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pleased with the lady? says the lawyer. I love her better than any earthly thing, answers Giannetto: nature seems to have done her utmost in forming her. If you will come and see her, you will be surprised at the honours she will show you. I cannot go with you, says the lawyer; but since you speak so much good of her, I must desire you to present my respects to her. I will not fail, Giannetto answered; and now, let me entreat you to accept of some of the money. While he was speaking, the lawyer observed a ring on his finger, and said, If you give me this ring, I shall seek no other reward. Willingly, says Giannetto; but as it is a ring given me by my lady, to wear for her sake, I have some reluctance to part with it, and she, not seeing it on my finger, will believe that I have given it to a woman. Says the lawyer, She esteems you sufficiently to credit what you tell her, and you may say you made a present of it to me; but I rather think you want to give it to some former mistress here in Venice. So great, says Giannetto, is the love and reverence I bear to her, that I would not change her for any woman in the world. After this he takes the ring from his finger, and presents it to him. I have still a favour to ask, says the lawyer. It shall be granted, says Giannetto. It is, replied he, that you do not stay any time here, but go as soon as possible to your lady. It appears to me a thousand years till I see her, answered Giannetto; and immediately they take leave of each other. The lawyer embarked, and left Venice. Giannetto took leave of his Venetian friends, and carried Ansaldo with him, and some of his old acquaintance accompanied them. The lady arrived some days before, and having resumed her female habit, pretended to have spent the time at the baths; and now gave order to have the streets lined with tapestry and when Giannetto and Ansaldo were landed, all the court went out to meet them. When they arrived at the palace, the lady ran to embrace Ansaldo, but feigned anger against Giannetto, though she loved him excessively; yet the feastings, tilts, and diversions went on as usual, at which all the lords and ladies were present. Giannetto seeing that his wife did not receive him with her accustomed good countenance, called her, and would have saluted her. She told him, she wanted none of his caresses: I am sure, says she, you have been lavish of them to some of your former mistresses. Giannetto began to make excuses. She asked him where was the ring she had given him: It is no more than what I expected, cries Giannetto: and was in the right to say you would be angry with me; but, I swear by all that is sacred, and by your dear self, that I gave the ring to the lawyer who gained our cause. And I can swear, says the lady, with as much solemnity, that you gave the ring to a woman: therefore swear no more. Giannetto protested that what he had told her was true, and that he said all this to the lawyer, when he asked
for the ring.
The lady replied, you would have done much better to stay at Venice with your mistresses, for I fear they all wept when you came away. Giannetto's tears began to fall, and in great sorrow he assured her, that what she supposed could not be true. The lady seeing his tears, which were daggers in her bosom, ran to embrace him, and in a fit of laughter showed the ring, and told him, that she was herself the lawyer, and how she obtained the ring. Giannetto was greatly astonished, finding it all true, and told the story to the nobles and to his companions; and this heightened greatly the love between him and his lady. He then called the damsel who had given him the good advice in the evening not to drink the liquor, and gave her to Ansaldo for a wife; and they spent the rest of their lives in great felicity and contentment.
RUGGIERI de Figiovanni took a resolution of going, for some time, to the court of Alfonso King of Spain. He was graciously received, and living there some time in great magnificence, and giving remarkable proofs of his courage, was greatly esteemed. Having frequent opportunities of examining minutely the behaviour of the king, he observed, that he gave, as he thought, with little discernment, castles, and baronies, to such who were unworthy of his favours; and to himself, who might pretend to be of some estimation, he gave nothing: he therefore thought the fittest thing to be done, was to demand leave of the king to return home.
His request was granted, and the king presented him with one of the most beautiful and excellent mules, that had ever been mounted. One of the king's trusty servants was commanded to accompany Ruggieri, and riding along with him, to pick up, and recollect every word he said of the king, and then mention that it was the order of his sovereign, that he should go back to him. The man watching the opportunity, joined Ruggieri when he set out, said he was going towards Italy, and would be glad to ride in company with him. Ruggieri jogging on with his mule, and talking of one thing or other, it being near nine o'clock, told his companion, that they would do well to put up their mules a little; and as soon as they entered the stable, every beast, except his, began to stale. Riding on further, they came to a river, and watering the beasts, his mule staled in the river: You untoward beast, says he, you are like your master, who gave you to me. The servant remembered this expression, and many others as they rode on all day together; but he heard not a single word drop from him, but what was in praise of the king. The next morning Ruggieri was told the
order of the king, and instantly turned back. When the king had heard what he said of the mule, he commanded him into his presence, and with a smile, asked him, for what reason he had compared the mule to him. Ruggieri answered, My reason is plain, you give where you ought not to give, and where you ought to give, you give nothing; in the same manner the mule would not stale where she ought, and where she ought not, there she staled. The king said upon this, If I have not rewarded you as I have many, do not entertain a thought that I was insensible to your great merit; it is Fortune who hindered me; she is to blame, and not I; and I will show you manifestly that I speak truth. My discontent, sir, proceeds not, answered Ruggieri, from a desire of being enriched, but from your not having given the smallest testimony to my deserts in your service: nevertheless your excuse is valid, and I am ready to see the proof you mention, though I can easily believe you without it. The king conducted him to a hall, where he had already commanded two large caskets, shut close, to be placed: and before a large company, told Ruggieri, that in one of them was contained his crown, sceptre, and all his jewels; and that the other was full of earth choose which of them you like best, and then you will see that it is not I, but your fortune that has been ungrateful. Ruggieri chose one. It was found to be the casket full of earth. The king said to him with a smile, Now you may see, Ruggieri, that what I told you of fortune was true; but for your sake, I will oppose her with all my strength. You have no intention, I am certain, to live in Spain, therefore I will offer you no preferment here; but that casket which fortune denied you, shall be yours in despite of her: carry it with you into your own country, show it to your friends and neighbours, as my gift to you; and you have my permission to boast, that it is a reward of your virtues.
