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Thy currish spirit
Governed a wolf, who, hanged for human slaughter,
Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet,
And whilst thou lay'st in thy unhallowed dam,
Infused itself in thee ; for thy desires
Are wolfish, bloody, starved, and ravenous."

Merchant of Venice. Most admirers of Shakspeare are captivated with the thread of thrilling incident woven in every story. They forget the savage legend and the fireside tale possesses still more of that they laud, and which, though useful in its sphere, calls for the exercise of a power only handmaid to the noblest faculties of mind. Others are dazzled and enchanted with those gems of thought, the pebbles in his universe, whence they are gathered by every author to add lustre and value to his own creations. These do indeed bear witness to a might of intellect, and are worthy contemplation—yet that a perfect delineation of human character in its nicest shades, is the bard's chief excellence, all allow.

While the general voice styles him the mirror where nature may behold herself reflected, to examine the foundation for this title is of inestimable value to the student. His daily observation and judgment are called into exercise, while comparing this portrait of the soul with its original-above all, the hidden machinery of mind and heart, are laid open, their powers investigated, and the learner thus taught to govern earth's noblest. In the scrutiny, we should first strive to discover the author's idea, and notice how well he has succeeded in depicting it; then may we decide whether the design conform to truth.

For such reasons, and in such a manner, would we investigate not Shakspeare's noblest character, not the unearthly form of of his wild imaginings; but one in which he treats of life, wanders amid the busy hum of men, and becomes a partner in their daily dealings.

The Jew at Venice is no Prospero calling the spirits of air and sea to do his bidding, and by magic working revenge; nor crazed Hamlet haunted by a father's ghost, and reasoning meanwhile with angel eloquence on the mighty future; but a frail mortal, possessing only his fellow's strength, subject to human statutes, and beholding that which is to be, with the erring vision of a clay-clad soul. Hence this character is more easily estimated. We need not soar where Avon's bard floated to judge his power of wing, but we treat of one like in passions to ourselves, and have but to look in, and around to find the model.

Shakspeare's idea of Shylock may not better be described

than as

• The wretch concentred all in self.”

He knew no god but his own advantage ; and its natural attendants, avarice, cowardice, and cruelty, held undisputed sway over his soul.

Educated in the creed of Israel, he cherished it not as a solace in sorrow, a hope of immortal joy, but rather that the Talmud permitted him to take usury, and wrong at will his neighbor. Does he exclaim,

"I hate him, for he is a Christian,”the next sentence declares the hidden reason, and shows the former but a pretext with which to soothe an half-seared conscience ;

6 But more for that in low simplicity,
He lends out money gratis, and brings down

The rate of usance her with us in Venice." He could praise the counsellor who seemed to forward his nefarious scheme, and cry

“ A Daniel come to judgment !" before a Nazarene. No trust in his father's faith prompted the

bitter prayer,

“Would any of the stock of Barabbus

Had been here, husband, rather than a Christian;" but the thought, 'I shall never see my gold again ;' and at last he showed the mockery of his professions, by abjuring his supposed eternal right to an heavenly mansion, for a moment's longer tarry in his earthly tabernacle, and a still more feeble hold on its fleeting treasures. Belief in Judaism, to which he was born and nurtured, he made priest at the dark shrine of self, blessing with an holy hand the ever smoking incense of his heart, and, when no longer of advantage to the idol, unhesitatingly sacrificed her on the altar she had consecrated.

His love for wealth was but another stream from the ever welling fountain of self-affection. He was not possessed by the lunacy of one hoarding treasure merely for its glitter, envious that the light of heaven should view it with himself, and so enchanted as for its sake to bear the scorn of man, wrap himself in shreds, and finally, unpitied, to die for lack of food, in his last gasp, breathing a sigh, that he must leave his gold. Shylock erred not, when he declared wealth,

_" the prop

That doth sustain my house,

-the means whereby I live."

He gathered it as the most acceptable sacrifice to the divinity he adored, that which could satisfy every earthly wish, which was the strength of mortal power, the glory of worldly honor. He mourned its loss only when that loss brought him no profit, and gladly made it an instrument to gratify his ruling passion, or take vengeance on a foe. Freely did he pour it forth, when it might answer his own selfish, and because purely selfish, necessarily hellish motives.

“If every ducat in six thousand ducats
Were in six parts, and every part a ducat,

I would not draw them ;--I would have my bond.” Cowardice is another prominent and natural trait in this character. His own confession acknowledges that “with a patient shrug” he bore the insults of Antonio, was spit upon, and yet returned it not. Was it the long sufferance of the truly greatthat conqueror of self, who would bear all ignominy rather than blood should stain his hand ? Had the godlike maxims of the Galilean influenced even the Israelite by their purity and truth? The sequel answers—secretly the venom worked. He dared not boldly to return the blow, nor even in the midnight gloom to wield the assassin's brand, but entrenched behind the arm of law, he would torture the bound victim, and glut his cruelty where resistance was not dreaded. Many esteem his lofty bearing in the court as courage, and wonder at his dauntless spirit. Such is the courage of the tyrant, taunting a rack-torn foe; the howling courage of the wolf, tearing the prey sinking amid the quicksand ; the courage of the vulture, gorging on the carcass staining some battle-field. When entangled in the snare set for another, his tone of triumph changed; no longer he declared himself not bound to please with answers,' but afraid to use the whetted knife with scarce half the courage of a thievish cur, to the demand of the two things he hated most, only answered,

