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The same reasons, which induced the Editor to reject the first Act of King John, determined him to omit a great part of the Fifth Act of the Merchant of Venice. The circumstance of the rings is worthy of a tale of GIOVANNI FIORENTINO, or of Boccaccio; but is inconsistent with that purity of style and sentiment, which does so much credit to the present taste of the British Nation. It is also productive of an anti-climax after the interest excited by the Senate scene; a scene, which is not exceeded in any part of the writings of the great Poet. Were it permitted to hazard fo bold an expresion, it might almost be said that he had exhausted his genius in the wonderful effect of that great catastrophe. But the probable cause of this defect is his undeviating adherence to the original story, which forms the ground word of his plays. The taste of the age, in which he lived, might induce him to add this unessen, tial part of the plot into a piece, which is in every other respect conducted with a consummate felicity of art and judgment.
The Editor cannot flatter himself that the liberty, which he has taken in this alteration, will escape the censure of some Critics. This liberty has been not only exercised, but jufti. fied and applauded in DRYDEN, Tate, CIBBER, GAR. RICK, and COLMAN. If the Editor's attempt were censured only for the inferiority of the execution, he would pay a ready aflent to the truth of the criticism. But if the principle is admitted in one case, and denied in the other,
Non eft quod multa loquamur ; Nil intra est oleam, nil extra eft in nuce duri :* In King Fobn, in Henry IV, in Henry VI, and in the prefent play, it has been his principal object to retain, as far as
he thought it confiitent with grammatical correctness and mo· tal delicacy, the language of SHAKESPEARB. He has seen
an alteration of the Merchant of Venice by George, Lord
• Let me fee, what think you of your nose,
“ To be cut off and taken from what part:
« Thou art too portly, Christian !
The propriety of onę flight omiffion no Critic, it is hoped, will refuse to acknowledge. Feeling that the principles of Christianity ought to be inculcated by the arguments of love and charity, addressed to the heart, the Editor could not retain that more than Mahometan violence, which obliges the bewildered Jew to renounce his religious tenets. The audi. ences, for which SHAKESPEARE wrote, had been familiarized, during the struggles of religious opinions, to those threats of the infli&tion of temporal punithments. But the liberality of the present times revolts at the idea of arming the followers of the Prince of Peace with the weapons of persecution. Those, who can hear only with awful reverence the mention of the name and attributes of the Deity, will not be displeased at the alteration of some passages, in which that name and those attributes are introduced in a familiar manner, particularly in the mouth of Launcelot. If the Editor can show the possibility of making a new progress in the purification of the Stage, he will have cause to rejoice in the reflection that his labor has not been employed in vain.
* It is remarkable that some Critics expressed their disapprobation : at the omissions in the character of Falstaff, while others thought that it might have been fill more abbreviated. And the very fame, who condemned the alterations of SHAKESPEARE, in King John and Henry IV, had passed an unqualified cacomiuin on Heary VI, in which a new fecne, and several acw speeches were introduced.