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consort, and refraining from throwing a blank, by discarding her—an unhappy blank-over the visions of her childhood. Portia is now indeed glorious ; circumstances develope her ; but we must not excuse our own imperfections by fancying circumstance everything. Desdemona, in like place, would have sympathised with Antonio and Bassanio, and been very unhappy for the former ; but she would not have thought of making Portia's noble proposal; she would have looked for guidance to her lover, and willingly acceded to any demand of his; but she would not have originated the design. And thus, though Portia submitted her own ways to the direction of Bassanio, she could not fling aside her independent notions in the cause of others. Juliet, in similar situation, would have said, “ Do whatever is expedient, and use me in any manner that will further your wishes;" but she would not have drawn out the scheme of action, and she would have saddled her generosity by a
but you must not leave me.” So little ostentation as Portia exhibits !-so superior to feminine vanity as she is !-otherwise she must have deferred the wedding ceremony until it could be performed in style: whereas, that Bassanio may be master of her coffers, and of all the advantages annexed to the station of her husband, she will not admit of a moment's postponement. How generous is her self-denial! Her zeal does not cool when her lover readily complies with the departure, fancying, then, that he was neither sufficiently, fond nor sorry, as Juliet inevitably would. Instead, she retains her merry countenance, showing no gloom, lest it should heighten his grief or damp his ardour in the merchant's cause. · Desdemona would have looked dolorous ; her smile would have been, if possible, sadder than her tears-a second Medora —and not with hopeful energy, but with despairing indolence, must she have inspired him. And even though Juliet allowed his going, she would grow pettish when it came to the point, accuse him of lacking force of affection, and dismiss him in something of a fret, thinking her à dear little unreasonable creature, not with unalloyed and pitying love, as from Desdemona, nor with admiration so exalted as almost to swallow
love and earthy sentiments, as from Portia.
It is no marvel that Antonio's sweet, loving, pathetic-without-aneffort, tender, simple letter, should have had such an instantaneous effect, working, as with a spell, on the congenial nobility of Portia's soul. What a wide heart was Shakspeare's! The conception of such characters speaks almost as favourably for him as if he were himself their prototype. We love Antonio the more that he does not haughtily maintain state, but willingly abases himself before Shylock, essaying to move him to compassion. The Jew's manner might have been more hateful than it was; cold, speechless, smiling, contemptuous gazing would have been more irritating than Shylock's incessant talkativeness, and hardened merry-making on his rival's misfortunes. As a matter of principle, he works up his spirit of revenge ; and he would have considered himself positively faulty to assuage it. Antonio has a sense of the becoming, and acknowledges not to the jailer, nor perhaps to himself, the extent of his previous provocations to the Jew. His admirable temper, unless when an Israelite is in question, is testified by his expression of the impossibility that the Doge should suffer
him to escape, not dwelling on his merits, station, and the general respectful opinion maintained of him by all classes, even his persecutors. Vengeance was rendered more palatable to Shylock by this partial esteem, and by the regard for his victim entertained by others; he was consequently the loftier object for ambition to reach ; the more difficult mark at which to aim ; yet he had succeeded : and the more joyous was his triumph on account of the many impediments already overcome. Antonio at this trying period is as little exacting as ever; and nowise sanguine, irrational, or peevish; he frets not because of the ways of life and the world ; he rebels not against the Master of the universe for permitting the subjection of the righteous by the wicked ; and he has no unkind sensations connected with the origin of his ill, Bassanio ; but, as Julia singles out the child, by saving whom from drowning she met her end, to caress him even more than those faultless of her death, so Antonio only loves his friend the more self-sacrificingly.
