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                 Granville's Jew of Venice (1701): 
              A Close Reading of Shakespeare's Merchant

                       By Ben Ross Schneider, Jr.  

     In a recent essay in which Catherine Craft examines George
Granville's adaptation of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, called
The Jew of Venice, she decides that Granville's goal was to produce
a more purely comic play than the original, one more suited to his own

     He achieved this end [she continues] by developing the light,
     happy plot that remained once he had stripped Shakespeare's
     [Merchant] of all its dark colorings.  Where Shakespeare had
     established a rivalry between Antonio and Portia over Bassanio,
     showing tensions arising between friendship and love, Granville
     portrayed friendship and love working together for the mutual
     well-being of all.  Where Shakespeare introduced dark elements
     into his play by examining the strife between Christians and Jews
     which surrounded the Venetian friends and lovers, Granville
     presented a comic villain to forward his plot. (40) 

     Ms. Craft assumes that the "dark colorings" removed by Granville
are a feature of the original.  But they were not observed in it until
the latter end of the last century, when major actors began to play
Shylock, and critics did not reach a consensus on their presence until
the last decade.~1   Still, it does not occur to Ms. Craft that modern
readers might be the revisionists, not Granville, and that The Jew of
Venice might be closer to Shakespeare's Merchant than the play we
reconstruct on the stage and in our minds today.  What if we reverse
Ms. Craft's thesis and investigate the proposition that Granville's
plot (perhaps better described as "moral and uplifting" than "light
and happy") is an accurate reading of the original's ideological
substance, after all?

     Granville lived and wrote 300 years closer to The Merchant
(1598) than we do, closer than we live to A Doll's House (1879), and
300 years closer to Shakespeare's ethical universe.  Granville's play
is coming from Shakespeare, but it is not by any means going to-
ward us, for between us and Shakespeare lie the rise of capitalism,
and the French, Romantic, and industrial revolutions.  We know that
capitalism has brought along with it a capitalist ideology--democracy,
individualism, free enterprise---, but we seem not to be aware that we
are, as the anthropologists would say, "culture-bound" by this ideolo-
gy, however much we may think we oppose it.  Our cultural blinders
warp, nay invert, our reading of Shakespeare, especially our reading
of the play he wrote about this very pre-capitalist ideology.   Before
The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism, what kind of an
"ethic" was there?  Why not let Marx be our guide?

     The Bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an
     end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.  It has
     pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to
     his 'natural superiors,' and left remaining no other nexus
     between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous cash
     payment.  It has drowned the most heavenly ecstacies of religious
     fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism,
     in the icy water of egotistical calculation.  It has resolved
     personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the number-
     less indefeasible chartered freedoms, it has set up that single
     unconscionable freedom--Free Trade. (Manifesto 12-13)

Before capitalism, then, "patriarchal . . . relations" and "motley
feudal ties" bound men together.  And, since the  cash nexus is
impersonal, callous, icy, calculating and selfish, these relations and
ties must have been, at least by comparison, personal, kind, warm, and
unselfish.  Suffice it to say that the pre-protestant ethic was
something altogether different from the post-.  Are we not perhaps
looking for something on the order of ethic described by Marcel Mauss
in his anthropological classic, The Gift: Forms and Functions of
Exchange in Archaic Societies?   Under this ethical system people are
bound to each other not by legal contracts but by gifts and services
("benefits") voluntarily provided and voluntarily reciprocated.  The
vestiges of this primitive system apparently persistin Europe wherever
Calvinism is weak, wherever, to quote Weber, "the opportunity of
earning more is less attractive than the opportunity of working less"
(60).  Its last bastion is the landed aristocracy, whose influence on
manners in general is always powerful.  That's why, I suppose, we
still recognize gift economics in the realm of social obligation.  But
it originates in the primeval forest, where hunters and gatherers
recognized no private property, where every good thing was to be
shared by all.  The Romans apparently remembered and admired this pre-
agricultural age, as Seneca testifies on quoting Virgil's Georgics:

          No ploughman tilled the soil, nor was it right
          To portion off or bound one's property.
          Men shared their gains, and earth more freely gave
          Her riches to her sons who sought them not.

     What race of men [comments Seneca] was ever more blest than that
     race?  They enjoyed all nature in partnership.  Nature sufficed
     for them . . . and this her gift consisted of the assured posses-
     sion by each man of the common resources.(Epistles [Ep.] 2.423-4)

In such tribal societies arose the conventions of gift exchange, a
species of social glue consisting of mutual feelings of gratitude and
obligation (see Mauss, Sahlins, Hyde). 

      Reinforced by Christianity and chivalry, the ethics of gift
exchange were further strengthened during the Renaissance by study of
the classical moralists.  The original Merchant alerts us to their
presence in its pages when Bassanio tells Portia that Antonio is "one
in whom/The ancient Roman honor more appears/Than any that draws
breath in Italy" (Merchant of Venice [MV] 3.2.294-6).~2  Apparent-
ly the principal conduits of classical moral thought in Shakespeare's
time were Cicero's De Officiis and Seneca's Essays and Epistles,
especially his De Beneficiis, a comprehensive philosophical investi-
gation of every possible ramification of gift exchange (translated
into English in 1578).  Seneca specialized in theoretical exposition
and Ciero in practical application.  "In the Renaissance no Latin
author was more highly esteemed than Seneca," said T. S. Eliot (52). 
And every schoolboy simultaneously learned his Latin and his manners
by means of Cicero's De Officiis.  Perhaps, then, the fastest way
for us to become acquainted with pre-capitalist ethics as understood
in Shakespeare's time is to read these works.~3  

     We can read Granville's thoughts as he reads Shakespeare's
Merchant because we know that he derives his concept of drama from
Aristotle's Poetics.  By the time he wrote his Jew of Venice
(1701), Aristotle and Horace dictated the terms on which English drama
was staged and criticized, even though in practice it was well-nigh
ungovernable.  The recipe for making an acceptable adaptation of a
Shakespeare play had been fairly well established.  Shakespeare, it
was agreed, was a great "Natural" genius:  his characters were true to
life; no one could delineate and arouse the passions as well as he. 
"He was the man who, of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the
largest and most comprehensive soul" (Dryden 79).  But thanks to his
having lived in a barbarous age, his diction was obscure and unpol-
ished, his narrative undisciplined, and his morality indistinct.~4  

     Must his plays then lapse into oblivion?  By no means, for "if
Shakespeare were stripped of all the bombasts of his passions, and
dressed in the most vulgar [ordinary] words, we should find the
beauties of his thoughts remaining; if his embroideries were burnt
down, there would still be silver at the bottom of the melting pot"
(Dryden 227).  To get at the silver while maintaining Horatian-Aristo-
telian standards of purity, the neo-classical adapter would "burn
down" the embroideries.  