Of The Merchant of Venice the style 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.
Of the incident of the bond, no English original has hitherto been pointed out. I find, however, the following in The Orator: handling a hundred severall Discourses, in form of Declamations : some of the Arguments being drawne from Titus Livius and other ancient Writers, the rest of the Author's own Invention : Part of which are of Matters happened in our Age.-Written in
French by Alexander Silvayn, and Englished by L. P. [i.e. Lazarus Pilot.*] London, Printed by Adam Islip, 1596.-(This book is not mentioned by Ames.) See p. 401:
Of a Jew, who would for his debt have a pound of the flesh of a Christian.
"A Jew, unto whom a Christian merchant ought nine hundred crownes, would have summoned him for the same in Turkie : the merchant, because he would not be discredited, promised to pay the said summe within the tearme of three months, and if he paid it not, he was bound to give him a pound of the flesh of his bodie. The tearme being past some fifteene daies, the Jew refused to take his money, and demaunded the pound of flesh : the ordinarie judge of that place appointed him to cut a just pound of the Christian's flesh, and if he cut more or lesse, then his own head should be smitten off: the Jew appealed from this sentence, unto the chiefe judge, saying:
"Impossible is it to breake the credit of trafficke amongst men without great detriment of the commonwealth wherefore no man ought to bind himselfe unto such covenants which hee cannot or will not accomplish, for by that means should no man feare to be deceaved, and credit being maintained, every man might be assured of his owne; but since deceit hath taken place, never wonder if obligations are made more rigorous and strict then they were wont, seeing that although bonds are made never so strong, yet can no man be very certaine that he shall not be a loser. It seemeth at the first sight that it is a thing no less strange than cruel, to bind a man to pay a pound of the flesh of his bodie, for want of money: surely, in that it is a thing not usuall, it appeareth to be somewhat the more admirable, but there are divers others that are more cruell, which because they are in use seeme nothing terrible at all: as to binde all the bodie unto a most lothsome prison, or unto an intolerable slaverie, where not only the whole bodie but also all the sences and spirits are tormented; the which is commonly practised, not only betwixt those which are either in sect or nation contrary, but also even amongst those that are of one sect and nation; yea amongst Christians it hath been seene that the son hath imprisoned the father for monie. Likewise in the Roman commonwealth, so famous for lawes and armes, it was lawful for debt to imprison, beat, and afflict with torment the free citizens: how manie of them (do you thinke) would have thought themselves happie, if
* Lazarus Pyot, (not Pilot,) is Anthony Mundy. RITSON.
for a small debt they might have been excused with the paiment of a pounde of their flesh? who ought then to marvile if a Jew requireth so small a thing of a Christian, to discharge him of a good round summe? A man may aske why I would not rather take silver of this man, then his flesh: I might alleage many reasons; for I might say that none but my selfe can tell what the breach of his promise hath cost me, and what I have thereby paied for want of money unto my creditors, of that which I have lost in my credit for the miserie of those men which esteem their reputation, is so great, that oftentimes they had rather endure any thing secretlie, than to have their discredit blazed abroad, because they would not be both shamed and harmed: neverthelesse, I doe freely confesse, that I had rather lose a pound of my flesh then my credit should be in any sort cracked: I might also say, that I have need of this flesh to cure a friend of mine of a certaine maladie, which is otherwise incurable; or that I would have it to terrifie thereby the Christians for ever abusing the Jews once more hereafter: but I will onlie say, that by his obligation he oweth it me. It is lawful to kill a souldier if he come unto the warres but an hour too late; and also to hang a theefe though he steal never so little is it then such a great matter to cause such a one to pay a pound of his flesh, that hath broken his promise manie times, or that putteth another in danger to lose both credit and reputation, yea and it may be life, and al for griefe? were it not better for him to lose that I demand, then his soule, alreadie bound by his faith? Neither am I to take that which he oweth me, but he is to deliver it to me and especiallie because no man knoweth better than he where the same may be spared to the least hurt of his person; for I might take it in such place as hee might thereby happen to lose his life: Whatte matter were it then if I should cut off his privie members, supposing that the same would altogether weigh a just pound? or els his head, should I be suffered to cut it off, although it were with the danger of mine own life? I believe, I should not; because there were as little reason therein, as there could be in the amends whereunto I should be bound: or els if I would cut off his nose, his lips, his ears, and pull out his eies, to make them altogether a pound, should I be suffered? surely I think not, because the obligation dooth not specifie that I ought either to choose, cut, or take the same, but that he ought to give me a pound of his flesh. Of every thing that is sold, he which delivereth the same is to make waight, and he which receiveth, taketh heed that it be just seeing then that neither obligation, custome, nor law doth bind me to cut, or weigh, much lesse unto the above mentioned satisfaction, I refuse it all, and require that the same which is due should be delivered unto me,"