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THE reader will find an epitome of the novel, from which the ftory of this play is supposed to be tak en, at the conclufion of the notes. It should however be remembered, that if our poet was at all indebted to the Italian novelifts, it must have been through the medium of fome old tranflation, which has hitherto escaped the researches of his most industrious editors.
It appears from a paffage in Stephen Goffon's School of Abufe, &c. 1579, that a play, comprehending the distinct plots of this, had been exhibited before Shakespeare's, viz. “The Jew fhewn at the Bull, reprefenting the greedineffe of worldly Choofers, and the bloody Mindes of Ufurers." Thefe plays, fays Goffon, (for he mentions others with it) are goode and sweete playes, &c.
The Jew of Malta by Marlow neither was performed nor printed till sometime after the author's death, which happened in 1593, nor do I know of any other play with the same title. It is therefore not improbable that Shakespeare new-wrote his piece, on the model already mentioned, and that the elder performance being inferior, was permitted to drop filently into oblivion. STEEVENS.
Of The Merchant of Venice the ftile is even and easy, with few peculiarities of diction, or anomalies of conftruction. The comick part raifes laughter, and the ferious fixes expectation. The probability of either one or the other ftory cannot be maintained. The union of two actions in one event is in this drama eminently happy. Dryden was much pleased with his own address in connecting the two plots of his Spanish Friar, which yet, I believe, the critick will find excelled by this play. JOHNSON.
LORENZO, in love with Jelica.
SHYLOCK, a few.
TUBAL, a few.
LAUNCELOT, a Clown, Servant to the Jew.
GOBBO, Father to Launcelot.
LEONARDO, Servant to Bassanio.
PORTIA, an Heiress.
NERISSA, Waiting-Maid to Portia.
JESSICA, Daughter to Shylock.
Senators of Venice, Officers, Gaoler, Servants, and other Attendants.
SCENE-Partly at Venice, and partly at Belmont, the Seat of Portia.