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I chanced on this letter.

Ant. I am dumb.
Bass. Were you the doctor, and I knew you not ?
Gra. Were you the clerk, that is to make me cuckold ?

Ner. Ay; but the clerk that never means to do it,
Unless he live until he be a man.

Bass. Sweet doctor, you shall be my bedfellow; When I am absent, then lie with my wife.

Ant. Sweet lady, you have given me life and living ;
For here I read for certain, that my ships
Are safely come to road.

Por. How now, Lorenzo ?
My clerk hath some good comforts too for you.

Ner. Ay, and I'll give them him without a fee.-
There do I give to you, and Jessica,
From the rich Jew, a special deed of gift,
After his death, of all he dies possess'd of.

Lor. Fair ladies, you drop manna in the way
Of starved people.

Por. It is almost morning,
And yet, I am sure, you are not satisfied
Of these events at full : Let us go in ;
And charge us there upon intergatories,
And we will answer all things faithfully.

Gra. Let it be so: The first intergatory
That

my

Nerissa shall be sworn on, is, Whether till the next night she had rather stay; Or go to bed now, being two hours to day : But were the day come, I should wish it dark, That I were couching with the doctor's clerk. Well, while I live, I'll fear no other thing So sore, as keeping safe Nerissa's ring. [Exeunt.

(9) It has been lately discovered, that this fable is taken from a story in the Pecorone of Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, a novelist who wrote in 1378. The story has been published in English, and I have epitomised the translation. The trado lator is of opinion, that the choice of the caskets is borrowed from a tale of Boccace, though I believe that Shakespeare must have had some other novel in view. JOHNSON.

FABLE.

THERE lived at Florence a merchant, whose name was Bindo. He was rich, and had three sons. Being near his end, he called for the two eldest, and left them heirs to the youngest be left nothing. This youngest, whose name was Giannetto, went to his father and said, What has my father done? The father replied, Dear Giannetto, there is none to whom I wish better than to you. Go to Venice to your godfather, whose name is Ansaldo; he has no child, and has wrote to me often to send you thither to him. He is the richest merchant amongst the Christians: if you behave well, you will certainly be a rich man. The son answered, I am ready to do whatever my dear father shall command: upon which he gave him his benediction, and in a few days died.

Giannetto went to Ansaldo, and presented the letter given by the father before his death. Ansaldo reading the letter, cried out, My dearest godson is welcome to my arms. He then asked news of his father. Giannetto replied, He is dead. I am much grieved, replied Ansaldo, to hear of the death of Bindo; but the joy I feel, in seeing you, mitigates my sorrow. He conducted him to his house, and gave orders to his servants, that Giannetto should be obeyed, and served with more attention than had been paid to himself. He then delivered him the keys of his ready money; and told him, Son, spend this money, keep a table, and make yourself known: remember, that the more you gain the good will of every body, the more you will be dear to me.

Giannetto now began to give entertainments. He was more obedient and courte ous to Ansaldo, than if he had been an hundred times his father. Every body in Venice was fond of him. Ansaldo could think of nothing but him; so much was he pleased with his good manners and behaviour.

It happened, that two of his most intimate acquaintance designed to go with two ships to Alexandria, and told Giannetto, he would do well to take a voyage and see the world. I would go willingly, said he, if my father Ansaldo would give leave. His companions go to Ansaldo, and beg his permission for Giannetto to go in the spring with them to Alexandria; and desire him to provide him a ship. Ansaldo immediately procured a very fine ship, loaded it with merchandize, adorned it with streamers, and furnished it with arms; and, as soon as it was ready, he gave orders to the captain and sailors to do every thing that Giannetto commanded. It happened one morning early, that Giannetto saw a gulph, with a fine port, and asked the captain how the port was called? He replied, That place belongs to a widow lady, who has ruined many gentlemen. In what manner, said Giannetto. He answered, This lady is a fine and beautiful woman, and has made a law, that whoever arrives here is obliged to go to bed with her, and if he can have the enjoyment of her, he must take her for his wife, and be lord of all the country; but if he cannot enjoy her, he loses every thing he has brought with him. Giannetto, after a little reflection, tells the captain to get into the port. He was obeyed; and in an instant they slide into port so easily that the other ships perceived nothing.

The lady was soon informed of it, and sent for Giannetto, who waited on her im mediately. She, taking him by the hand, asked him who he was? whence he came? and if he knew the custom of the country? He answered, That the knowledge of that custom was his only reason for coming. The lady paid him great honours, and sent for barons, counts, and knights in great numbers, who were her subjects, to keep Giannetto company. These nobles were highly delighted with the good breeding and manners of Giannetto; and all would have rejoiced to have had him for their lord.

