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READING;

PRINTED Andvold BY SMART AND COWSLADE-

SOLD IN LONDON BT

MtSSRS. PRIDDEN- KICHARDSONS, RIVINCTONS,

AND ROBINSONS.

—-• •*«»-—

1802.

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ADVERTISEMENT.

JL HE same reasons, which induced the Editor to reject the first A6t of King John, determined him to omit a great part of the Fifth Act of the Merchant of Venice. The circumstance ofithe rings is worthy of a tale of Cjiovann I 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 so bold an exprefiion, 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 unessential part of the plot into a piece, which is in every other respect cond ucted with a consummate felicity of art and j udgment.

The Editor cannot flatter himself that the liberty, which lie has taken in this alteration, will escape the censure of some Critics. This liberty has been not only exercised, but justified and applauded in Drtbbn, Tate, Cibber, GarRick,and Colman. If the Editor's attempt were censured only for the inferiority of the execution, he would pay a ready assent to the truth of the ctiticism. But if the principle is admitted in one cafe, and denied in the other,

Non

r

Non eft quod multa loquamur;
Nil iittra eft oleam, nil extra eft in nuce duri :*

In King John, in Henry IV, in Henry VI, and in the present play, it has been his principal object to retain, as far as he thought it consistent with grammatical correctness and moral delicacy, the language ofSHAKEsPBARE. He has seen an alteration of the Merchant of Venice by George, Lord Lansdowne, printed in 1701, in which the Noble Editor appears to have adopted a contrary plan, and to have made even Shy lock, perhaps the most natural character in ShakeSpeare, speak a language totally different from the original. The following passage may be quoted as an instance:

.»« Be tM« the forfeiture*'
"Let me fee, what think you of your nose,
"Of an eye, or of a pound of flesh,
"To be cut off and taken from what part
"Of your body I shall think fit to name.
"Thou art too portly, Christian!
*' Too much pamper'd.—What say you then
•• To such a merry bond? . ....

The propriety ofone slight omission 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,

* It it remarkable that some'Critics expressed their disapprobation at the omissions in the character of FaIJiaff, while others thought that it might have been still more abbreviated. And the very same, who condemned the alterationtof Shakisfiari, in King John and Henry IV, had passed an unqualified encomium on Henry VI, in which 1 new scene, and several new speeches wert introduced.

ences, for which Shakespeare wrote, had been familiarized, during the struggles of religious opinions, to those threats of the infliction of temporal punisliments. 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 Launcclot, If the Editor can mow 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.

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