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THE reader will find an epitome of the novel, frorn
which the ftory of this play is supposed to be take en, at the conclufion of the notes. It should however be remembered, that if our poet was at all indebted to the Italian novelists, it must have been through the medium of some old translation, which has hitherto escaped the researches of his most industrious editors.
It appears from a passage 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 shewn at the Bull, reprefenting the greedineffe of worldly Choosers, and the bloody Mindes of Usurers." These plays, says 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 stile is even and easy, with few peculiarities of diction, or anomalies of construction. The comick part raifes laughter, and the serious fixes expectation. The probability of either one or the other story cannot be maintained. The union of two actions in one event is in this drama emi. nently 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.
Duke of Venice.
PORTIA, an Heiress.
Senators of Venice, Officers, Gaoler, Servants, and other
SCENE-Partly at Venice, and partly at Belmont, the
. Seat of Portia.