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THE fame reafons, which induced the Editor to reject the
first Act of King John, determined him to omit a great part of the Fifth Act of the Merchant of Venice. The circumftance of the rings is worthy of a tale of GIOVANNI FIORENTINO, or of BOCCACCIO; but is inconfiftent with that purity of style and fentiment, which does fo much credit to the present taste of the British Nation. It is alfo productive of an anti-climax after the intereft excited by the Senate fcene; a fcene, which is not exceeded in any part of the writings of the great Poet. Were it permitted to hazard fo bold an expreflion, it might almost be said that he had exhausted his genius in the wonderful effect of that great catastrophe. But the probable cause of this defect is his undeviating adherence to the original story, which forms the ground word of his plays. The taste of the age, in which he lived, might induce him to add this uneffential part of the plot into a piece, which is in every other respect conducted with a confummate felicity of art and judgment.
The Editor cannot flatter himself that the liberty, which he has taken in this alteration, will escape the cenfure of some Critics. This liberty has been not only exercised, but juftified and applauded in DRYDEN, TATE, CIBBER, GARRICK, and COLMAN. If the Editor's attempt were cenfured only for the inferiority of the execution, he would pay a ready affent to the truth of the criticism. But if the principle is admitted in one cafe, and denied in the other,
Non eft quod multa loquamur;
In King John, in Henry IV, in Henry VI, and in the prefent play, it has been his principal object to retain, as far as he thought it confiftent with grammatical correctness and motal delicacy, the language of SHAKESPEARE. He has feen an alteration of the Merchant of Venice by GEORGE, Lord LANSDOWNE, printed in 1701, in which the Noble Editor appears to have adopted a contrary plan, and to have made even Shylock, perhaps the most natural character in SHAKESPEARE, fpeak a language totally different from the original. The following paffage may be quoted as an inftance :
The propriety of one flight omiffion no Critic, it is hoped, will refufe to acknowledge. Feeling that the principles of Christianity ought to be inculcated by the arguments of love and charity, addreffed to the heart, the Editor could not retain that more than Mahometan violence, which obliges the bewildered Jew to renounce his religious tenets. The audi
It is remarkable that fome Critics expreffed their disapprobation at the omiffions in the character of Falstaff, while others thought that it might have been still more abbreviated. And the very fame, who condemned the alterations of SHAKESPEARE, in King John and Henry IV, had passed an unqualified encomium on Heary VI, in which a new fcene, and feveral new speeches were introduced.
ences, for which SHAKESPEARE wrote, had been familiarized, during the ftruggles of religious opinions, to thofe threats of the infliction of temporal punishments. But the liberality of the prefent times revolts at the idea of arming the followers of the Prince of Peace with the weapons of perfecution. Thofe, who can hear only with awful reverence the mention of the name and attributes of the Deity, will not be displeased at the alteration of fome paffages, in which that name and those attributes are introduced in a familiar manner, particularly in the mouth of Launcelot. If the Editor can fhow the poffibility of making a new progrefs in the purification of the Stage, he will have caufe to rejoice in the reflection that his labor has not been employed in vain.