     His principal tool was Aristotle's principle of probability.  A
fiction must strive to be an imitation of Nature.  But not Nature "as
is," undigested, like history.  Fiction, according to Aristotle's
Restoration expositors, "is more general and abstracted, is led more
by the philosophy, the reason and Nature of things, than history,
which only records things higglety-pigglety, right or wrong, as they
happen" (Rymer 154).  Fiction selects the universal, not the acciden-
tal; it prefers an probable impossibility to an improbable possibili-
ty.  The probability that one performance on one stage could convinc-
ingly represent a span of time much longer than the length of the
performance, or more than one place, or more than one action seemed
small to the critical establishment, so they laid down the three
unities of time, place and action--"Those rules of old discovered, not
devised,/. . . Nature still, but Nature methodized," as Pope said in
his Essay on Criticism  (ll. 88-9). 

     From this standpoint The Merchant was hopeless.  It wandered
all over Venice, sailed (for days?) to Belmont, distracted us with
that irrelevant subplot of Launcelot and his father, and expected us
to believe that fairy tale of the caskets and that unlikely collateral
of the pound of flesh.  In his "Advertisement to the Reader," Granvi-
lle felt he had to apologize for bringing it to public notice:

     The Foundation of the following Comedy being liable to some
     Objections, it may be wondered that any one should make Choice of
     it to bestow so much labor upon:  But the judicious Reader will
     observe so many Manly and Moral Graces in the Characters and
     Sentiments that he may excuse the Story for the Sake of the
     Ornamental Parts. (The Jew of Venice [JV] 347)

It was to get at these "Manly and Moral Graces", then, that Granville
revised The Merchant of Venice.  

     In the process, working from the other side of the ethical divide
that separates us from Shakespeare, Granville gives us no less than a
virtual point by point refutation of the standard modern/postmodern
interpretation of Shakespeare's Merchant:

Male bonding.   

     A few years ago it was often suggested that Antonio and Bassanio
were homo-erotically involved,~5 but now that this sexual preference
no longer carries a stigma, they are accused simply of male bonding in
the interests of female subjection.~6  Apparently the "Manly and Moral
Graces" that so impressed Granville are not visible to us.  Dryden
throws light on this subject in his critical estimate of Shakespeare. 
Comparing him to Fletcher, he says, Shakespeare's drama excelled in
"the more manly passions; Fletcher's [in] the softer [ones].  Shake-
speare writ better betwixt man and man; Fletcher, betwixt man and
woman:  consequently the one describ'd friendship better; the other
love. . . .  Friendship is both a virtue and a Passion, essentially;
love is a passion only in its nature and is not a virtue but by
accident:  good nature makes Friendship; but effeminacy Love." (227-8) 
Expanding Granville's hint by Dryden's commentary, one deduces that
the very feature of The Merchant that bothers us today made it most
attractive in Granville's time.  Writing a few years after The Jew of
Venice came on stage, Nicholas Rowe, in his preface to the works of
Shakespeare, gives confirmation of this hypothesis:

     The play itself, take it all together, seems to me one of the
     most finished of any of Shakespeare's.  The tale indeed, in that
     part relating to the caskets and the extravagant and unusual bond
     given by Antonio is a little too much removed beyond the Rules of
     Probability.  But taking that fact for granted, we must allow it
     to be very beautifully written.  There is something in the
     friendship of Antonio to Bassanio very great, generous and
     tender. (29)

If, for Augustans, friendship was a major virtue and not a psychopath-
ic condition or a politically incorrect attitude that may account for
the fact that The Merchant of Venice was the most popular Shake-
spearean comedy of the 18th century (if we exclude The Merry Wives
as a farce).~7

     At any rate Granville's adaptive changes all serve to heighten
the play's concentration on friendship.  He dispenses with Launcelot
and his father.  He compresses the Jessica/Shylock and Jessica/Lorenzo
segments into one contiguous block, ending with Jessica's elopement. 
He gets rid of Shylock's friend Tubal and Antonio's friends Solanio
and Salerio, moving Shylock's lines spoken to Tubal to the jail scene,
and assigning to Gratiano whatever lines of Solanio and Salerio were
useful to the new configuration.  Since these two were no longer
available to hear it, Shylock spoke his great "Hath not a Jew eyes"
speech to Antonio, in that same jail scene.  He dropped the first two
casket scenes--the stories of Arragon and Morocco were too distract-
ing--but had Bassanio recite the significant parts of their deliber-
ations as he rejected the gold and silver caskets in preparation for
choosing the lead one.  Having dispensed with Shakespeare's excursions
and diversions, Granville now had a script that never wandered from
the path of friendship.  He now had room to correct what he thought
were two egregious errors in the causality of the original by drama-
tizing the dinner at Bassanio's--prepared for but not shown--and re-
instating the masque--prepared for but canceled on the poor excuse of
a fair wind for Belmont. 

     Adding the scene of the masque not only repaired a broken action,
it gave Granville a chance to write on the sky, in explicit terms,
what he thought to be the play's moral message.  The guests made
toasts, and the toasts were messages, and orchestral fanfares blared
out in approval of each:
                              [Toast #1]

          Antonio.  This to immortal friendship; fill it up----
          Be thou to me, and I to my Bassanio,
          Like Venice and her Adriatic Bride,
          Forever linked in love.
          Bassanio.  Thou join'st us well:  And rightly hast com
          Like Venice on a rock, my friendship stands
          Constant and fixed; but 'tis a barren spot;
          Whilst like the liberal Adriatic, thou
          With plenty bath'st my shores----
          My fortunes are the bounty of my friend.
          Antonio. My friend's the noblest bounty of my fortune.
          Sound every instrument of music there,
          To our immortal friendship.    
                                    [All drinkLoud music.
                              [Toast #2]
          Bassanio.  Let love be next, and to love's queen; my charm 
                  ing Portia,
          Fill;  till the rosy brim reflects her lips;
          Then kiss the symbol round:
          Oh, in this lottery of love; where chance
          Not choice presides:  give, give, ye powers, the lot,
          Where she herself would place it:  crown her wish,
          Though ruin and perdition catch Bassanio:
          Let me be wretched, but let her be blest.  [Drink and
          music again.
                              [Toast #3]
          Gratiano.  Mine's a short health:  Here's to the sex in 
          To woman; be she black, brown, or fair;
          Plump, slender, tall, or middle-statured----
          Let it be woman; and 'tis all I ask.  [Drink again. 
          Music as before.

