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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/392

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The graceful pleasantry which Shakespeare, following the Italians, has freely and deftly interwoven with the incidents of the original tale, avouches his realization of the radical change which had been wrought upon it by the unavoidable introduction of the mock court. He not only garnished it profusely with humorous passages, but, as Mr. Conway reminds us, produced it as a pronounced comedy in his own theatre. The fact that, notwithstanding this, the world has finally settled down upon a serious or pathetic interpretation of Shylock's character, and of the trial-scene, and exhibits a disposition, by repudiating the last scene of the play and by a variety of other expedients, to exorcise the comedy element, is certainly a high tribute as well to the irrepressible charm and dramatic quality of the old form of the story as to the overmastering power with which Shakespeare has told it. Whatever may be the merits of the reactionary or tragic interpretation, it has been largely facilitated by a vague assumption that Portia, though a usurper of the judicial office, might be, and, within the spirit of the play, ought to be regarded as a reasonably sound expositor of the Venetian law, and it is doubtful whether it would have been possible, had the public generally known as well as did Shakespeare and the Italians, that the mock court was improvised only because the time had long since passed when the law of the case could be plausibly credited with recognition in a legitimate tribunal. For, this being so, old Shylock, in the drama, through all the absorbing vicissitudes of the trial-scene, is as certainly the victim of a clever and frolicsome deception as was poor Christopher Sly, when, with manifold misgivings, he suffered himself to be persuaded that he was a lord, indeed, and not a tinker. It must, therefore, be admitted that the comic cast given to Shakespeare's Shylock by his early impersonators was not entirely inappropriate to so gullible an old Israelite as he proved himself to be.



THE great convenience of gas as an illuminating agent, due to its cleanliness and immediate availability in any desired quantity, soon led to its use as fuel; and to-day we have apparatus of all degrees of size and complexity, from the simple burner of the chemical laboratory to the gas-stove with which the meals of a large family may be cooked, or the gas-furnace capable of melting iron or satisfying the demands of the gold and silver assayer, all using gas as fuel—not to speak of the numerous applications of the waste gases from blast-furnaces and the like, or of the Siemens gas-furnace, using gas made especially for it, and in which the degree of heat that can be