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MERCHANT OF VENICE;
IN FIVE ACTS;
BY WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE
AS PERFORMED AT THE
THEATRE ROYAL, COVENT-GARDEN.
PRINTED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE MANAGERS
FROM THE PROMPT BOOK.
BY. MRS. INCHBALD,
PRINTED FOR LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME, AND BROWN,
Novels, plays, and songs, are named by the wellknown commentators on Shakspeare, as the origin of the fable and incidents of this play. But the “ Biographia Dramatica” furnishes the following extract:
“ The story is built on a real fact, which happened in some part of Italy,—with this difference indeed, that the intended cruelty was really on the side of the christian, the jew being the unhappy delinquent, who fell beneath his rigid and barbarous resentment. Popular prejudice, however, vindicates our author in the alteration he has made; and the delightful manner in which he has availed himself of the general character of the jews, the very quintessence of which he has enriched his Shylock with, makes more than amends for his deviating from a matter of fact, which he was by no means obliged to adhere to."
From whatever ground Shakspeare took his materials for this drama, he has most dexterously sorted and cemented them to form one excellent whole.
Probability is, indeed, continually violated in “ The Merchant of Venice;” but so it should ever be in plays, or not at all-one improbable incident only, among a train of natural occurrences, revolts an audience; but where all is alike extravagant, comparison is prevented, and extravagance becomes familiar.
Boldness of design, strength of character, excellence of dialogue, with prepossession in favour of the renowned author of this work, shield every fault from