The night being come, the lady said, it seems to be time to go to bed. Giannetto told the lady, he was entirely devoted to her service; and immediately two damsels enter with wine and sweet-meats. The lady entreats him to taste the wine; he takes the sweet-meats, and drinks some of the wine, which was prepared with ingredients to cause sleep. He then goes into the bed, where he instantly falls asleep, and never wakes till late in the morning; but the lady rose with the sun, and gave orders to unload the vessel, which she found full of rich merchandize. After nine o'clock, the women servants go to the bed-side, order Giannetto to rise and begone, for he had lost the ship. The lady gave him a horse and money, and he leaves the place very melancholy, and goes to Venice. When he arrives he dares not return home for shame; but at night goes to the house of a friend, who is surprised to see him, and

inquires of him the cause of his return. He answers, his ship had struck on a rock in the night, and was broke in pieces.

This friend, going one day to make a visit to Ansaldo, found him very disconso late. I fear, says Ansaldo, so much, that this son of mine is dead, that I have no rest. His friend told him that he had been shipwrecked, and had lost his all, but that he himself was safe. Ansaldo instantly gets up, and runs to find him. My dear son, says he, you need not fear my displeasure; it is a common accident; trouble yourself no further. He takes him home, all the way telling him to be cheerful and easy.

The news was soon known all over Venice, and every one was concerned for Giannetto. Some time after, his companions arriving from Alexandria very rich, demanded what was become of their friend, and having heard the story, ran to see him, and rejoiced with him for his safety; telling him, that next spring he might gain as much as he lost the last. But Giannetto had no other thoughts than of his return to the lady; and was resolved to marry her or die. Ansaldo told him frequently not to be cast down. Giannetto said, he should never be happy, till he was, at liberty to make another voyage. Ansaldo provided another ship of more value than the first. He again entered the port of Belmont, and the lady looking on the port from her bed-chamber, and seeing the ship, asked her maid, if she knew the streamers? the maid said, it was the ship of the young man who arrived the last year. You are in the right, answered the lady; he must surely have a great regard for me, for never any one came a second time: the maid said, she had never seen a more agreeable man. He went to the castle, and presented himself to the lady; who, as soon as she saw him, embraced him, and the day was passed in joy and revels. Bed-time being come, the lady entreated him to go to rest: when they were seated in the chamber, the two damsels enter with wine and sweet-meats; and having eat and drank them, they go to bed, and immediately Giannetto falls asleep: the lady undressed, and lay down by his side; but he waked not the whole night. In the morning the lady rises, and gives orders to strip the ship. He has a horse and money given to him, and away he goes, and never stops till he gets to Venice; and at night goes to the same friend, who with astonishment asked him, what was the matter? I am undone, says Giannetto. His friend answered, You are the cause of the ruin of Ansaldo, and your shame ought to be greater than the loss you have suffered. Giannetto lived privately many days. At last, he took a resolution of seeing Ansaldo, who rose from his chair, and running to embrace him, told him he was welcome: Giannetto with tears returned his embraces. Ansaldo heard his tale: do not grieve, my dear son, says he, we have still enough: the sea enriches some men, others it ruins.

Poor Giannetto's head was day and night full of the thoughts of his bad success. When Ansaldo inquired what was the matter, he confessed, he never could be contented, till he was in a condition to regain all that he lost. When Ansaldo found him resolved, he began to sell every thing he had, to furnish this other fine ship with merchandize: but, as he wanted still ten thousand ducats, he applied himself to a Jew at Mestri, and borrowed them on condition, that if they were not paid on the feast of St. John in the next month of June, that the Jew might take a pound of flesh from any part of his body he pleased, Ansaldo agreed, and the Jew had an obligation drawn, and witnessed with all the form and ceremony necessary; and then counted the ten thousand ducats of gold, with which Ansaldo bought what was still wanting for the vessel. This last ship was finer and better freighted than the other two, and his companions made ready for the voyage, with a design that whatever they gained should be for their friend. When it was time to depart, Ansaldo told Giannetto, that since he well knew of the obligation to the Jew, he entreated, that if any misfortune happened, he would return to Venice, that he might see him before he died; and then he could leave the world with satisfaction. Giannetto promised to do every thing that he conceived might give him pleasure. Ansaldo gave him his blessing, they took their leave, and the ships set out.

Giannetto had nothing in his head but to steal into Belmont; and he prevailed with one of the sailors in the night to sail the vessel into the port. It was told the lady, that Giannetto was arrived in port. She saw from the window the vessel, and immediately sent for him.

