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them through dread of danger. This profound balancing of the character is far less happy in Richard III. This prince is brave to brutality, and his hypocrisy is too transparent. Accordingly the sole interest is the eloquence of the poet, the historical importance or prestige of the action, and the monstrosity of the character, which strikes the vulgar like a wild beast. He is too bad for even the Norman variety of the Teutons.
In Macbeth, the representative of a race of sociability, and thus of loyalty, of humanity, refinement, and reason, the presumption was against murder, and more especially of his king. The play of the action lies, accordingly, in his overcoming these known dispositions, by something else in the same character of which the nature was mysterious. And hence, the witches and their promptings to symbolise this mystic nature, now resolved into another phase of the same principle of sociability.
So in Shylock, too, the piece is made to turn, not on the avarice, but, to the contrary, on the seeming disinterestedness of a Jew ; upon his willingness to sacrifice ten thousand ducats for a scrap of flesh ; on the suspension of the ruling passion by a passion more mysterious.
And here occurs an illustration of the principle propounded. The part of Shylock, in fact, loses in real dramatic interest, in proportion as the counter agency is made familiar by the name revenge. The poet accordingly, and indeed before him the popular story, was led to darken it, by limitation to the Christians, thus connecting it with religious mystery. The truth is, however, that the Christians were not more objects of Jewish hatred than the Egyptians, Babylonians, and all their other earlier neighbours. It is
only that the Christians better knew it towards themselves ; and, it might perhaps be added, better earned it also. The sentiment was general towards all mankind outside Judea, not excepting the conterminous communities of the same race : for the races now named warrior are the only ones of history that push their personality into hostilities towards their brethren. This Hebrew hate it was that Tacitus ascribed to the early Christians, mistaking them for being a Jewish sect or emanation, and which he designated so profoundly as an odium GENERIS HUMANI. Now, it is in this its natural and philosophic amplitude, that the affection should be dramatic, according to the doctrine ; it was so shewn in Hamlet, by resolving it into his race. But this advantage of vague mystery was countervailed, in the case of Shylock, by unacquaintance with the fact in a Christian public beyond themselves ; for the condition of the audience must be a datum with the dramatist. Still, however, the great Shakespeare tends, in consonance with the principle, to push the animus of the Jew beyond the Christians, towards its source, in the fierce selfishness explained above to be the mother of revenge.
Thus, after specifying his hatred of Anthonio as Christian, Shylock adds :
But more for that, in low simplicity,
The rate of usance HERE WITH us in Venice. Here is the kernel of the Hebrew grievance. How exquisite the pleonastic particularity of the last line, as expressive of the area of the usurer's concern! And when Anthonio, rebuking this, interrogates him captiously :
Do all men kill the thing they do not love?
The reply is the sublime of the Israelitic virulence :
Hates any man the thing he would not kill ?
The sentiment is also well described in the passage cited, where Shylock says he can give no reason for his antipathy to Anthonio other than a “lodg’d hatred” and a certain loathing.” The reason, which is a repetition of the fact, is no less characteristic of the Jew than of the woman. But the language paints the trait back to its source in organization. The comprehensiveness of the virulence is pointedly suggested in the confidential
with his fellowtribesman Tubal, where it spreads into a mania of indiscriminate malevolence. “No ill-luck stirring, Tubal ; none, but what lights on my shoulders.” And then this personage proceeds to solace him with the misfortunes of Anthoniointerlarding them alternately with references to the daughter, and thus exhibiting, in the abruptness of Shylock's passage between joy and grief, the liveliest picture of the joint puerility and malice of the character.
In fine, the trait that wraps the nation in the selfishness of each member is not omitted by the poet, in the portraiture of Shylock.
« The curse never fell upon our nation until now," exclaims the Jew, when the daughter has absconded with the jewels and ducats. And he proceeds to add : “I never felt it until now." It is the key supplied by Shakespeare to the Hebrew nationality ; and it would equally be found to open other boastful patriotisms.
It must be needless to add a syllable in more explicit proof of the identity of Shylock with the entire Hebrew family. It would but tend to incur idly the suspicion of partaking in the vulgar vituperation of an unfortunate and useful race.
It is pretended that Shakespeare had a strong aversion to the Jews. The thing was natural in one of his large sympathies as well as intellect. The injustice in him and others was to class them with the higher races, and then to charge them with their shortcomings from this hypothetical criterion. It is, however, but an extreme case of an illusion as yet general, and which the tenor of these pages may press, on systematic thinkers.
1. It has been seen from the last chapter, that if profundity of portraiture implied the special sympathy which emanates from race ; if it were true that, as Pope sings,
He best can paint it, who has felt it most; then, the title of the Jews to a brotherhood with Shakespeare would be, so far, fully equal to the Celtic or Teutonic. The conclusion therefore is, that the poet was indebted to such organic assistance in none of the cases, and that the singular equality of his penetration and power in all can be ascribed but to the comprehensiveness or universality of his genius.
But then, this universality could, by the law of progression, have occurred but in the highest of the races concerned. This would be the case though the series were simple ; for even then, whereas each of the secondary terms would effectually include and might interpret all below it, the superior or succeeding must be above its comprehension, and all the stages be conceivable alone by the supreme race. But the series is, moreover, not direct, simple; it is complex. It