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cisely as your practical men of business and even science would avow sneeringly, that they knew nothing of "abstractions," but dealt in "facts." And when Anthonio presses Shylock with a vehement retort, he seems unconscious of what was said, and rejoins only in a manner that shews his mind to have run meanwhile upon the breeding of the money :
Three thousand ducats-'tis a good round sum.
Three months from twelve; then let me see the rate.
This arduous proposition of subtraction is admirable. the beauties of the portraiture are infinite and indefinible.
Another instance may be cited of his aversion, if not unconsciousness, to even the simplest mode of reasoning, and his retreat from it to the fact. When he mentions, in aggravation of the rebelling of the daughter, that she is his "flesh and blood," and the objection is made: "Out upon it, old carrion, rebels it at these years?" instead of minding the argument, he but repeats the physical fact, or what to him is quite the same, the Biblical metaphor: "I say my daughter is my flesh and blood." To the same mental imbecility, and not to prudent disregard, should be also put his answer to the eloquent invective pronounced in court against his obduracy in insisting on the bond
Till thou canst rail the seal from off my bond,
Thou but offend'st thy lungs to talk so loud.
Thus the loudness is all that strikes him as appealing to the senses, and he fears but for the likewise physical constituent of the bond, the seal. To all else he is as a savage who is lectured by a sizer missionary, on the subject of the indivisible unity of the Trinity. But the most exquisite example
of this intellectual concreteness is furnished by the poet in Shylock's use of a single word. The Hebrew never names his favourite and most familiar object by the singular, as common, but by the plural term, monies. This is probably supposed to mark the sentiment of a miser, who tends to magnify by multiplying his treasure, even verbally. But the effort was the contrary, at all events with the Jews, who had learned from the hypocritical depredations of the Christians, to dissemble almost instinctively the measure of their wealth.
In fact, the poet does not, accordingly, omit this trait in Shylock; who, when aroused from his rumination on the way to entrap Anthonio, pretends that he was casting up in memory his "store," and that he finds the poor reserve to be unequal to the sum required, but that the deficit can be supplied him by a Hebrew of his tribe. It therefore was not ostentation that suggested the term "monies." It was the mental imbecility that could not rise to the abstract notion—or rather to the mere unity of physical collectivity-but clung and crawled among the multitude of individual coins, with which, besides, the Jew, from counting them, would be familiar as with his fingers. Savages, in speaking English, can scarce be ever brought to employ the form men, but continue to say mans. So children also give their first treasure the distributive name of "pennies," and come but later to the term pence, though it be singular in merely form.
The child-like argueings of Shylock are likewise operated in this manner. He cannot move a single step, it has been seen, on even analogy, because the terms are abstractions, though mere relations between two objects. But these
objects themselves he can proceed upon by bare comparison, at least by aid of that repetition which is a mental vermiculation. The following is a fair example of this logical forte of his, and also of the duly Biblical construction of his style. He is talking to Anthonio, the borrower or rather surety, whom, upon seeing him in his power, he takes occasion to remind, malignantly, of the contumelies and other prejudices formerly received from him:
Shy.-Go to, then, you come to me and you say,
some sort an
And again to the same purpose of splenetic recrimination : "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands? Hath not a Jew organs, dimensions, senses," etc. etc. "Is he not fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons," etc. etc. as a Christian?" Thus he is able to crawl materially from one to one of these minute objects, through their physical amassment in a single body and this his own. His "pound of flesh," however physical, yet being in abstraction, he cannot contemplate without referring to the physical origin and operation: "A pound of man's flesh, taken from a man." The same impotence pursues him in relation to place and time : "Go with me to the notary, seal me there," etc. "And when you hear the drum, clamber not you up to the casements then." To have draggled his sublime intellect through the mire of these minutenesses is, without paradox or pun, the highest flight of Shakespeare's genius.
To shew that he does not at all exaggerate the Jewish style, a few verses may at random be cited from the Bible. The good book opens at the narrative respecting Noah's ark:
1. And he sent forth a raven which went to and fro until the waters were dried up from off the earth.
2. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the FACE of the ground.
3. But the dove found no rest for the SOLE of her foot, and she
returned unto him INTO THE ARK, for the waters were on the FACE of the whole earth; then he put forth his hand and took her and pulled her in UNTO HIM INTO THE ARK.
This of course was the style of writing best befitting a book designed for the self-instruction of the rude and childish multitude. It is even to be noted that the qualities most lauded in our English composition-its simplicity and solidity-appear to have been formed on this venerated model, if it be not a concurrence from analogy of race.1
1 Take for example a book so recent as Robinson Crusoe. The language is as simple, the figures are as few and physical, the movement of the style is as reptative and terre à terre as those of either Shylock or Genesis. And yet this is the most popular work in English literature, and, indeed, the most national that ever perhaps was penned. It is a singular embodiment of all the main features that have been signalized in the Teutons of the English branch. With a subject essentially and professedly philosophical, there is not a ray of mind above sporadic reflection. Conscience is constantly and duely its handmaid. Both are here in their glory, as occupied with self alone. And accordingly, the gusto with which Robinson revels in the use of the word meum, unencumbered by the tuum, would repay a perusal to the readers of the foregoing pages. It is my cave-my castle-my crop-my goatsmy bread, etc., etc.; as if he was surrounded by encroaching possessors. There is not, at an average, perhaps a line of the entire work that does not offer the reiteration of mine, or I, or me. Hence a large part of the
3. The Conscience or moral principle of Shylock and the Jew in general was found too weak for any influence unless concentrated by a symbol. This symbol is a contract importing personal consent. The moral life of the Hebrew is composed of three such bonds: A bond or covenant with Jehovah, which is the rule of his religion; a bond or compact with his fellow-citizens, which is the law or special contracts; a bond or contract with himself, which is a vow or oath. Whatsoever can be brought within the letter of these authorities, he bows to without demur, for he imagines no alternatives. To all beside them, he is insensible by physical necessity, they being successively the sole props of his slender understanding. Hence the desperate tenacity of Shylock to his bond, and which is wrongly ascribed to avarice or vengeance alone. There is no less of imbecility than passion in his obstinacy. To his mind, there is no reason outside the bond why he should relax it. It is but natural, that, when advised to have a surgeon at his charge to stop the wound he hopes to make from bleeding to the victim's death, he coldly answers: "Is it so nominated in the bond"? "No, but you do it for charity," continues the Judge. With apparent insensibility to the bearing of the suggestion, and with that feeble pertinaciousness to the fact, so much exemplified, he answers: "I cannot find it; 't is not in the bond "; national relish for this book. Indeed, this islander is a type of the English nation and history. Nor need one now except his mode of planning business ex re nata. Thus for instance, while taking care to bind the savages by a contract, he sends it to them to be signed, as if they had the skill or implements. Also, when he builds the canoe a furlong inland, without thinking, till his labour is expended, how to launch it. For such as this might perhaps happen even at this day in London.