What good sense Portia displays in refraining from self-commendation, though she has acted as nobly as it has ever fallen to the lot of woman to do, though she is in her own house, and though her guest introduces the theme by venturing to praise her! There would be no use in it; she could only repeat known facts; thereby betraying herself into egotism, and learning to think too highly of self; and she would have demeaned herself by so spoiling the simple elegance of her deeds. We never sink so low as when we presume more than we ought. Portia, besides, was conscious of a mixture of motives unrevealed to others; and she felt that she could not have done otherwise ; that she was impelled so to act: there was no trial iu the case ; nature urged the action. Why should she, therefore, require to be lauded ? If there were any purpose to be attained, she might, for a sympathetic analyser, describe her emotions before, during, and after the transaction; but why vaunt herself to the somewhat insipid though goodhearted Lorenzo ? Her gratifications are of a higher order; for in all respects she is the noblest of God's creatures. It is well for Antonio that Portia had not been long married, or she would have settled down into the stay-at-home wife, not dreaming of the possibility of such an event as her starting off, without planning the adventure in her head for months beforehand, and without consulting and discussing with her husband for weeks. She would have lost the independence and genius which now qualified her to embrace the opportunity. Neither Juliet nor Desdemona could have have acted so. The former would have meditated on the nobleness of such a deed, and remained in quiescence pleasurably to contemplate it: only when her own passions were excited could she prove original and energetic. The scheme, under whatever aspect, never would have fitted across Desdemona's brain. Both she and Juliet might have been friends to Portia, but the latter, in each case, would have been head and chief. Portia's long-tried valuation of Balthazar speaks well for her; a generous, kind-hearted mistress she must have been; withal, shrewd enough not to endure a system of deception, whatever occasional practices her unsuspicious, careless tone of mind might permit. None, better than domestics, can appreciate such excellence; and it tells favourably for both parties when service is long continued. Again, Portia reminds us of Miss Baillie by her description of how she will bear herself in manly attire, except that the effusion of the first is nature, that of the second a study from nature. Miss Baillie has pondered over Shakspeare, and over her own mind, like Mrs. Carleton, and over her own conceptions, until she has produced a whole which we admiringly and veneratingly confess to be noble, handsome, and duly proportioned in all its members, yet like the statue of Pygmalion ere it wakens into life. It speaks well
, also, for Portia, that Jessica, a sister-woman, praises her so heartily; it reads prettily, too, for the Jewess; but our heroine was elevated too far above her to admit of envy or competition. There is, almost invariably, a “but” in the expression of one woman's opinion of another ; though it is not so in the mianner in which men mention their brethren. Besides the additional spice of envy and jealousy in the composition of the former, there is another reason for this difference. Females have, in general, quicker observation and discernment of character; and they regard such readiness a matter of importance; whereas men, who are usually deficient therein, considering such knowledge of no moment; do not trouble themselves to define similar ideas, even when they have had the smartness to form them Weaker animals have sometimes acuter
The Doge is pretty much like Desdemona's friend; equally friendly to the accused-just, yet merciful-affable and courteous—a staple character, serving divers occasions : the duke in Romeo and Juliet was also such another; Shakspeare believing that those in high rank are frequently tiresome and prosy, presenting less variety and interest of disposition than those who move in lower spheres-Antonio, having made up his mind to suffer, is pitiably resigned; and the melancholy smile of bitter despair gleams at intervals athwart his placid brow. He has dignity, but it is neither cold nor philosophical ; it is touching and humane, neither steeling him to his own griefs, nor hardening him to those of others. His spirit triumphs over the flesh, while his heart throbs as fast as ever with all kindly feelings; and he is so calm because the child of his love is by, whom he must not unreasonably affect by pining, but rather set him an example of purified humanity for his improvement-of placidity for his ease. He does not desire that acrid tears should flow from the loved one's eyes: no; as it ever is with unmixed affection, if, after death, he might return from the grave,
his first task would be to wipe all sorrow from every friendly eye, and to aid by new acts of munificence, and being again the instrument of felicity, to dress in smiles once more the cherished face; the living must grieve; but their pain will not pleasure the disinterested
gone; it is not black garments which they demand, or visages lengthened to disfigurement, or recreations resigned to the prejudice of the health of body and mind: these things they rather condemn. But that the beloved should grow in grace of every kind, mind, heart, and person—that they should exhibit a cheerful, thankful, contented brow; an air so pleasant as to inspire the passer-by with joyous admiration; while an ema
manation, as it were, of pure, bright mind adorns the figure and beautifies the robes-that they should enjoy, with praise and gladness, the delights which a bounteous Providence has supplied - that the lost ones should be remembered in the hour of adversity, but more especially in the season of prosperity—that the tribute of a wish for their sympathy and assistance should be offered to their memory; a sigh, recalling past associations with their happy presence and influence; an involuntarily tear, caused, in the midst of joy, by their absence; an increased flooding of grief, in time of trial, by their loss—this is simply all the loving and generous require of their surviving friends.