                              [Toast #4]
          Shylock.  I have a mistress that outshines 'em all-----
          Commanding yours----and yours though the whole sex:
          O may her charms increase and multiply;
          My money is my mistress!  Here's to
          Interest upon interest. (JV 2.2.1-31)

Friendship and Love are here starkly arrayed against Lust and Greed. 
We are given notice that Shylock operates as the absolute moral
antithesis of the two friends, being as cold and calculating as they
are warm and generous.  Likewise, Gratiano's degrading attitude to
"the sex" serves as the antithesis of Bassanio's love for Portia as a
person.  Friendship includes love, but love, as Dryden suggests, may
or may not include friendship--more about this later.

     Because we persist in assuming that Shylock is morally equal to
Antonio and his companions, we fail to grasp what was once a huge
categorical difference between him and them.  For them no value
resides in money; all value ultimately resides in friendship.  There
is no common ground.  Perhaps aware of the proliferation of Shylocks
in his own time, and in order to make sure his audience doesn't miss
the point, Granville, catching them by the lapels the first time they
see the friends together, rewrites much of the expository scene in
which Bassanio tells about his mission to Belmont and his need for
funds.  Here, what Shakespeare shows by means of the great regard
each demonstrates for the other, Granville tells by having Antonio
preach a sermon.  Thus the original Antonio's simple avowal that "My
purse, my person, my extremest means/Lie all unlocked to your occa-
sions" (MV 1.1.138-9) acquires the following preface:

          My friend can owe me nothing; we are one,
          The treasures I possess, are but in trust,
          For him I love.  Speak freely your demand. (JV 1.1.42-44)

Here Granville is not just assuring us that Antonio is a friend, but
that he is a friend in the highest classical sense of the word, for
the passage overtly stipulates three widely-held maxims:  1) that
"friends have all things in common," a saying reiterated by of Aris-
totle, Cicero, and Seneca (Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics [Eth.]
8.9.1, Off. 1.51, Seneca Essays [Ess.] 3.483); that there is no
such thing as private property--"owners" are merely trustees (Off.
1.21, 22, Ess. 3.367., Ep. 3.91); and 3) that friends are two
persons with one soul (Cicero De Amicitia [Am.] 81; Off. 1.56,
Eth. 8.1.6, 9.4.5, Montaigne 1.224). 

     Granville repeats the word "friend" five times in this crucial
early scene.  Shakespeare got through it without using the word once,
though he made the relationship it signifies abundantly clear to
anyone attuned to its music.  For not only does Shakespeare's play
center on friendship, but friendship on the same classical model as
that of Granville.  

     Antonio's impatience with Bassanio's long grant proposal in act 1
certainly refers to the same authorities that Granville virtually
paraphrases.  And his one stipulation, on granting the loan--"if it
stand . . . within the eye of honor"--may also be found in Cicero, who
decreed that "an upright man will never for a friend's sake do any-
thing in violation of . . . his sacred honour" (Am. 44, Off. 3.43;
cf.Seneca Ess. 2.151, 3.77, 221-3).

     Furthermore Antonio's antipathy to Shylock just as certainly
derives from the  premise that friends have all things in common.  If
we are paying attention in act 1 when Antonio, reproached for spitting
on Shylock, offers to spit on him again, we will get the distinct
impression that he spits on Shylock on principle, and that the princi-
ple is friendship.  In terms of the way friends do business,
moneylending is for him an obscenity.  Therefore

          I am as like to call thee [dog] again,
          And spit on thee again, to spurn thee too.
          If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not
          As to thy friends--for when did friendship take
          A breed for barren metal of his friend?--
          But lend it rather to thine enemy,
          Who if he break, thou mayst with better face
          Exact the penalty.  (MV 1.3.130-7)

If friends have all things in common, then Shylock is an enemy.  Cato
thought that moneylending was as bad as murder (Off. 2.89).  It
follows that we do have base treachery when Shylock now pretends to
lend the money as a friendly act, and Antonio in a flood of gratitude
believes him (MV 1.3.137-178).  Perhaps Shylock proposed it that way
because he knew it was an offer his enemy couldn't refuse.  This whole
episode can be understood only in terms of the protocols of friend-
ship.  On this basis I argue that the prejudice against Shylock in
both original and adaptation is ethic, not ethnic.  

     The suspicion that constant companions of the same sex who
continually show signs of affection may well be homo-erotically
involved never appears to have crossed Granville's mind.  For him, the
friends' regard for each other was by no means problematic, and
instead of suppressing the (for us) embarrassing side of male-to-male
affection, he turns up the volume on it.  For its magnitude was one of
its main virtues.  

     When Bassanio leaves Venice to go to Belmont for a week or two,
Granville's account of the parting reminds one of Romeo and Juliet's
"sweet sorrow."  "One more embrace," says Bassanio:  "To those who
know not friendship/This may appear unmanly tenderness;/But 'tis the
frailty of the bravest minds" (JV 2.2.90-3).  Obviously we are
dealing with the "manly graces" which attracted Granville to the play
in the first place; and also that "something in the friendship of
Antonio to Bassanio very great, generous and tender" (29) for which
Rowe so much admired the play.  The original play is less obtrusive in
describing the friends' parting but the "tenderness" is there, just
the same.  Salerio reports:   

                             [Antonio's] eye being big with tears, 
          Turning his face, he put his hand behind him,
          And with affection wondrous sensible
          He wrung Bassanio's hand, and so they parted.
          Solanio.  I think he only loves the world for him.
                                                      (MV 2.8.46-50)

The last act of The Merchant, as we shall see, constitutes a cre-
scendo on the theme of friendship.

