MY LIFE AND LOVES.
been imperfectly learned and so the "Trial Scene" opened badly. But the part of "Shylock" suited me intimately and I had learned how to recite. Now before E . . . . and Lucille, I was set on doing better than my best. When my cue came I bowed low before the "Duke" and then bowed again to left and right of him in silence and formally, as if I, the outcast Jew, were saluting the whole court; then in a voice that at first I simply made slow and clear and hard, I began the famous reply:
"I have possessed your Grace of what I purpose;
And by our Holy Sabbath have I sworn
To have the due and forfeit of my bond."
I don't except to be believed; but nevertheless I am telling the bare truth when I say that in my impersonation of "Shylock" I brought in the very piece of "business" that made Henry Irving's "Shylock" fifteen years later, "ever memorable", according to the papers.
When at the end, baffled and beaten, Shylock gives in:
"I pray you, give me leave to go from hence,
I am not well: send the deed after me,
And I will sign it",
the Duke says, "Get thee gone, but do it", and Gratiano insults the Jew—the only occasion, I think, when Shakespeare allows the beaten to be insulted by a gentleman.
On my way to the door as Shylock, I stopped, bent low before the Duke's dismissal; but at Gratiano's insult, I turned slowly round, while drawing myself up to my full height and scanning him from head to foot.
Irving used to return all across the stage and folding his arms on his breast look down on him with measureless contempt.