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daughter to be married to the son of an emperor of Rome. Aftes some adventures (which are nothing to the present purpose), she is brought before the em. peror ; who says to her, “ Puella, propter amorem filii mei multa adversa sustinuisti. Tamen, si digna fueris ut uxor ejus sis, cito probabo. Et fecit fieri tria vasa. Primum fuit de auro purissimo & lapidibus pretiosis interius ex omni parte, & plenum ossibus mortuorum ; & exterius erat subscriptio : Qui me elegerit, in me inveniet quod meruit. SecuNDUM vas erat de argento puro, & gemmis pretiosis, plenum terra; et exterius erat subscriptio: Qui me elegerit, in me inveniet quod natura appetit. Tertium vas de plumbo, plenum lapidibus pretiosis interius & gemmis nobilissimus; & exterius erat subscriptio talis : Qui me elegerit, in me in. veniet quod deus disposuit. Ista tria ostendit puellæ, & dixit, si unum ex istis elegeris in quo commodum & proficuum est filium meum, habebis. Si vero elegeris quod nec tibi aliis est commodum, ipsum non habebis.” The young lady, after mature consideration of the vessels and their inscriptions, chooses the leaden, which being opened, and found to be full of gold and precious stones, the emperor says: “ Bona puella, bene elegisti-ideo filium meum habebis."
From this abstract of these two stories, I think it appears sufficiently plain that they are the remote ori. ginals of the two incidents in this play. That of the caskets Shakspere might take from the English Gesta Romanorum, as Dr. Farmer has observed; and that of the bond might come to him from the Pecorone ;
but, upon the whole, I am rather inclined to suspect, that he has followed some hitherto unknown novellist, who had saved him the trouble of working up the two stories into one.
Tyrwhitt. Of the incident of the bond, no English original has hitherto been pointed out. I find, however, the fol. lowing in The Orator : handling a hundred severall Diso courses, in form of Declamations : some of the Arguments being drawne from Titus Livius and other ancient Writers, the rest of the author's own invention: Part of which are of Matters happened in our age.- -Written in French by Alexander Silvayn, and Englished by L. P. [i.e. Lazarus Pilot] London, printed by Adam Islip, 1596.(This book is not mentioned by Ames.) See p 401.
“ Of a few, who would for his Debt have a Pound of the
Flesh of a Christian. “ A Jew, unto whom a Christian merchant ought nine hundred crownes, would have summoned him for the same in Turkie : the merchant, because he would not be discredited, promised to pay the said summe within the tearme of three months, and if he paid it not, he was bound to give him a pound of flesh of his bodie. The tearine being past some fif. teene daies, the Jew refused to take his money, and demaunded the pound of flesh: the ordinarie judge of that place appointed him to cut a just pound of the
Christian's flesh, and if he cut either more or lesse, then his own head should be smitten off: the Jew appealed from this sentence, unto the chief judge, saying:
“ Impossible is it to breake the credit of trafficke amongst men without great detriment to the common. wealth : wherefore no man ought to bind himselfe unto such covenants which hee cannot or will not ac. complish, for by that means should no man feare to be deceaved, and credit being maintained, every man might be assured of his owne; but since deceit hath taken place, never wonder if obligations are made more rigorous and strict then they were wont, seeing that although the bonds are made never so strong, yet can no man be very certaine that he shall not be loser. It seemeth at the first sight that it is a thing no less strange than cruel, to bind
an to pay a pound of the flesh of his bodie, for want of money ; surely, in that it is a thing not usuall it appeareth to be somewhat the more admirable, but there are divers others that are more cruell, which because they are'in use seeme nothing terrible at all : as to binde all the bodie unto a most lothsome prison, or unto an in. tollerable slaverie, where not only the whole bodie, but also all the senses and spirits are tormented, the which is commonly practised, not only betwixt those which are either in sect or nation contrary, but also even amongst those that are of one sect and nation ; yea amongst Christians it hath teen seene that the son hath imprisoned the father for monie. Likewise in
the Roman commonwealth, so famous for lawes and armes, it was lawful for debt to imprison, beat, and afflict with torment the free citizens : how manie of them (do you thinke) would have thought themselves happie, if for a small debt they might have been ex. cused with the paiment of a pounde of their flesh ? who ought then to marvile if a Jew requireth so small a thing of a Christian, to discharge him of a good round summe? A man may aske why I would not ra. ther take silver of this man, then his flesh; I might alleage many reasons, for I might say that none but my selfe can tell what the breach of his promise hath cost me, and what I have thereby paied for want of money unto my creditors, of that which I have lost in my credit: for the miserie of those men which esteem their reputation, is so great, that oftentimes they had rather adui any thing secretlie, then to. have their discredit blazed abroad, because they would not be both shamed and harmed. Neverthe, lesse, I doe freely confessę, that I had rather lose a pound of my flesh then my credit should be in any sort cracked : I might also say that I have need of this flesh to cure a friend of mine of a certaine mą. ladie, which is otherwise incurable, or that I would have it to terrifie thereby the Christians for ever abusing the Jews once more hereafter: but I will onlie say, that by his obligation he oweth it me. It is law. full to kill a souldier if he come unto the warres but an houre too late, and also to hang a theefe though he steal never so little : is it then such a great matter
to cause such a one to pay a pound of his flesh, that hath broken his promise manie times, or that putteth another in danger to lose both credit and reputation, yea and it may be life, and al for griefe ? were it not better for him to lose that I demand then his soule, alreadie bound by his faith ? Neither am I to take that which he oweth me, but he is to deliever it to me : and especiallie because no man knoweth better than he where the same may be spared to the least hurt of his person, for I might take it in such place as hee might thereby happen to lose his life: whatte matter were it then if I should cut off his privie members, supposing that the same would altogether weigh a just pound ? or els his head, should I be suffered to cut it off, although it were with the danger of mine own life ? I believe it should not; because there were as little reason therein as there could be in the amends whereunto I should be bound: or els if I would cut off his nose, his lips, his ears, and pull out his eies, to make them altogether a pound, should I be suffered ? surely I think not, because the obligation dooth not specifie that I ought either to choose, cut, or take the same, but that he ought to give me a pound of his Aesh. Of every thing that is sold, he which delivereth the same is to make weight, and lie which receiveth, taketh heed that it be just : seeing then that neither the obligation, custome, nor law doth bind me to cut, or weigh, much lesse unto the abovementioned satisfaction, I refuse it all, and require