Imagini ale paginilor


[ocr errors]

"-audetque viris concurrere virgo." " This wensche stoutlye rencounter durst with

STEEVENS. 470. —towards his feet;] To see if, according to the common opinion, his feet be cloven. JOHNSON.

475. For, in my sense, 'tis happiness to die.] The same thought has already occurred in Antony and Cleopatra:

"_'Tis well thou’rt gone
“ If it be well to live.


-in the practice--] In the snare, by the stratagem.

JOHNSON 505. –in the interim] The first copy has, in the nick. It was, I suppose, thought upon revisal, that nick was too familiar.

JOHNSON. 533. Speak of me as I am;-] The first quarto reads, Speak of them as they are. The present reading, which is the reading of the folio, has more force. JOHNSON, 537 of one, whose hand,

Like the base Indian threw a pearl away

Richer than all his tribe ;-] I have restored Judian, from the elder quarto, as the genuine and more eligible reading. Mr. Pope thinks this was occasioned probably by the word tribe just after: I have many reasons to oppose this opinion. In the first place, the most ignorant Indian, I believe, is so far the reverse of the dung-hill-cock in the fable, as to know the estimation of a pearl beyond that of a barley

so that, in that respect, the thought itself would not be just. Then, if our author had designed



[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

to reflect on the ignorance of the Indian without any farther reproach, he would have called him rude, and not base. Again, I am persuaded, as my friend Mr. Warburton long ago observed, the phrase is not here literal, but metaphorical: and, by his pearl, our author very properly means a fine woman. But Mr. Pope objects farther to the reading Judian, because, to make sense of this, we must pre-suppose some particular story of a Jew alluded to; which is much less obvious: but has Shakspere never done this but in this single instance ? I am satisfied, in his Judian, he is alluding to Herod; who, in a fit of blind jealousy, threw away such a jewel of a wife as Mariamne was to him. What can be more parallel in circumstance, than the conduct of Herod and Othello? Nor was the story so little obvious as Mr. Pope seems to imagine : for, in the year 1613, the lady Elizabeth Carew published a tragedy called MARIAM, the Fair Queen of JEWRY. I shall only add, that our author might write Judian, or Judean (if that should be alleged as any objection), instead of Judæan, with the same licence and change of accent, as, in his Antony and Cleopatra, he shortens the second syllable of Euphrates in pronunciation : which was a liberty likewise taken by Spenser, of whom our author was a studious imitator.

THEOBALD. Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away] The elder quarto reads Judian, and this is certainly right. And by the Judian is meant Herod, whose usage to Mariamne is so apposite to the speaker's case, that a


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]



more proper instance could not be thought of. Besides, he was the subject of a tragedy at that time, as appears from the words in Hamlet, where an ill player is described,

“—to out-herod Herod.” The metaphorical term of a pearl for a fine woman, is s0 common as scarce to need examples.

WARBURTON. I cannot join with the learned criticks in conceiving this passage to refer either to the ignorance of the natives of India, in respect of pearls, or the well-known story

of Herod and Mariamne. The poet might just as fairly be supposed to have alluded to that of Jephthah and his daughter.

Othello, in detestation of what he had done, seems to compare himself to another person who had thrown away a thing of value, with some circumstances of the meanest villany, which the epithet base seems to imply in its general sense, though it is sometimes used only for low or mean. The Indian could not properly be termed base in the former and most common sense, whose fault was ignorance, which brings its own excuse with it; and the crime of Herod surely deserves a more aggravated distinction. For though in every crime, great as well as small, there is a degree of baseness, yet the furiis agitatus amor, such as contributed to that of Herod, seems to ask a stronger word to characterize it; as there was spirit at least in what he did, though the spirit of a fiend, and the epithet base would better suit with petty larceny than royal

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

guilt. Besides, the simile appears to me too apposite almost to be used on the occasion, and is little more than bringing the fact into comparison with itself. Each through jealousy had destroyed an innccent wife, circumstances so parallel, as hardly to admit of that variety which we generally find in one allusion, which is meant to illustrate another, and at the same time to appear as more than a superfluous ornament. Neither do I believe the poet intended to make the present simile coincide with all the circumstances of Othello's situation, but merely with the single act of having basely (as he himself terms it) destroyed that on whichi he ought to have set a greater value. As the pearl may bear a literal as well as a metaphorical sense, I would rather choose to take it in the literal one, and receive Mr. Pope's rejected explanation, pre-supposing some story of a Jew alluded to, which might be well understood at that time, though now perhaps forgoiten, or at least imperfectly remembered. I have read in some book, as ancient as the time of Shak. spere, the following tale ; though, at present, I am unable either to recollect the title of the piece, or the author's name.

A Jew, who had been prisoner for many years in distant parts, brought with him, at his return to Venice, a great number of pearls, which he offered on the 'chance among the merchants, and (one alone excepted) disposed of them to his satisfaction. On this pearl, which was the largest ever shewn at market, hie had fixed an immoderate price, nor could be



[merged small][ocr errors]

persuaded to inake the least abatement. Many of the magnificos, as well as traders, offered him consi. derable sums for it; but he was resolute in his first demand. At last, after repeated and unsuccessful applications to individuals, he assembled the mer. chants of the city, by proclamation, to meet him on the Rialto, where he once more exposed it to sale on the former terms, but to no purpose. After having expatiated, for the last time, on the singular beauty and value of it, he threw it suddenly into the sea be. fore thein all. Though this anecdote may appear inconsistent with the avarice of a Jew, yet it sufficiently agrees with the spirit so remarkable at all times in the scattered remains of that vindictive nation.

Shakspere's seeming aversion to the Jews in general, and his constant desire to expose their avarice and baseness as often as he had an opportunity, may serve to strengthen my supposition ; and as that nation, in

1 his time, and since, has not been famous for crimes daring and conspicuous, but has rather contented itself to thrive by the meaner and more successful arts of baseness, there seems to be a particular propriety in the epithet. When Falstaff is. justifying himself in Henry IV. he adds, “ If what I have said be not true, “ I am a Jew, an Ebrew Jew," i. e. one of the most suspected characters of the time. The liver of a Jew is an ingredient in the cauldron of Macbeth; and the vigilance for gain, which is described in Shylock, may afford us reason to suppose the poet was alluding to a story like that already quoted.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »