captain how the port was called ? He replied, That place belongs to a widow lady, who has ruined many gentlemen, In what manner: says Giannetto. He answered, This lady is a fine and beautiful woman, and has made a law, that whoever arrives here is obliged to go to bed with her, and if he can have the enjoyment of her, he must take her for his wife, and be lord of all the country; but if he cannot enjoy her, he loses every thing he has brought with him. Giannetto, after a little reflection, tells the captain to get into the port. He was obeyed; and in an instant they Nide into the port fo casily that the other thips perceived nothing.