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and her thoughts being all on her dear Proteus, she entered into
conversation with the innkeeper, or host, as he was called, thinking by
that means to learn some news of Proteus.

The host was greatly pleased that this handsome young gentleman (as he
took her to be), who from his appearance he concluded was of high rank,
spoke so familiarly to him; and being a good-natured man, he was sorry
to see him look so melancholy; and to amuse his young guest, he offered
to take him to hear some fine music, with which, he said, a gentleman
that evening was going to serenade his mistress.

The reason Julia looked so very melancholy was, that she did not well
know what Proteus would think of the imprudent step she had taken; for
she knew he had loved her for her noble maiden pride and dignity of
character, and she feared she should lower herself in his esteem: and
this it was that made her wear a sad and thoughtful countenance.

She gladly accepted the offer of the host to go with him, and hear the
music; for she secretly hoped she might meet Proteus by the way.

But when she came to the palace whither the host conducted her, a very
different effect was produced to what the kind host intended; for
there, to her heart's sorrow, she beheld her lover, the inconstant
Proteus, serenading the lady Silvia with music, and addressing
discourse of love and admiration to her. And Julia overheard Silvia
from a window talk with Proteus, and reproach him for forsaking his own
true lady, and for his ingratitude to his friend Valentine; and then
Silvia left the window, not choosing to listen to his music and his
fine speeches; for she was a faithful lady to her banished Valentine,
and abhorred the ungenerous conduct of his false friend Proteus.

Though Julia was in despair at what she had just witnessed, yet did she
still love the truant Proteus; and hearing that he had lately parted
with a servant, she contrived with the assistance of her host, the
friendly innkeeper, to hire herself to Proteus as a page; and Proteus
knew not she was Julia, and he sent her with letters and presents to
her rival Silvia, and he even sent by her the very ring she gave him as
a parting gift at Verona.

When she went to that lady with the ring, she was most glad to find
that Silvia utterly rejected the suit of Proteus; and Julia, or the
page Sebastian as she was called, entered into conversation with Silvia
about Proteus' first love, the forsaken lady Julia. She putting in (as
one may say) a good word for herself, said she knew Julia; as well she
might, being herself the Julia of whom she spoke; telling how fondly
Julia loved her master Proteus, and how his unkind neglect would grieve
her: and then she with a pretty equivocation went on: 'Julia is about
my height, and of my complexion, the colour of her eyes and hair the
same as mine': and indeed Julia looked a most beautiful youth in her
boy's attire. Silvia was moved to pity this lovely lady, who was so
sadly forsaken by the man she loved; and when Julia offered the ring
which Proteus had sent, refused it, saying: 'The more shame for him
that he sends me that ring; I will not take it; for I have often heard
him say his Julia gave it to him. I love thee, gentle youth, for
pitying her, poor lady! Here is a purse; I give it you for Julia's
sake.' These comfortable words coming from her kind rival's tongue
cheered the drooping heart of the disguised lady.

But to return to the banished Valentine; who scarce knew which way to
bend his course, being unwilling to return home to his father a
disgraced and banished man: as he was wandering over a lonely forest,
not far distant from Milan, where he had left his heart's dear
treasure, the lady Silvia, he was set upon by robbers, who demanded his
money.

Valentine told them that he was a man crossed by adversity, that he was
going into banishment, and that he had no money, the clothes he had on
being all his riches.

The robbers, hearing that he was a distressed man, and being struck
with his noble air and manly behaviour, told him if he would live with
them, and be their chief, or captain, they would put themselves under
his command; but that if he refused to accept their offer, they would
kill him.

Valentine, who cared little what became of himself, said he would
consent to live with them and be their captain, provided they did no
outrage on women or poor passengers.

Thus the noble Valentine became, like Robin Hood, of whom we read in
ballads, a captain of robbers and outlawed banditti; and in this
situation he was found by Silvia, and in this manner it came to pass.

Silvia, to avoid a marriage with Thurio, whom her father insisted upon
her no longer refusing, came at last to the resolution of following
Valentine to Mantua, at which place she had heard her lover had taken
refuge; but in this account she was misinformed, for he still lived in
the forest among the robbers, bearing the name of their captain, but
taking no part in their depredations, and using the authority which
they had imposed upon him in no other way than to compel them to show
compassion to the travellers they robbed.

