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literature. Like Shakespeare and Scott, he has created for us a host of persons and made us share in their lives. Critics have found many faults in his books, though every one admits that he was a great humorist. He does indeed often exaggerate, and his men and women are sometimes caricatures rather than lifelike pictures. But what a work of invention he performed! Out of the streets of London and the highways of the English country, he created thousands of persons who have become the companions of millions of readers in sorrow and in mirth.
Review Questions : 1. What have you read by Dickens in addition to these selections ? 2. What are the names of some of his novels ? 3. What other children of his do you know besides David Copperfield ? 4. In what ways is the story of David the story of the childhood of Dickens himself ? 5. What examples of humor can you recall from these selections ? 6. What examples of pathos ?
7. In what year were Poe and Holmes born ? 8. What other poet was born in the same year? (See page 330.) 9. What great statesman ? 10. What great contrasts do you find between the lives of Poe and Holmes ? 11. Which of the two had the happier life?
12. Which of the two was the greater humorist? 13. Can you remember a few lines from each ? 14. What other American poets are represented in this book ? What English poets?
The next selection is taken from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. The time is many years ago, and the five scenes selected are all in the house of Portia, a young woman of Belmont, Italy. Her father has directed in his will that she shall marry the suitor who chooses from among three caskets the one containing her picture. As she is both very beautiful and very rich, many suitors come to make the choice.
In the play, this story of the caskets is combined with the story of Shylock, who has lent money to a Venetian merchant, Antonio, on condition that if Antonio fails to pay upon a fixed day, he shall give a pound of his flesh to Shylock. It is a friend of Antonio who wins Portia, and she is able to save him from Shylock's vengeance. Shylock and Portia are the most important persons of the play and among the most wonderful of Shakespeare's interpretations of character.
In these selections, we have only the story of the caskets. In Scene I, Portia and her maid are making merry over the suitors. In Scenes II, III, and IV,
, two brave princes arrive, make their choice, and fail to select the right casket. In Scene V, the right man makes the right choice.
From The Merchant of Venice
Belmont in Italy. A room in Portia's house
Enter PORTIA with her waiting-woman, NERISSA
Por. By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world.
Ner. You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes 5 are; and yet, for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing.
Por. Good sentences and well pronounc'd.
Por. If to do were as easy as to know what were 10 good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men's
cottages princes' palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than to be one of the twenty
to follow mine own teaching. But this reasoning is 15 not in the fashion to choose me a husband. O me, the
word choose! I may neither choose who I would nor refuse who I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter
curb’d by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor refuse none?
Ner. Your father was ever virtuous, and holy men at their death have good inspirations; therefore the 5 lottery that he hath devised in these three chests of gold, silver, and lead, whereof who chooses his meaning chooses you, will, no doubt, never be chosen by any rightly but one who you shall rightly love. But what warmth is there in your affection towards any of these 10 princely suitors that are already come?
Por. I pray thee, over-name them; and as thou namest them, I will describe them; and, according to my description, level at my affection.
Ner. First, there is the Neapolitan prince.
Por. Ay, that's a colt indeed, for he doth nothing but talk of his horse; and he makes it a great appropriation to his own good parts, that he can shoe him himself.
Ner. Then there is the County Palatine.
Por. He doth nothing but frown, as who should say, “If you will not have me, choose.” He hears merry tales and smiles not. I fear he will prove the weeping philosopher when he grows old, being so full
of unmannerly sadness in his youth. I had rather 25 be married to a death's-head with a bone in his mouth
than to either of these. God defend me from these two !