The duke's speech might have answered well, if addressed to a man of less obstinate temperament than Shylock—one of more veneration ; with less motive to spite ; and less of a fixed position in life, above which he could not be raised. As it was, the lecture only vexed and settled him more resolutely in his purpose ; and the notion of his making presents to Antonio amused him not a little. Not one of the personages, excepting Portia, can cope with the Jew in talent; and he rules the assembly until she appears: they are the two stars of the piece; but one is the day-star, bearing light, life, and happiness—the other, of ill-omened aspect, murky, red, outrageous, and threatening. Bassanio's fuming is only what we ought justly to anticipate. · It is somewhat laudable to storm in the cause of a friend, though ignoble to rage in that of ourselves. How hard it is to attack an offender, without laying ourselves open to a legitimate accusation from his part, if he have daring to retort ! Wè cling with more downright self-will to'a cruel scheme than to the performance of a merciful and praiseworthy deed; the first is of ourselves, earthly; the second is of above, heavenly; the first spontaneous, the second involuntary-we are gifted so to act, and we wonder at the achievement, even while we joy in its execution, and delicately titillate our vanity in consequence. We are more apt, in the first than in the second instance, to assert and confide that we have law and right on our side. How fidgetty is Shylock's longing that the sentence, which must of necessity turn in his favour, should be at once awarded ; and the cold sweat of annoyance suffuses his brow when the Doge hints at prorogation, defeating his desires, and baulking his gratifications. Fever lightens through his veins from anxiety lest the goal should not be finally attained. The nervousness, incident to a criminal design, consumes his flesh, lest the plot should burst in some unexpected manner to the contriver's hurt and ruin ;-while Antonio was sunk in such despondency that he scarcely heeded the notice of deferment, and if for a moment his spirit bounded, it was but to be forthwith sadly and determinately checked-Shylock cannot resist' manifesting his satisfaction when the cause of previous postponement arrives, in the person of Bellario's kinsman's clerk.
We may imagine Portia a playful pupil of the lawyers in “auld lang syne," having a taste for technicalities which did not necessarily occupy her, and of which she could not therefore grow weary: they were a novelty that entertained, and moderately exercised her wit, which, unlike the German's, required substantial material for its spiritual essays. Some can exert their brains on mechanics, mathematics, and any tangible science, who would be without ideas on
more abstract subjects; although the more comparatively independent thinker believes himself to possess just as reasonable ground as the materialist on which to erect his theories. And Portia, aware that Bellario was the Duke's and Antonio's chief counsellor, guessed that he should be employed on the present occasion, but knew that he was too ill in person to attend the court: and who would be so zealous a proxy as herself, when the safety of her lord's second-self depended on the issue of her endeavours ? Besides, Bellario himself, though of ancient standing and great name, might not have been in discourse, as she resolved she must be, eloquent, soul-touching, and irresistible ; and, with his assistance in the chicanery of the business, she anticipated and determined that her own genius, energy, and decision should accomplish the rest. Portia inquisitively surveys the persons of Shylock and Antonio, to discover whether they correspond with her preconceptions, and to learn from their countenances how she might most judiciously proceed—a female's usual mode of' testifying her tact. She frames a question for either, that she may
further develope their characteristics, and at the same time gain space for the formation of her plans—“ Shylock is my name "-he is a regular “old Poz;" proud of himself, or teaching himself that he ought to be so, and determining that he will be so, in spite of the teeth of all his ill-wishers. Portia essays every noble method of persuasion, before she stoops to those quirks and quibbles, which, until irritated by low and surly opposition, suit not her lofty temper. She does not seem studiously to try, without at heart believing in it, to credit the Jew's ability for mercy; but with feeling and sincerity she boldly takes it for granted, thus aiming to conquer him by surprise, and to leave him minus a reply. There are no divisions and details with which to cavil, no pivots on which to hang objections, in Portia's as in the Duke's unsuccessful address. It is a grand, manly, (if we may here apply the epithet!) straightforward, right, and beauty-impelled discourse; it is stamped by genuineness and truth; it has no loophole, of which the Jew might avail himself; no hinge, to which he might fasten carping wranglings: and no beam disfigures the eye of her who detects the mote in his. Here was heartfelt and heart-moving elo
Portia displays wisdom in acknowledging that the law is on Shylock's side, thus inclining him to lend a favourable car, and predisposing him to coincide with her opinions; and when she has him, by this means, partly in a trap, she turns suddenly upon him, with some hope of effecting a seizure—“Ay, so he says.' Antonio will not, in public, verbally pretend to credit that there is danger in his casedeath to the righteous is not hazardous—and he will not grant Shylock the satisfaction of confessing that he believes there is no outlet from his persecutions. The first clause of Portia's speech calls into play the imaginative powers and we all have some-Shylock a great many, though warped by evil morals, and contracted by close and paltry details; the second touches the Jew's notions of interest and personal advantage; the third tickles his vanity; the fourth stimulates him, raises emulation, elicits his innate conceptions of dignity, and carries him aloft on the wings of genius, while the consciousness that his