Silvia contrived to effect her escape from her father's palace in
company with a worthy old gentleman, whose name was Eglamour, whom she
took along with her for protection on the road. She had to pass through
the forest where Valentine and the banditti dwelt; and one of these
robbers seized on Silvia, and would also have taken Eglamour, but he
escaped.

The robber who had taken Silvia, seeing the terror he was in, bid her
not be alarmed, for that he was only going to carry her to a cave where
his captain lived, and that she need not be afraid, for their captain
had an honourable mind, and always showed humanity to women. Silvia
found little comfort in hearing she was going to be carried as a
prisoner before the captain of a lawless banditti. 'O Valentine,' she
cried, 'this I endure for thee!'

But as the robber was conveying her to the cave of his captain, he was
stopped by Proteus, who, still attended by Julia in the disguise of a
page, having heard of the flight of Silvia, had traced her steps to
this forest. Proteus now rescued her from the hands of the robber; but
scarce had she time to thank him for the service he had done her,
before he began to distress her afresh with his love suit; and while he
was rudely pressing her to consent to marry him, and his page (the
forlorn Julia) was standing beside him in great anxiety of mind,
fearing lest the great service which Proteus had just done to Silvia
should win her to show him some favour, they were all strangely
surprised with the sudden appearance of Valentine, who, having heard
his robbers had taken a lady prisoner, came to console and relieve her.

Proteus was courting Silvia, and he was so much ashamed of being caught
by his friend, that he was all at once seized with penitence and
remorse; and he expressed such a lively sorrow for the injuries he had
done to Valentine, that Valentine, whose nature was noble and generous,
even to a romantic degree, not only forgave and restored him to his
former place in his friendship, but in a sudden flight of heroism he
said: 'I freely do forgive you; and all the interest I have in Silvia,
I give it up to you.' Julia, who was standing beside her master as a
page, hearing this strange offer, and fearing Proteus would not be able
with this new-found virtue to refuse Silvia, fainted, and they were all
employed in recovering her: else would Silvia have been offended at
being thus made over to Proteus, though she could scarcely think that
Valentine would long persevere in this overstrained and too generous
act of friendship. When Julia recovered from the fainting kit, she
said: 'I had forgot, my master ordered me to deliver this ring to
Silvia.' Proteus, looking upon the ring, saw that it was the one he
gave to Julia, in return for that which he received from her, and which
he had sent by the supposed page to Silvia. 'How is this?' said he,
'this is Julia's ring: how came you by it, boy?' Julia answered: 'Julia
herself did give it me, and Julia herself hath brought it hither.'

Proteus, now looking earnestly upon her, plainly perceived that the
page Sebastian was no other than the lady Julia herself; and the proof
she had given of her constancy and true love so wrought in him, that
his love for her returned into his heart, and he took again his own
dear lady, and joyfully resigned all pretensions to the lady Silvia to
Valentine, who had so well deserved her.

Proteus and Valentine were expressing their happiness in their
reconciliation, and in the love of their faithful ladies when they were
surprised with the sight of the duke of Milan and Thurio, who came
there in pursuit of Silvia.

Thurio first approached, and attempted to seize Silvia, saying: 'Silvia
is mine.' Upon this Valentine said to him in a very spirited manner:
'Thurio, keep back: if once again you say that Silvia is yours, you
shall embrace your death. Here she stands, take but possession of her
with a torch! I dare you but to breathe upon my love.' Hearing this
threat, Thurio, who was a great coward, drew back, and said he cared
not for her, and that none but a fool would fight for a girl who loved
him not.

The duke, who was a very brave man himself, said now in great anger:
The more base and degenerate in you to take such means for her as you
have done, and leave her on such slight conditions.' Then turning to
Valentine, he said: 'I do applaud your spirit Valentine, and think you
worthy of an empress's love. You shall have Silvia, for you have well
deserved her.' Valentine then with great humility kissed the duke's
hand, and accepted the noble present which he had made him of his
daughter with becoming thankfulness: taking occasion of this joyful
minute to entreat the good-humoured duke to pardon the thieves with
whom he had associated in the forest, assuring him, that when reformed
and restored to society, there would be found among them many good, and
fit for great employment; for the most of them had been banished, like
Valentine, for state offences, rather than for any black crimes they
had been guilty of. To this the ready duke consented: and now nothing
remained but that Proteus, the false friend, was ordained, by way of
penance for his love-prompted faults, to be present at the recital of
the whole story of his loves and falsehoods before the duke; and the
shame of the recital to his awakened conscience was judged sufficient
punishment: which being done, the lovers, all four, returned back to
Milan, and their nuptials were solemnized in the presence of the duke,
with high triumphs and feasting.





THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

Shylock, the Jew, lived at Venice: he was an usurer, who had amassed an
immense fortune by lending money at great interest to Christian
merchants. Shylock, being a hard-hearted man, exacted the payment of
the money he lent with such severity that he was much disliked by all
good men, and particularly by Antonio, a young merchant of Venice; and
Shylock as much hated Antonio, because he used to lend money to people
in distress, and would never take any interest for the money he lent;
therefore there was great enmity between this covetous Jew and the
generous merchant Antonio. Whenever Antonio met Shylock on the Rialto
(or Exchange), he used to reproach him with his usuries and hard
dealings, which the Jew would bear with seeming patience, while he
secretly meditated revenge.

Antonio was the kindest man that lived, the best conditioned, and had
the most unwearied spirit in doing courtesies; indeed, he was one in
whom the ancient Roman honour more appeared than in any that drew
breath in Italy. He was greatly beloved by all his fellow-citizens; but
the friend who was nearest and dearest to his heart was Bassanio, a
noble Venetian, who, having but a small patrimony, had nearly exhausted
his little fortune by living in too expensive a manner for his slender
means, as young men of high rank with small fortunes are too apt to do.
Whenever Bassanio wanted money, Antonio assisted him; and it seemed as
if they had but one heart and one purse between them.

One day Bassanio came to Antonio, and told him that he wished to repair
his fortune by a wealthy marriage with a lady whom he dearly loved,
whose father, that was lately dead, had left her sole heiress to a
large estate; and that in her father's lifetime he used to visit at her
house, when he thought he had observed this lady had sometimes from her
eyes sent speechless messages, that seemed to say he would be no
unwelcome suitor; but not having money to furnish himself with an
appearance befitting the lover of so rich an heiress, he besought
Antonio to add to the many favours he had shown him, by lending him
three thousand ducats.

Antonio had no money by him at that time to lend his friend; but
expecting soon to have some ships come home laden with merchandise, he
said he would go to Shylock, the rich money-lender, and borrow the
money upon the credit of those ships.

Antonio and Bassanio went together to Shylock, and Antonio asked the
Jew to lend him three thousand ducats upon any interest he should
require, to be paid out of the merchandise contained in his ships at
sea. On this, Shylock thought within himself: 'If I can once catch him
on the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him; he hates our
Jewish nation; he lends out money gratis, and among merchants he rails
at me and my well-earned bargains, which he calls interest. Cursed be
my tribe if I forgive him!' Antonio finding he was musing within
himself and did not answer, and being impatient for the money, said:
'Shylock, do you hear? will you lend the money?' To this question the
Jew replied: 'Signior Antonio, on the Rialto many a time and often you
have railed at me about my monies and my usuries, and I have borne it
with a patient shrug, for sufferance is the badge of all our tribe; and
then you have called me unbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my
Jewish garments, and spurned at me with your foot, as if I was a cur.
Well then, it now appears you need my help; and you come to me, and
say, Shylock, lend me monies. Has a dog money? Is it possible a cur
should lend three thousand ducats? Shall I bend low and say, Fair sir,
you spit upon me on Wednesday last, another time you called me dog, and
for these courtesies I am to lend you monies.' Antonio replied: 'I am
as like to call you so again, to spit on you again, and spurn you too.
If you will lend me this money, lend it not to me as to a friend, but
rather lend it to me as to an enemy, that, if I break, you may with
better face exact the penalty.' 'Why, look you,' said Shylock, 'how you
storm! I would be friends with you, and have your love. I will forget
the shames you have put upon me. I will supply your wants, and take no
interest for my money.' This seemingly kind offer greatly surprised
Antonio; and then Shylock, still pretending kindness, and that all he
did was to gain Antonio's love, again said he would lend him the three
thousand ducats, and take no interest for his money; only Antonio
should go with him to a lawyer, and there sign in merry sport a bond,
that if he did not repay the money by a certain day, he would forfeit a
pound of flesh, to be cut off from any part of his body that Shylock
pleased.

