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for by "it" is meant the hiring of the surgeon, not the charity. And what must leave this view unquestionable is the conduct of Shylock, a moment after, on mention of the mere name of law. Before the shadow of this higher bond, he recedes, as is familiar, step by step from his "pound of flesh," from his "principal thrice paid," from the bare principal itself, from his whole property and even life, without appearing to imagine any more iniquity in such a law than he admitted in his own quite contrary persecution the moment previous! He is as abjectly resigned as he was insolently resolute-which are the habitual alternatives of ignorance and weakness. But Shakespeare, in this profound scene, not only paints mankind in general, where the infirmities alluded to occur by accident or organization; he moreover reflects more light upon the sanctity of the Hebrew law, than has been lent by all the ponderous exegetists of his nation. This nation itself, from the analogy explained, presents a measure of the same reverence in its attachment to legal forms; whereas the Celts would, every man of them, set up his reason against the law.
The other Jewish obligations, namely, religion and oaths, are brought but little into play by the conditions of the action. The religion of the Hebrews was immersed in their national law; and the law of this procedure was the profane one of Venice. As to the oath-the bond or covenant contracted with one self-it is, agreeably to deduction, appealed to frequently by Shylock. One example is peculiarly significant, and may be sufficient. When Portia, as judge, is highest in grace with the Jewis, on awarding him the pound of flesh, a "second Daniel come to judgment,"-she
takes occasion of the favour to urge him to a compromise. Unable to reply as usual by appealing to the bond, of which the force seemed just bestowed by the discretion of the suppliant; and driven thus from one attachment, he falls back upon this last plea. He answers therefore unctuously, by the exclamation : "An oath, an oath, I have an oath in heaven!" It was in similar predicaments that Hamlet also thought of religion.
4. The test of Manners-by which is understood, as heretofore throughout these pages, not modes of fashion but of feeling-is scarcely traceable in Shylock. His range of sentiment, as of intellect, is too contracted and monotonous. This condition, to the opposite of what might be supposed, made the analysis in general extremely difficult in this character: it is like trying, in Johnson's simile, to carve a head upon a cherry-stone. There is, however, a valid index to the manners of the Jew, and which would equally apply, of course, to all the other characters, if direct action or expression had not rendered it unnecessary. The allusion is
to imagery, which, in nations or individuals, may be regarded as a livery of the character and intellect. Thus, in England and America, the tropes and even comparisons are mostly drawn from navigation and commercial or mechanic life. The usual source in ancient Rome was the military and agricultural. In Judea, it was the pastoral and its chief act of propagation of which accordingly the sole simile of Shylock is an instance. feelings in his allusions. clue to this new aspect.
This personage will also reveal his
not rather accept his principal several-fold than to insist upon the pound of flesh, which could be of no real value to him.
He answers :
What if my house be troubled with a rat,
And I be pleased to give ten thousand ducats
Some, that are mad if they behold a cat ;
And others, when the bag-pipe sings i the nose
Why he cannot abide a gaping pig; etc.
So can 1 give no reason, nor I will not,
More than a lodg'd hate and a certain loathing, etc.
The hate and loathing, of which the object is Anthonio, are as happily descriptive as the impotence to give a reason. But the coarseness and meanness of the imagery was the subject. The dog he had already fancied in the function of lending money. He also compared thieves and pirates to "land rats and water rats"? In fact, the rat, the cat, the dog, are the familiars of the Jew; they are companions of his isolate and indoor mode of life; they are, like him too, predaceous, and objects of persecution. They naturally then occur to him as illustrations in his rhetoric.1 His house is also a like topic, nor does Shakespeare overlook it: for with the Jew, as with the Teuton, his house is his castle. With the former, however, it is rather a cave.
'An English poet, who was reading his manuscript to Dr. Johnson, came upon the phrase: "Shall I sing of rats"? "No"! was the thundered interruption of the critic.
5. The test, in fine, of Selfishness (which such a sentiment may introduce) is so notorious both of Shylock and his nation as to need no comment. It is rather, indeed, exaggerated in
the aspect of acquisitiveness. This by no means is the stock ; it is an off-shoot among several others, such as liberty, destructiveness, pertinacity, revenge. To some of these—whose common source is the complexion termed Personal-the Jew will sacrifice upon occasion even the appetite of avarice, which seems exclusive but because the sole one that his debility can gratify. The very action of the present play is made to turn upon this truth. Shakespeare, or the mythic instinct from which he borrowed this tale too, could never have conceived the purpose of exhibiting a Jew's avarice-any more than the duplicity of a prostitute or politician, a thing already proverbial in the days of Aristotle. These are platitudes of plot, but for
the dawbers of the stage. colouring, the mental costume of the characters. The spring of action, the causation, must be something, on the contrary, that seems at variance with this current reputation in the chief personage. And this quintessence of dramatic interest derives its virtue, not from surprise, but from suggestion of something deeper and unexplored in human nature. For though the object of the drama of antiquity and exteriority might have been properly defined to be, to excite pity and terror, these puerile ends, alone attainable in puerile ages and puerile intellects, must have been deepened, with the modern drama of interiority and explanation, into the purpose of instilling philosophical information. Accordingly, the great apostle
The master uses them but as the
1 See Introduction, s. 2, and chapter 1, at the close.
of this æsthetic revolution makes all his masterpieces turn on the indicated contravention-on the defeat of the "ruling passion" by something deeper in the character, and which unfolds to meditation a new vista in reconciling them.
Thus, in Hamlet, who is the type of a race of muscle, action, violence, the expectation is, that he would of course rush instantly, and without instigation, to the object of his vengeance; an expectation well responded to in making him impatient with the mere statement of the provocation, that he might fly to work, like thought. The surprise is, to see he does not, but falls forthwith into evasion, conjuring dilatory pretext after pretext of the flimsiest kind. And the surprise is wrought up gradually to that peculiar sort of interest which marks this play, by the very flimsiness and eccentricity of the alleged obstacles. For were they things to bar the deed, or fixed at all events in mena or principle, the main interest of the piece would from that moment have been ruined. The common mind must think it knows whatsoever it can name, and the unknown, as has been shewn, is the attraction of the drama. The nameless vagaries of Hamlet perplex and please, then, with the mystery to which they point, by his own direction, as "something in him that passes show." But the philosopher, by his analysis, comes to precipitate them into selfishness; and this in turn is now resolved into the gentilitial character. Then, this character of personality or social antagonism is found at bottom the common principle of the contending motives-of the violence and the vengeance that would impel to the destruction of every creature of human image, this badge of rivalry and intrusion, and of the vaguery and vacillation which restrain