Gianetto goes to the castle, the day is spent in joy and feasting: and to honour him, a tournament is ordered, and many barons and knights tilted that day. Gian netto did wonders, so well did he understand the lance, and was so graceful a figure on horseback: he pleased so much, that all were desirous to have him for their lord.

The lady, when it was the usual time, catching him by the hand, begged him to take his rest. When he passed the door of the chamber, one of the damsels in a whisper said to him, Make a pretence to drink the liquor, but touch not one drop.

The lady said, I know you must be thirsty, I must have you drink before you go to bed immediately two damsels entered the room, and presented the wine. Who can refuse wine from such beautiful hands? cries Giannetto: at which the lady smiled. Giannetto takes the cup, and making as if he drank, pours the wine into his bosom. The lady, thinking he had drank, says aside to herself with great joy, You must go, young man, and bring another ship, for this is condemned. Giannetto went to bed, and began to snore as if he slept soundly. The lady perceiving this, laid herself down by his side. Giannetto loses no time, but turning to the lady, embraces her, saying, now am I in possession of my utmost wishes. When Giannetto came out of his chamber, he was knighted, and placed in the chair of state, had the sceptre put into his hand, and was proclaimed sovereign of the country with great pomp and splendour; and when the lords and ladies were come to the castle, he married the lady in great ceremony.

Giannetto governed excellently, and caused justice to be administered impar tially. He continued some time in this happy state, and never entertained a thought of poor Ansaldo, who had given his bond to the Jew for ten thousand ducats. But one day, as he stood at the window of the palace with his bride, he saw a number of people pass along the piazza, with lighted torches in their hands. What is the meaning of this? says he. The lady answered, they are artificers, going to make their offerings at the church of St. John, this day being his festival. Giannetto instantly recollected Ansaldo, gave a great sigh, and turned pale. His lady inquired the cause of his sudden change. He said, he felt nothing. She continued to press with great earnestness, till he was obliged to confess the cause of his uneasiness, that Ansaldo was engaged for the money, that the term was expired; and the grief he was in was, lest his father should lose nis life for him: that if the ten thousand ducats were not paid that day, he must lose a pound of his flesh. The lady told him to mount on horseback, and go by land the nearest way, to take some attendants, and an hundred thousand ducats, and not to stop till he arrived at Venice; and if he was not dead, to endeavour to bring Ansaldo to her. Giannetto takes horse with twenty attendants, and makes the best of his way to Venice.

The time being expired, the Jew had seized Ansaldo, and insisted on having a pound of his flesh. He entreated him only to wait some days, that if his dear Giannetto arrived, he might have the pleasure of embracing him: the Jew replied, he was willing to wait; but, says he, I will cut off the pound of flesh, according to the words of the obligation. Ansaldo answered, that he was content. Several merchants would have jointly paid the money; the Jew would not hearken to the proposal, but insisted that he might have the satisfaction of saying, that he had put to death the greatest of the christian merchants. Giannetto making all possible haste to Venice, his lady soon followed him in a lawyer's habit, with two servants attending her. Giannetto, when he came to Venice, goes to the Jew, and (after embracing Ansaldo) tells him he is ready to pay the money, and as much more as he should demand. The Jew said, he would take no money, since it was not paid at the time due; but that he would have the pound of flesh. Every one blamed the Jew; but as Venice was a place where justice was strictly administered, and the Jew had his pretensions grounded on public and received forms, their only resource was entreaty; and when the merchants of Venice applied to him, he was inflexible. Giannetto offered him twenty thousand, then thirty thousand, afterwards forty, fifty, and at last an hundred thousand ducats. The Jew told him, if he would give as much gold as Venice was worth, he would not accept it; and, says he, you know little of me, if you think I will desist from my demand.

The lady now arrives at Venice in her lawyer's dress; and alighting at an inn, the landlord asks of one of the servants, who his master was? The servant answered, that he was a young lawyer who had finished his studies at Bologna. The landlord upon this shows his guest great civility: and when he attended at dinner the lawyer inquiring how justice was administered in that city, he answered, justice in this place is too severe, and related the case of Ansaldo. Says the lawyer, this question may be easily answered. If you can answer it, says the landlord, and save this worthy man from death, you will get the love and esteem of all the best men of this city. The lawyer caused a proclamation to be made, that whoever had any law matters to determine, they should have recourse to him: so it was told to Giannetto, that a famous lawyer was come from Bologna, who could decide all cases in law. Giannetto proposed to the Jew to apply to this lawyer. With all my heart, says the Jew; but let who will come, I will stick to my bond. They came to this judge, and saluted him. Giannetto did not remember him: for he had disguised his face with the juice of certain herbs. Giannetto, and the Jew, each told the merits of the cause to the judge; who, when he had taken the bond