Shylock more sinned against than sinning

     Apparently Granville couldn't see the evidence, so plain to us,
that Shakespeare invites us to sympathize with Shylock.~8  Certainly
he himself is not sympathetic, as he makes plain in the toasts at
Bassanio's banquet.  And while he heaps praise on friendship for being
"plain,/Artless, familiar, confident and free" (JV 1.1.68-9), he
loads censure on Shylock for his deceit and hypocrisy.  As if it were
not bad enough that usury is perfectly inimical to friendship, Shy-
lock, as we have observed, feigns friendship to trap Antonio.  To
reinforce Shylock's perfidy, Granville adds material that shows him
posing as a friend at Bassanio's banquet and then joining the group at
the boat-landing to take part in his send-off to Belmont.  Here are
the lines Granville adds for the occasion:

          Bassanio.  Shylock, thy hand:  be gentle to my friend,
          Fear not the bond, it shall be justly paid,
          We soon shall meet again,
          Always, I hope, good friends.
          Oh my Antonio! 'tis hard, tho' for a moment,
          To lose the sight of what we love.

          Shylock.  These two Christian fools put me in mind
          Of my money:  just so loath am I to part with that. 
                                                     (JV 2.2.99-106)

     Of all forms of injustice, none is more flagrant than that of the
     hypocrite who, at the very moment when he is most false, makes it
     his business to appear virtuous.           (Cicero:  Off. 1.41)

The bait of friendship, Antonio's reversal of attitude toward Shylock
("Hie thee, gentle Jew" [MV 1.3.177]), his falling into the trap of
the merry bond--are all there in the original.  Granville has not
invented the treacherous Shylock; he has merely given it more empha-

      But the strongest evidence that Granville sees no reason to
sympathize with the villain is that despite his drastic cuts and his
rage for order, he lets stand the very material that nowadays calls
forth our sympathy--the "Can a dog lend money?" and "Hath not a Jew
eyes?" speeches.  He apparently found them no threat to his interpre-
tation.  Perhaps he sees them simply as poor excuses for villainy,
just as we do the similar pleas for sympathy of Richard III and Iago. 
Of course, the "Hath not a Jew eyes" speech, even in the original,
turns out to be an apology for revenge instead of a sermon against
prejudice, in which Shylock simply maintains that to revenge is human,
that even Christians, despite their vaunted "humility," indulge in it. 
But the fact that other people commit crimes is no excuse for doing
them.  And Granville makes this very point in a prominent scene-
closing quatrain by Gratiano:

          Jew, Turk and Christian differ but in creed; 
          In ways of wickedness, they'r all agreed; 
          None upward clears the road.  They part and cavil,
          But all jog on----unerring, to the devil. (JV 2.1.83-86)

     Granville presents Shylock's pleas for sympathy as shallow
rationalizations for evil deeds. 

Bassanio a fortune-hunter

     Bassanio's reckless expenditure is a problem for us; his apparent
irresponsible hedonism leads us to question his motives for seeking
Portia's hand:  he's as much motivated by money as Shylock.~9  Again,
Granville maximizes the the material that now suggests moral turpi-
tude.  Broaching his quest to Antonio, Granville has him introduce
Portia somewhat crassly as "immensely rich" (JV 1.1.75), whereas
Shakespeare's Bassanio had more delicately vouchsafed that she was
"richly left" (MV 1.1.161).  Apparently Granville found no problem
in the fact that Portia was rich and Bassanio poor.  Poor heroes
married rich heiresses every day in Restoration plays without having
stigmas attached to them.  Perhaps we should look at the situation
from the heiress's point of view.  Rich fops abound, but money is not
her problem.  What she needs is a decent husband.  And Bassanio is
such a man.

     In Granville's version, Bassanio's extravagance, far from being
problematic, is grounds for true admiration.  Antonio, no doubt his
biggest creditor, is by no means dismayed at his expenditure.  Awe-
struck by the heroic scale of his banquet and masque, he eulogizes his

          With such an air of true magnificence 
          My noble minded brother treats his friends:
          As hardly has been known to Italy
          Since Pompey and Lucullus entertained:
          To frame thy fortune ample as thy mind,
          New worlds should be created. (JV 2.2.57-62)

     Granville is reminding us here that Bassanio is what Aristotle
calls a "Great Soul," one who has no attachment to worldly goods, who
is fond of conferring benefits, for whom spending money is an art
("Magnificence"), and who spends "gladly and lavishly, since nice
calculation is shabby" (Eth. 4.2.5, 8; 4.3.18, 24).  Cicero declares
that "There is nothing more honourable and noble than to be indiffer-
ent to money" (Off. 1.68). 

      Shakespeare shows us that same Great Soul without putting a
label on him.  He introduces Bassanio as one who has "disabled [his]
estate/By something showing a more swelling port/Than [his] faint
means would grant continuance" (MV 1.1.123-5).  In dire financial
straits, he expensively feasts his friends and plans to entertain them
with a masque.  He undertakes to "hold a rival" place with Portia's
other suitors, both princes, and he therefore brings "gifts of rich
value" to Belmont (MV 1.1.174; 2.9.91).  His extravagant spending
shows us that Bassanio certainly is "indifferent to money."

     If, in his courtship, he had suppressed the fact that he was
bankrupt, we could suspect him of ulterior motives, but Bassanio
"freely" told Portia, on his first visit to Belmont, that all the
wealth he had "ran in [his] veins," that his "state was nothing" (MV
3.2.254, 259).  Obviously money made no difference to Portia, either. 