'Content,' said Antonio: 'I will sign to this bond, and say there is
much kindness in the Jew.'

Bassanio said Antonio should not sign to such a bond for him; but still
Antonio insisted that he would sign it, for that before the day of
payment came, his ships would return laden with many times the value of
the money.

Shylock, hearing this debate, exclaimed: 'O, father Abraham, what
suspicious people these Christians are! Their own hard dealings teach
them to suspect the thoughts of others. I pray you tell me this,
Bassanio: if he should break this day, what should I gain by the
exaction of the forfeiture? A pound of man's flesh, taken from a man,
is not so estimable, nor profitable neither, as the flesh of mutton or
beef. I say, to buy his favour I offer this friendship: if he will take
it, so; if not, adieu.'

At last, against the advice of Bassanio, who, notwithstanding all the
Jew had said of his kind intentions, did not like his friend should run
the hazard of this shocking penalty for his sake, Antonio signed the
bond, thinking it really was (as the Jew said) merely in sport.

The rich heiress that Bassanio wished to marry lived near Venice, at a
place called Belmont: her name was Portia, and in the graces of her
person and her mind she was nothing inferior to that Portia, of whom we
read, who was Cato's daughter, and the wife of Brutus.

Bassanio being so kindly supplied with money by his friend Antonio, at
the hazard of his life, set out for Belmont with a splendid train, and
attended by a gentleman of the name of Gratiano.

Bassanio proving successful in his suit, Portia in a short time
consented to accept of him for a husband.

Bassanio confessed to Portia that he had no fortune, and that his high
birth and noble ancestry was all that he could boast of; she, who loved
him for his worthy qualities, and had riches enough not to regard
wealth in a husband, answered with a graceful modesty, that she would
wish herself a thousand times more fair, and ten thousand times more
rich, to be more worthy of him; and then the accomplished Portia
prettily dispraised herself, and said she was an unlessoned girl,
unschooled, unpractised, yet not so old but that she could learn, and
that she would commit her gentle spirit to be directed and governed by
him in all things; and she said: 'Myself and what is mine, to you and
yours is now converted. But yesterday, Bassanio, I was the lady of this
fair mansion, queen of myself, and mistress over these servants; and
now this house, these servants, and myself, are yours, my lord; I give
them with this ring'; presenting a ring to Bassanio.

Bassanio was so overpowered with gratitude and wonder at the gracious
manner in which the rich and noble Portia accepted of a man of his
humble fortunes, that he could not express his joy and reverence to the
dear lady who so honoured him, by anything but broken words of love and
thankfulness; and taking the ring, he vowed never to part with it.

Gratiano and Nerissa, Portia's waiting-maid, were in attendance upon
their lord and lady, when Portia so gracefully promised to become the
obedient wife of Bassanio; and Gratiano, wishing Bassanio and the
generous lady joy, desired permission to be married at the same time.

'With all my heart, Gratiano,' said Bassanio, 'if you can get a wife.

Gratiano then said that he loved the lady Portia's fair waiting
gentlewoman Nerissa, and that she had promised to be his wife, if her
lady married Bassanio. Portia asked Nerissa if this was true. Nerissa
replied: 'Madam, it is so, if you approve of it.' Portia willingly
consenting, Bassanio pleasantly said: 'Then our wedding-feast shall be
much honoured by your marriage, Gratiano.'