and read it, said to the Jew, I must have you take the hundred thousand ducats, and release this honest man, who will always have a grateful sense of the favour done him. The Jew replied, I will do no such thing. The judge answered, it will be better for you. The Jew was positive to yield nothing. Upon this they go to the tribunal appointed for such judgments: and our judge says to the Jew, Do you cut a pound of this man's flesh where you choose. The Jew ordered him to be stripped naked; and takes in his hand a razor, which had been made on purpose. Giannetto seeing this, turning to the judge, This, says he, is not the favour I asked of you. Be quiet, says he, the pound of flesh is not yet cut off. As soon as the Jew was going to begin, Take care what you do, says the judge, if you take more or less than a pound, I will order your head to be struck off: and beside, if you shed one drop of blood, you shall be put to death. Your paper makes no mention of the shedding of blood; but says expressly, that you may take a pound of flesh, neither more nor less. He immediately sent for the executioner to bring the block and axe; and now, says he, if I see one drop of blood, off goes your head. At length the Jew, after much wrangling, told him, Give me the hundred thousand ducats, and I am content. No, says the judge, cut off your pound of flesh, according to your bord: why did not you take the money when it was offered? The Jew came down to ninety, and then to eighty thousand but the judge was stili resolute. Giannetto told the judge to give what he required, that Ansaldo might have his liberty: but he replied, let me manage him. Then the Jew would have taken fifty thousand: he said, I will not give you a penny. Give me at least, said the Jew, my own ten thousand ducats, and a curse confound you all. The judge replies, I will give you nothing: if you will have the pound of flesh, take it; if not, I will order your bond to be protested and annulled. The Jew seeing he could gain nothing, tore in pieces the bond in a great rage. Ansaldo was released, and conducted home with great joy by Giannetto, who carried the hundred thousand ducats to the inn to the lawyer. The lawyer said, I do not want money; carry it back to your lady, that she may not say, that you have squandered it away idly. Says Giannetto, my lady is so kind, that I might spend four times as much, without incurring her displeasure. How are you pleased with the lady? says the lawyer. I love her better than any earthly thing, an swers Giannetto: nature seems to have done her utmost in forming her. If you will come and see her, you will be surprised at the honours she will show you. Ι cannot go with you, says the lawyer; but since you speak so much good of her, I must desire you to present my respects to her. I will not fail, Giannetto answered; and now, let me entreat you to accept of some of the money. While he was speaking, the lawyer observed a ring on his finger, and said, if you give me this ring, I shall seek no other reward. Willingly, says Giannetto; but as it is a ring given me by my lady, to wear for her sake, I have some reluctance to part with it, and she, not seeing it on my finger, will believe, that I have given it to a woman. Says the lawyer, she esteems you sufficiently to credit what you tell her, and you may say you made a present of it to me; but I rather think you want to give it to some former mistress here in Venice. So great, says Giannetto, is the love and reverence I bear to her, that I would not change her for any woman in the world. After this, he takes the ring from his finger, and presents it to him. I have still a favour to ask, says the lawyer. It shall be granted, says Giannetto. It is, replied he, that you do not stay any time here, but go as soon as possible to your lady. It appears to me a thousand years till I see her, answered Giannetto: and immediately they take leave of each other. The lawyer embarked, and left Venice. Giannetto took leave of his Venetian friends, and carried Ansaldo with him, and some of his old acquaintance accompanied him. The lady arrived some days before; and having resumed her female habit, pretended to have spent the time at the baths; and now gave orders to have the streets lined with tapestry: and when Giannetto and Ansaldo were landed, all the court went out to meet them. When they arrived at the palace, the lady ran to embrace Ansaldo, but feigned anger against Giannetto, though she loved him excessively yet the feastings, tilts, and diversions went on as usual, at which all the lords and ladies were present. Giannetto seeing that his wife did not receive him with her accustomed good countenance, called her, and would have saluted her. She told him, she wanted none of his caresses: I am sure, says she, you have been lavish of them to some of your former mistresses. Giannetto began to make excuses. She asked him, where was the ring she had given him? It is no more than what I expected, cries Giannetto, and I was in the right to say you would be angry with me; but, I swear, by all that is sacred, and by your dear self, that I gave the ring to the lawyer who gained our cause. And I can swear, says the lady, with as much solemnity, that you gave

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