     Money aside, Shakespeare continually reminds us of Bassanio's
intrinsic merit.  Some thirty times he refers to him as "Lord
Bassanio," "my lord," "your lordship," "your worship," and "your
honor."  Moreover, he is designated "a scholar and a soldier," i.e.,
he's polished and brave.  And he is well-connected, too, for he first
came to Belmont "in the company of the Marquis of Montferrat" (MV
1.2.113-14).  The Marquisate of Montferrat belonged to the illustrious
princely house of Gonzaga.~10  Three Gonzagas participated in the
dialogue of Castiglione's Courtier, The Lady Elizabeth Gonzaga in
the chair (242).  Thus Nerissa can say without reservation, "He, of
all men that ever my foolish eyes looked upon, was the best deserving
a fair lady" (MV 1.2.117-18).  On the husband question Cicero quotes
Themistocles' wishes for his daughter:  "For my part, I prefer a man
without money to money without a man" (Off. 2.71).  Portia has
plenty of money; what she needs is a man.  If she still has doubts
about his motives, her father's test will remove them, for it is
designed expressly to filter out fortune-hunters.  By choosing the
right casket, Bassanio settles the question of whether or not his
motives are mercenary.

The ring as a device for excluding Antonio

     Granville obviously doesn't see the conflict that so troubles us
today between Portia's marriage and her husband's friendship.  In his
last act friendship conquers all, assimilates love, and becomes the
chief guarantor of mortal happiness.  The social mechanism by which
these three friends, as well as all the other people at Belmont, are
knit together as one is Gratitude, which for Granville is a law of
nature to illustrate which is the play's reason for being.  He harps
on this principle at every opportunity.  Thus when Portia, upon
Bassanio's victory over the caskets, gives herself and everything she
has to Bassanio, he immediately gives it all back, in a flood of

                          My mistress, and my queen:
          As absolute as ever shall you reign.
          Not as the lord but vassal of your charms,
          Not as conqueror but acquisition,
          Not one to lessen but enlarge your power,
          No more but this, the creature of your pleasure:  
          As such receive the passionate Bassanio.   (JV 3.1.178-83)

This passage is not sheer invention, but builds on a little-noticed
speech by the original Bassanio, when, on reading the piece of paper
from the lead casket that gives him the right to marry Portia, he
refuses to collect the "[promissory] note" until it is "confirm'd,
sign'd, and ratified by you"  (MV 3.2.139-148).  In effect he gives
her back to herself, retracts his entitlement, and puts himself at her

     Granville copies what we have come to think of as the "betrayal
scene," where Bassanio gives his engagement ring to "Balthasar,"
almost word for word.  Back in Belmont, he again magnifies the prob-
lem.  Where Shakespeare's scene was pure comedy (unless we emphasize
those "dark colorings" of jealous wife and excessive male bonding),
Granville's reaches near tragedy. 

     He has already set us up for a standard Restoration conflict
between Love and Honor.  When, after choosing the right casket,
Bassanio hears the news of Antonio's ruin, he immediately splits in
two:  shall he desert his wife and run to his friend, or shall he
desert his friend and stick to his wife?  Love dictates wife; Honor
dictates friend.  There is no way out.  Don't be silly, says Portia: 
"Honor calls/And Love must wait.  Honor, that still delights/To
tyrannize o'er Love."  She then escorts him to the door and commands
him to go.  Since he has just made her his "Queen," he must obey (JV
3.1.285-298).  Here again he spells out what was implied by the action
of the original, where Portia anticipates her husband's need to go to
his friend and grants him permission to leave Belmont for Venice
before he asks it:  "O love! dispatch all business and be gone" (MV
3.2.323).  Some of this "business" might have been another long-winded
grant proposal like that in act 1.  But Portia has dispensed with it
in advance, as Bassanio recognizes in his reply:  "Since I have your
good leave to go away, / I will make haste" (MV 3.2.324-5)  The
point is that as her dedicated servant, he was not free to go, and he
knew it. 

     Granville's Love/Honor dilemma reaches its highest intensity in
the last act, when the husbands discover that their wives have the
very rings that they had given the "lawyer" and his "clerk," and the
wives maintain that they got them by sleeping with these very persons. 
In Granville's text, the husbands actually believe the women.  Bassan-
io is enraged, and turns on Antonio for making him give up Portia's
ring.  Now Love (wife) dominates Honor (friend).  Heroic Antonio
responds (instantly) by offering his life again:  "Take revenge and
kill me."  Bassanio can't do that:  stalemate (JV 5.1.157-201).  It
is time to reveal the trick.  Friendship and love may now coexist.

     Granville's moral, stated baldly at the end of the play, inte-
grates the marriage and friendship plots (and the Shylock plot by
contrast) on the theme of gratitude:

          Portia.  My Lord [Bassanio]: by these small services to    
          And to your friends, I hope I may secure
          Your love; which, built upon mere fancy,
          Had else been subjected to alteration.
               With age and use the rose grows sick and faint,
               Thus mixed with friendly sweets, secures its scent.

          Bassanio.  The sweets of love shall here forever blow:
          I needs must love, remembering what I owe.
          Love, like a meteor, shows a short-lived blaze,
          Or treads through various skies, a wandering maze;
          Begot by fancy, and by fancy led,
          Here in a moment, in a moment fled:
               But fixt by obligations, it will last;
               For gratitude's the charm that binds it fast.  
                                                   [Exeunt omnes. 

The notion that gratitude is a sort of social law of gravity certainly
derives from Stoic precepts.  According to Cicero,
     [A] strong bond of fellowship is effected by mutual interchange
     of kind services; and as long as these kindnesses are mutual and
     acceptable, those between whom they are interchanged are united
     by the ties of an enduring intimacy. (Off. 1.56)

For Seneca the custom of reciprocal giving is nothing less than "a
stone arch, which would collapse if the stones did not mutually
support each other, and which is upheld in this very way" (Ep.