The happiness of these lovers was sadly crossed at this moment by the
entrance of a messenger, who brought a letter from Antonio containing
fearful tidings. When Bassanio read Antonio's letter, Portia feared it
was to tell him of the death of some dear friend, he looked so pale;
and inquiring what was the news which had so distressed him, he said:
'O sweet Portia, here are a few of the unpleasantest words that ever
blotted paper; gentle lady, when I first imparted my love to you, I
freely told you all the wealth I had ran in my veins; but I should have
told you that I had less than nothing, being in debt.' Bassanio then
told Portia what has been here related, of his borrowing the money of
Antonio, and of Antonio's procuring it of Shylock the Jew, and of the
bond by which Antonio had engaged to forfeit a pound of flesh, if it
was not repaid by a certain day: and then Bassanio read Antonio's
letter: the words of which were: 'Sweet Bassanio, my ships are all
lost, my bond to the Jew is forfeited, and since in paying it is
impossible I should live, I could wish to see you at my death;
notwithstanding use your pleasure; if your love for me do not persuade
you to come, let not my letter.' 'O, my dear love,' said Portia,
'despatch all business, and begone; you shall have gold to pay the
money twenty times over, before this kind friend shall lose a hair by
my Bassanio's fault; and as you are so dearly bought, I will dearly
love you.' Portia then said she would be married to Bassanio before he
set out, to give him a legal right to her money; and that same day they
were married, and Gratiano was also married to Nerissa; and Bassanio
and Gratiano, the instant they were married, set out in great haste for
Venice, where Bassanio found Antonio in prison.

The day of payment being past, the cruel Jew would not accept of the
money which Bassanio offered him, but insisted upon having a pound of
Antonio's flesh. A day was appointed to try this shocking cause before
the duke of Venice, and Bassanio awaited in dreadful suspense the event
of the trial.

When Portia parted with her husband, she spoke cheeringly to him, and
bade him bring his dear friend along with him when he returned; yet she
feared it would go hard with Antonio, and when she was left alone, she
began to think and consider within herself, if she could by any means
be instrumental in saving the life of her dear Bassanio's friend; and
notwithstanding when she wished to honour her Bassanio, she had said to
him with such a meek and wifelike grace, that she would submit in all
things to be governed by his superior wisdom, yet being now called
forth into action by the peril of her honoured husband's friend, she
did nothing doubt her own powers, and by the sole guidance of her own
true and perfect judgment, at once resolved to go herself to Venice,
and speak in Antonio's defence.

Portia had a relation who was a counsellor in the law; to this
gentleman, whose name was Bellario, she wrote, and stating the case to
him, desired his opinion, and that with his advice he would also send
her the dress worn by a counsellor. When the messenger returned, he
brought letters from Bellario of advice how to proceed, and also
everything necessary for her equipment.

Portia dressed herself and her maid Nerissa in men's apparel, and
putting on the robes of a counsellor, she took Nerissa along with her
as her clerk; and setting out immediately, they arrived at Venice on
the very day of the trial. The cause was just going to be heard before
the duke and senators of Venice in the senate-house, when Portia
entered this high court of justice, and presented a letter from
Bellario, in which that learned counsellor wrote to the duke, saying,
he would have come himself to plead for Antonio, but that he was
prevented by sickness, and he requested that the learned young doctor
Balthasar (so he called Portia) might be permitted to plead in his
stead. This the duke granted, much wondering at the youthful appearance
of the stranger, who was prettily disguised by her counsellor's robes
and her large wig.

And now began this important trial. Portia looked around her, and she
knew the merciless Jew; and she saw Bassanio, but he knew her not in
her disguise. He was standing beside Antonio, in an agony of distress
and fear for his friend.

The importance of the arduous task Portia had engaged in gave this
tender lady courage, and she boldly proceeded in the duty she had
undertaken to perform: and first of all she addressed herself to
Shylock; and allowing that he had a right by the Venetian law to have
the forfeit expressed in the bond, she spoke so sweetly of the noble
quality of merry, as would have softened any heart but the unfeeling
Shylock's; saying, that it dropped as the gentle rain from heaven upon
the place beneath; and how mercy was a double blessing, it blessed him
that gave, and him that received it, and how it became monarchs better
than their crowns, being an attribute of God Himself; and that earthly
power came nearest to God's, in proportion as mercy tempered justice;
and she bid Shylock remember that as we all pray for mercy, that same
prayer should teach us to show mercy. Shylock only answered her by
desiring to have the penalty forfeited in the bond. 'Is he not able to
pay the money?' asked Portia. Bassanio then offered the Jew the payment
of the three thousand ducats as many times over as he should desire;
which Shylock refusing, and still insisting upon having a pound of


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Online LibraryCharles LambTales of Shakespeare → online text (page 7 of 23)