“ I am content,” and, in the voice of a sick child begged,

“I pray you give me leave to go from hence,

I am not well." Thus Shakspeare here intended to paint a man of noble intellect, chaining his powers within the narrow cell of self, where, chafed and weakened through lack of room, they at last worked their own destruction. He was ever true to this model amid all the varied scenes in which he placed this being of his fancy. Driving a bargain on the Rialto, mourning a daughter's flight worse than her death, since she might then have carried nothing with her, triumphing in the torture of an enemy, or himself


writhing in agony, Shylock was ever the same, his own good the beginning and end of his desires. How strange the contrast with simple minded, honest Antonio, that other Nicodemus knowing no guile, loving his neighbor as himself, ready to relieve from the spoiler's grasp


many that at times made moan to him," and only grieved his friend could doubt his willingness to the last farthing. Well did he show his love, and for another gladly gave his life. Humility, untainted by a fear, marked all his acts. He would rebuke the Jew when seeking money from him, and boldly bid him lead as to an enemy. When the hour of dissolution was at hand, he shrunk not, like the craven Hebrew, but boldly met his fate, consoling those who should have been his comforters, in the mild sentence

"I am a tainted wether of the flock,
Metest for death; the weakest kind of fruit

Drops earliest to the ground, and so let me!” and to the last 'fare you well,' he gave the man for whom he was to die, he added,

6 Grieve not that I am fallen to this for you."

Few bear on earth the seraph spirit of Antonio. His were the virtues of the heart, and while his intellect might in comparison seem but a little gem, it was so very pure as to be far more in value than the earth-stained jewel of a double size.

Shylock had no friends. In Tubal he found a brother extortioner, and therefore yoked with him. It was but the connexion of the robber with his mates; each knew the other a villain whom he dared not trust, and yet with whom he might not differ.

The golden link, binding man to man in mutual love, his heart had never felt. Even the relic of a departed wife, could scarce call a spark of humanity from his flinty bosom, and in an instant, all was cold and dark.

While Shakspeare has thus accurately portrayed the man, whose affections never left the bounds of his own soul, we have too high opinions of humanity to believe nature afforded the perfect model. The brutes of the forest forget not their offspring, the bear will die for her young, and the wolf nurses her cubs, the birds of the air pluck their own breasts to warm their nestlings, but the Hebrew did so treat the gentle Jessica, as to force his "own flesh and blood to rebel,” declare “our house is hell,” and confess herself ashamed to be my father's child.” Had the daughter been as him to whom she owed her being, we might not so much wonder at the hatred, but she lived not for herself: her heart had a tendril for every object where it could cling, and it would seem that Shylock might have cherished one who would


not thwart a single selfish wish, who could have gladdened many a dark hour by her sweet smiles, and whom God in nature bade him love. Many there are born blind, or deaf, or dumb, many “sent into this breathing world, scarce half made up," and we consider them as human, but we shall never find one, bearing the shape of man, without an heart diffusing living liquid through the frame. So it is with the soul. Like the fabled Centaur, or Satan's daughter,

"Who seemed woman to the waist, and fair,

But ended foul in many a scaly fold.” the poet has here painted an embodied passion, to the understanding of a man, adding the spirit of a fiend.

Much less is this an accurate delineation of the Jew. Israel has ever been a peculiar people, trampled upon, yet never destroyed; scattered, yet never lost; retaining their tenets amid civilization and barbarism; by all despised, and despising all. Like a shivered loadstone, each portion possesses the properties of the mass, and readily re-unites when brought in contact with a fellow part. Yet though the Hebrew acknowledge “sufferance is the badge of all our tribe," he looks with contempt upon every other

The nations of the earth owe their origin to the decay of others which arose long after his attained renown. Europe's proudest titles are but the legacies of savage chieftains, or the gift of mortal monarch. Through a line of kings anointed by the Most High, he traces his ancestry to the friend of God. His language is no barbarian dialect, but for ages changeless, is that angels used when they conversed with men. Human laws are but a transcript of the code engraven for him by the finger of Omniscience. Other creeds have their foundation in folly, their increase in superstition; his is a direct revelation from heaven, teaching man's duties and relations. Other altars smoke to fabled deities, or senseless stocks; his to the Unseen, yet Eternal, to that I AM “who dwelleth not in temples made with hands, through whom, and by whom, and in whom, are all things. Though united to the Christian by a mutual belief, and a common scripture, he still cherishes deadly hatred towards one who would take away that he holds as a birthright, who would place Jew and Gentile under the same condemnation, and offer to all an equally free, and equally rich inheritance.

While the Israelite would slay his child rather than he should become a “Nazarene,” still does he dearly prize the domestic ties. The descendants of Jacob and David forget not their offspring, and weep the loss of those they love bitterly as the aged patriarch, or the monarch minstrel. In these particulars, the seed of Abraham is far better portrayed by “Isaac of York,” than the Jew at

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