     And for Shakespeare, too.  But we, being unable to read the
signposts of gratitude in The Merchant of Venice, are unable to
follow his directions.  In particular, we can't figure out how to
attach the last act to the rest of the play.  It seems to be a gratu-
itous addendum, or, more recently, an appendix on Portia vs. male
bonding.  But once we know what to look for, everything falls into
     Why did Portia decide to rescue Antonio in the first place?  A
question rarely asked.  She tells us plainly, but since her reasons
don't strike a modern chord, they go right past us.  Just at the point
when Bassanio solves the riddle of the caskets and he and Portia are
getting ready to live happily ever after, comes the bad news that
Shylock means to collect his pound of flesh from Antonio and kill him
in the process.  She sends him off to succor his friend.  Afterwards
Lorenzo remarks on her great generosity in so cheerfully letting go
her betrothed.  It wasn't hard, she said, because

          I never did repent for doing good,
          Nor shall not now: for in companions
          That do converse and waste the time together,
          Whose souls do bear an egall yoke of love,
          There must be needs a like proportion
          Of lineaments, of manners, and of spirit;
          Which makes me think that this Antonio,
          Being the bosom lover of my lord, 
          Must needs be like my lord. If it be so,
          How little is the cost I have bestowed 
          In purchasing the semblance of my soul, 
          From out the state of hellish cruelty.
          This comes too near the praising of myself,
          Therefore no more of it.                    (MV 3.4.10-23)

We are given no other reason for her expedition to Venice.  What she
tells us here is that her future husband's friend is as much her
friend as he is Bassanio's--the "semblance of [her] soul" to be exact-
-and if she knows how to rescue him, she ought to do it.     Having
some understanding of Renaissance attitudes to Love and Friendship, we
may now see a deeper reason for the rescue.  Just as, according to
Dryden,/Fletcher is weaker than Shakespeare so is Love weaker than
Friendship (see above p.????? {typesetter please insert correct cross-
reference to comment on Fletcher in section on Male Bonding})   During
the trial Bassanio offered his life to save his friend from Shylock's
knife, and then, much to our consternation, offered his wife as an
alternative.  The classical exemplars of friendship had no problem
with sacrificing wives or sweethearts on the altar of friendship.  In
the tale of Titus and Gysippus, Gysippus gives his betrothed to Titus,
who later has an opportunity to offer his life in return.  And of
course, in Shakespeare's own Two Gentlemen of Verona (1594) one
friend offered his beloved to the other on demand.  Montaigne would
kill his daughter if his friend asked him to (Elyot (2.11,12); 2
Gentlemen, 5.4.83; Montaigne (1.223)).  As Granville reminds us in
his concluding moral statement, just cited, Love, being a passion,
comes and goes; Friendship, being an eternal bond between souls, a
moral entity, is permanent.  Perhaps that's why Elizabethan marriage
handbooks recommended friendship as the best basis for a satisfactory
relationship between husband and wife (Bean).  Perhaps Portia rescues
Antonio because she knows it will bind Bassanio to her forever as a
friend, as well as a husband. 

     Now we see, with Granville's help, that the last act is not
Portia's own one-act, but an apotheosis of friendship.  The true
climax of the play is not, after all, the defeat of Shylock but the
scene just after it, when Bassanio in his turn passes a supreme test
of friendship.  Here Balthasar chooses Bassanio's wedding ring as a
reward for saving Antonio from Shylock, Bassanio remonstrates--it is
his pledge of fidelity to his wife--, but Antonio, having a huge debt
of gratitude to Balthasar, commands 

          My lord Bassanio, let him have the ring;
          Let his deservings, and my love withal,
          Be valued 'gainst your wife's commandment.                   
                                         (MV 4.1.320-22)

Such a moment, rolling the main issue of the drama into a ball and
tossing it in the air to see if it will be caught, also occurs when
Beatrice says to Benedict, "Kill Claudio" (Much Ado 4.1.289).  By
putting his request in the form of a command, Antonio actually does
Bassanio a favor, effectively letting him "off the hook" for betraying
his wife.  For, commanded thus, Bassanio has no more choice in the
matter than he would about whether to obey the force of gravity after
stepping out of a window.  "A singular and principall friendship
dissolveth all other duties, and freeth all other obligations" (Mon-
taigne 1.226). 

     Antonio would have given his life for Bassanio.  Bassanio's debt
of gratitude is maximum.  When, instantly, with no trace of reluc-
tance, Bassanio gives up the ring at his friend's request, we gasp. 
But the very speed with which he betrays his oath to Portia is the
main point of the play.  The Merchant has actually been building for
this moment ever since Antonio protested against Bassanio's grant
proposal in act 1.  Since his friendship automatically entails the
grant, he only wants to know "How much."  "Why" is irrelevant.   For
the classical moralists, a "hesitant friend" is a contradiction in
terms.  "Righteousness," says Cicero, "shines with a brilliance of its
own, but doubt is a sign we are thinking of a possible wrong."  "Do
for friends [whatever] is honourable . . . without even waiting to be
asked; let zeal be ever present, but hesitation absent."  "There is no
grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers."  "Give . . . quickly,
cheerfully, and without hesitation"  (Off. 1.30; Am. 44; Seneca
Morals 16).  Throughout the seven books of De Beneficiis Seneca
harps on one string:  it's the attitude that counts: not the thing
given or received.  Because for two steps Lancelot hesitated to get
into a peasant cart, weighing his pride against his eagerness to join
Guenevere, she rejected his love, and rightly so.

     For, [says Seneca] since . . . the chief pleasure of [a benefit]
     comes from the intention of the bestower, he who by his very
     hesitation has shown that he made his bestowal unwillingly has
     not 'given' (50).

He has simply been unable to think of a reason not to.  

     As I have said, Shakespeare shows his characters' eagerness to
give, instead of telling us about it.  Counting Antonio's unhesitating
loan to Bassanio with which the play begins,~11 and Portia's release
of Bassanio to go in aid of Antonio before he asks it, we witness
eight other instantaneous grants in preparation for Bassanio's splen-
did gift of Portia's ring.  In act 2 Bassanio gives Launcelot a job
instantly, without an interview, and without calculating whether he
can afford another servant, which he can't.
          Bassanio.   What would you?
          Launcelot.  Serve you, sir.
          Old Gobbo.  That is the very defect of the matter, sir.
          Bassanio.  I know you well; thou hast obtained thy suit.
                                                    (MV 2.2.141-144)

A moment later request and grant occupy one line:

          Gratiano.  I have a suit to you.
          Bassanio.                   You have obtained it. 
                                                     (MV 2.2.177)~12

A mere hint is enough for Lorenzo:

          Gratiano.  Was not that letter from fair Jessica?
          Lorenzo.  I must needs tell thee all.  (MV 2.4.28-9)

And he proceeds to do so.  Gratiano asks for Nerissa's hand in mar-

          Bassanio.  And do you, Gratiano, mean good faith?  [Are you
          serious, for once?] 
          Gratiano.  Yes, faith, my Lord.
          Bassanio.  Our feast shall be much honored in your mar-
                                                   (MV 3.2.210-212).

On receiving the news that Bassanio's friend must forfeit a pound of

          Portia.  What sum owes he the Jew?
          Bassanio.  For me, three thousand ducats.
          Portia.  Pay him six thousand and deface the bond.
                       Double six thousand and treble that.
                                                    (MV 3.2.297-300)
An equally fast response occurs when the Duke's pardons Shylock his
life also "before [he asks] it" (MV 4.1.369).  Note also the speed
with which Antonio accepts Shylock's flesh bond, taking it as an offer
of friendship: 

          Shylock.  To buy his favor, I extend this friendship. 
          If he will take it, so, if not, adieu; 
          And for my love I pray you wrong me not.
          Antonio.  Yes, Shylock, I will seal unto this bond.
                                                  (MV 1.3.168-171)  
     In contrast to these instant decisions, Shylock, always the
antithesis, "bethinks" himself (MV 1.3.30) for 151 lines, one-third
of act 1, before making up his mind to grant a loan to Antonio.  He
was indeed, as Cicero could have told us, "thinking of a possible
wrong."  Thus the main conflict of Shakespeare's Merchant--that
between Antonio and Shylock and what they represent, prepares us for
the play's grand moment of truth, when Antonio says, "Let him have the
ring," and Bassanio instantly complies.
     The same interlocking web of gratitude knits the main characters
together in both The Merchant and The Jew, though, again, Shake-
speare does not advertize the fact.  Antonio stakes his life for
Bassanio.  Bassanio owes Antonio not just three thousand ducats but
his own life in return for Antonio's risking his.  Bassanio owes his
fortune to Antonio, who enabled him to court Portia.  Portia owes her
husband to Antonio, the enabler.  She pays him back by saving his life
at the trial.  Now Antonio owes his life to the "lawyer" who saved it. 
Therefore, he commands Bassanio to give up the ring.  Now Antonio owes
Bassanio for sacrificing the ring (Portia).  Portia pays her debt to
Antonio by forgiving him.  She does this by giving him the honor of
returning the ring to Bassanio.  He reciprocates the favor by promis-
ing to make sure that it stays on his friend's finger (thus giving her
his friend).  And when he puts the ring back on Bassanio's finger
Antonio repays Bassanio for sacrificing Portia so that he could repay
the lawyer who saved his life which he risked when he borrowed money
to give Bassanio so that he could woo Portia.  

     With Granville's help, we now plainly see that it was inevitable,
it had been inevitable since ancient times, that Shakespeare's Bassan-
io would give away Portia's ring.   As he himself declares:
          I was enforc'd to send it after him,
          I was beset with shame and courtesy,
          My honor would not let ingratitude
          So much besmear it.  Pardon me, good lady,
          For by these blessed candles of the night,
          Had you been there, I think you would have begg'd
          The ring of me to give the worthy doctor. 
                                          (MV 5.1.216-222)

She was there, funnily enough, disguised as that very same "worthy
doctor," and, knowing the protocols of gratitude, she knew before she
begged for it that her husband would certainly break his promise to
her and that she, after a bit of teasing, would forgive him.  
     Cicero, trying to cover as many real life situations as possible,
has foreseen Bassanio's dilemma.  Under the heading of "keeping
promises," he takes up the case of conflicting obligations.  When
unforeseen circumstances arise, he decides, a promise must be weighed
against what's best for all concerned.  If I have promised to defend a
man in court, but my son falls dangerously ill, I should break my
promise and stay with my son, and the person promised should forgive
me.  In such cases, "good faith" guarantees that the defaulter will
have a good reason and that the person promised will accept it (Off.
1.31,32).  Aristotle concurs:  "Friendship exacts what is possible,
not what is due" (Eth. 8.14.4).

     In the play's historical context, where friendship is a given,
Portia would reason that a man who would forsake his friend would as
easily forsake his wife.  And that's exactly what Granville's Portia
says when she sends Bassanio off to succor Antonio:

                               Farewell, my lord,
          Be cheerful in this trial:  as you prove
          Your faith in friendship, I shall trust your love. 
                                                      (JV 3.1.295-7)

     The function of the ring trick is to show off a friendship, not,
as the recent critics would have it, to pry one apart.  Far from
opposing her husband's friendship, Portia gladly accepts it as proof
of his worth.  From this standpoint, the Shylock story is just a
subplot in which the wife earns the privilege of being a friend to the
friends; the climax of the play occurs when Bassanio sacrifices his
wife to his friendship; and the last act resolves the artificial
conflict thus created in such a way as to show that when human rela-
tionships are founded on good faith, built upon mutual give and take
and give again, formal oaths and promises may easily be be broken to
fit unforseen circumstances.  For us "male bonding" is the enemy of
love.  For Granville and for Shakespeare (and for Portia), friend-
ship is love's most reliable insurance.   

Antonio's problematical sadness.

     On the topic of Antonio's sadness, Granville picks up a clue that
to my knowledge no modern critic has noticed.  In his "methodizing"
process, he moved Antonio's play-opening line--"I know not why I am so
sad"--to Bassanio's feast, between the toasts and the masque, and
merged it with Jessica's fifth act misgiving--"I am never merry when I
hear sweet music" (5.1.69).  Listening to the music at his friend's
feast, Granville's Antonio laments,     

                                   O Bassanio!
          There sits a heaviness upon my heart
          Which wine cannot remove:  I know not
          But music ever makes me thus. (2.2.35-38)

Lorenzo's comforting answer to Jessica in act 5 of Shakespeare's play
then becomes Bassanio's comforting answer to Antonio act 2 of Gran-

          The reason is, your spirits are attentive:
          For do but note, a wild and wanton herd
          Or race of youthful [skittish] and unhandled colts
          Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
          If they but hear by [per]chance a trumpet sound,
          Or any air of music touch their ears,
          You strait perceive 'em make a mutual stand,
          Their savage eyes turned to attentive gaze,
          By the soft power of music.  Therefore the poet
          Did feign that Orpheus melted stones and rocks;
          For what so hard, so stubborn, or so fierce,
          But music for the time doth change its nature.
          The man, who has not music in his soul,
          Or is not touched by the concord of sweet sounds,
          Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils,
          The motions of his mind are as dull as night,
          And his affections dark as Erebus,
          Let no such man be trusted. ----Mark the music.

[Here to be a complete concert of vocal and instrumental Music, after
the Italian Manner.]                                 (JV 2.2.35-59)

     Here at one stroke, Granville connects the masque to the plot,
couples friendship with social concord and social concord with music,
associates Shylock with social discord, and answers the riddle of the
original play's first line.

     The masque shows how much the future Belmontese love music, how
much their lives are permeated by it.  (Here Granville simply magni-
fies the continual presence of music at Portia's house).  Bassanio's
(originally Lorenzo's) answer identifies music as an analogue, echo,
or even generator of social harmony, a force that converts destructive
brute force into constructive civilized force.  When fanfares of music
greet the first three toasts, we are to understand that the feelings
they express are congenial.  When Antonio commands silence following
Shylock's toast to money--   

          Let birds and beasts of prey howl such vows,
          All generous notes be hushed:  pledge thyself, Jew:
          None here will stir the glass
          Nor shall the music sound (2.2.32-35)--

we are to understand that the cash nexus between man and man is
perfectly antithetical to friendship; it makes no music, produces no
harmony, and abets discord.  Shylock's hatred of music is well estab-
lished in the original.  

     Immediately after forbidding any musical accolade for Shylock's
toast, Antonio is seized by his unfathomable melancholy.  By this
juxtaposition Granville answers the riddle:  Antonio is sad because of
Shylock, or, more precisely, what he represents is sad because of what
Shylock represents.  He, the exemplary friend, is "tuned in" to
celestial concord, and therefore his "attentive spirits" are more
sensitive to discord.  "If this be Nature's holy plan,/Have I not
reason to lament/What man has made of man?"  Loving music more than
most, he is more unhappy than most with a scratchy phonograph needle. 

     There are good grounds for giving Antonio Jessica's response to
music.  Both she and he are sad; neither can abide Shylock, one for
his Puritanical austerity, the other for his cruel mode of livelihood. 
Because music equates to friendship, Antonio "has music in his soul,"
and Shylock, who hates music, is "fit for treasons, stratagems, and

     In The Jew of Venice, Granville, who resides in Shakespeare's
own moral community, takes up and refutes the principal "subversions,"
"leaks," "interrogations," and "dark shadows" in The Merchant of
Venice that modern and postmodern critics, working from what I argue
are irrelevant post-capitalist prejudices, have imposed upon on the
play.  Without its alleged  contradictions, the play has a tight
formalist structural unity, it focusses on an essentialist Platonic
idea, and, resolving all conflicts, it ends in closure.  Unless
there are other reasons than those commonly given for alleging that
The Merchant of Venice1 is "multivalent and "plural" in meaning, we
will have to assume, for the time being at least, that it isn't.

Notes: 1. A few still demur:  For example, Harry Levin, in "A Garden in Belmont:  The Merchant of Venice, 5.1,"  and David Bevington, in his most recent edition of The Merchant still assume a conventional comedy in which good triumphs over evil and all live happily ever after.  Return To Reading  2. Citations of Shakespeare's plays refer to The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans.   Return To Reading  3. Shakespeare must have been more familiar with the moral philosophy of the ancients than we give him credit for.  He did, after all, write six plays based on classical sources.  Plutarch, his principal source for these plays, continually measures his worthies against ancient Graeco-Roman morality.   Return To Reading  4. Cf. e g Rowe and Pope ("Preface") for typical statements of the neo-classical position on Shakespeare.  Return To Reading  5.  On Antonio's homosexuality cf eg Auden (229-31), Berry (131), Engle (20, 23), Hassel (183), Hill (81), Hyman (110), Novy (144-5), Rockas (346), Tennenhouse "Counterfeit" (61), and Wain (79).  Holland (238) cites essays by E. E. Krapf, Graham Midgely, Thomas Arthur Ross, W. I. D. Scott, and L. A. G. Strong ascribing homosexuality to Antonio.  Return To Reading  6. On the rivalry between Antonio and Portia cf e. g Adelman (79-80), Barton (252, 3), Benston (361, 381), Berger (157, 161), Boose (337-8), Burckhardt (234), Dawson (16-7), Engle (34-7), Felheim (107), Goldberg (135- 6, n. 11), Grudin (64-65), Hassell (205), Holaday (115-117), Holmer (69-70), Horwich (199), Howard (124-5), Hyman (109), Jardine (13); Kahn (110), Newman (31-2), Novy (137, 149), Rabkin (18) Tennenhouse "Counterfeit" (59-61), Wheeler (197).   Return To Reading  7. This estimate is based on the Shakespeare entry of Schneider, Index to The London Stage, 1660-1800  Return To Reading  8. For sympathy with Shylock cf e.g Auden (228), Barber (190-191), Barker (79-80), Barton (252, 253), Burckhardt (206-11), Charlton (128), Cohen (773), Goddard (98), Goldberg (123), Greenblatt (134), Hassel (179, 189, 195), Hatlen (100), Howard (124), Kahn (110), Knight (95), Leggat (141-2), Moisan (197-8), Moody (104-5), Novy (147), Rabkin (13-15), Rockas (351), Siemon (206-7), Tennenhouse ("Counterfeit" 58, 59), Wain (77), Wheeler (198-9), and Whigham 103-111).   Return To Reading  9. For the mercenary propensities of the Christians cf e.g Auden (232, 234), Berry (113-114), Burckhardt (213), Eggers (328-9), Engle (21), Girard (107), Grudin (56), Hamill (233), Hatlen (100), Howard (124), Leggat (122), Moisan (195),  Shell (74-5), Tennenhouse (Power 54), Wheeler (197), Whigham (95).   Return To Reading  10. See Columbia Encyclopedia under "Montferrat."  Return To Reading  11. Antonio's attempt in this scene to forestall Bassanio's proposal may have had its origin in Senecan:        If we are not so fortunate as to anticipate the asker, let us cut him      off from using many words; in order that we may appear to have been,      not asked, but merely informed, let us promise at once and prove by our      very haste that we were about to act even before we were solicited.       (Ess 3.53)  Return To Reading  12. Sylvan Barnet also notes this fast interchange ("Prodigality" 26).  Return To Reading 
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