This is a bad mistake with serious consequences. To give a name thereto I took small care, Since a good friend of mine its title found, II Pecoron, for that it doth abound With owlish loons, who make within their lair. A loon myself, I over these preside, And like a bleating calf my way pursue, Book-making, and I know not what beside, Granted the times be ripe, and that my due Of fame and honour with me may abide, For praise will greet me from the loutish crew. Then marvel not, O reader, if you find The book and writer of the self-same kind. This attribution is supposed to be spurious although it is mostly retained for convenience.

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This is a bad mistake with serious consequences. To give a name thereto I took small care, Since a good friend of mine its title found, II Pecoron, for that it doth abound With owlish loons, who make within their lair. A loon myself, I over these preside, And like a bleating calf my way pursue, Book-making, and I know not what beside, Granted the times be ripe, and that my due Of fame and honour with me may abide, For praise will greet me from the loutish crew.

Then marvel not, O reader, if you find The book and writer of the self-same kind. This attribution is supposed to be spurious although it is mostly retained for convenience. Angelo de Gubernatis demonstrated that the personality of Ser Giovanni is purely mythical; that the Pecorone, from certain idiosyncrasies of style, could not have been written in the trecento; and that its proper place is with the other recognized forgeries of literature, the Macpherson of this Ossian being Ludovico Domenichi , the editor of the first edition published in It can be proven that Shake-speare was directly familiar with El Pecorone in spite of the fact that, in the sixteenth century, no English translation of the Italian novel was in existence.

Anthony Munday also used the fable of the gory guarantee for the repayment of a loan, which was not permitted to cause loss of blood during its collection. An elderly Christian usurer by the name of Truculento wishes to marry the beautiful Cornelia.

The two stories end in the same way. Both money lenders are told that they may extract their due; however, if a single drop of blood is spilled thereby, they will be executed. The question of where Munday drew his inspiration from will be discussed later. See 3. And Il Pecorone, The Fourth Day, First Novel English translation by William Waters, There was once in Florence, in the house of the Scali, a certain merchant called Bindo, who had sailed many times to Tana, near to Alexandria, and had likewise adventured in those other long voyages which are made for the sake of traffic.

This Bindo, who was very rich, had three stalwart sons, and when he lay on his deathbed he bade come to him the eldest and the second born, and in their presence he made his will and left them heirs of all he possessed in the world.

But to the youngest he left nothing. He has no son of his own, and has written to me more than once to send you to him; moreover, I must tell you that he is the richest of all the Christian merchants. Wherefore I desire that you go to him after my death and give him this letter. If you manage your affairs with prudence, you will become a rich man. All the sons lamented sorely, and buried their father with due honours. Nevertheless, you are our brother, and from this time you shall have share in whatever may be left, equally with ourselves.

On this I am fully determined; wherefore you can take the heritage sanctified and assigned to you. Giannetto took leave of them, and having journeyed to Venice and gone to the warehouse of Messer Ansaldo, he delivered the letter which his father had handed to him on his deathbed; and Messer Ansaldo, when he had read the same, learned that the young man before him was the son of his dear friend Bindo.

He never failed to give honour and respect where they might be due, and he reverenced Messer Ansaldo as if he had been a hundred times his father. Nor was any feast ever given to which he was not bidden. It happened one day that two good friends of his determined to sail for Alexandria with some wares laden in two ships, as was their annual custom.

Then Messer Ansaldo let prepare a very fine ship, which he loaded with much merchandise, and supplied with banners and arms and all that was necessary. And when all was in readiness Messer Ansaldo gave orders to the captain and the crew of the ship that they should do whatever Giannetto might direct, and he committed him to their care.

After these three friends in their three ships had sailed on several days it chanced that early one morning Giannetto caught sight of a certain gulf in which was a very fair port, whereupon he asked the captain what might be the name of the place. The captain replied that it belonged to a certain lady, a widow, who had brought many to ruin. But if he should fail in his venture, he must lose all he has.

In the harbour the next morning, when the news was spread that a fine ship had come into port, all the people flocked to see her, and it was told likewise to the lady, who forthwith sent for Giannetto. Giannetto answered that he did, and that he had come there by reason of this custom alone. Almost everyone felt kindly towards him, and all that day they danced and sang and made merry at the court for the sake of Giannetto, and everyone would have been well content to own him as over-lord. Then he undressed and lay down on the bed, and fell asleep at once.

As soon as it was day the lady arose, and made them begin unload the ship, which was filled with rich and fine merchandise. He was greatly ashamed, and conscious that he had fared very ill in his adventure. Giannetto, what means this? One was cast here and another there, and I caught hold of a piece of wood, on which I reached the shore. I returned hither by land, and here I am.

But where is he? Be not cast down, for, since no hurt has come to you, I can rejoice. When we lost sight of you, we turned back on our course for a whole day, but we could neither see aught of your ship nor learn where you had gone. Thus we fell into such grief that, for the whole of our voyage, we knew not what merriment was, deeming you to be dead. I barely escaped with my life, and everything I had was lost.

Wherefore Messer Ansaldo besought him often that he should not grieve; for that, with the great wealth he possessed, they could live very well, but Giannetto answered that he could know no rest until he should have once more made that voyage over seas. When Messer Ansaldo saw what his longing was, he let furnish for him in due time another ship, laden with yet richer cargo than the first, spending in this venture the main portion of his possessions; and the crew, as soon as they had stored the vessel with all that was needful, put out to sea with Giannetto on board, and set sail on the voyage.

Giannetto kept constant watch to espy the port where the lady dwelt, which was known as the port of the lady of Belmonte [2] , and, having sailed one night up to the entrance thereof, which was in an arm of the sea, he suddenly recognized it, and bade them turn the sails and steer into it in such fashion that his friends on board the other ships might know naught of what he did.

He received them in like spirit, and then went up to the castle and presented himself to the lady. She, when she met him, embraced him with joy and delight, and he returned her greeting with reverent devotion. All that day they made merry, for the lady had bid come to her court divers ladies and gentlemen, and these entertained Giannetto joyfully for the love they bore him. The men grieved over the fate which was in store for him, for they would gladly have hailed him as their lord on account of his charm and courtesy, while the women were almost all in love with him when they saw with what dexterity he led the dance, and how he always wore a merry face as if he had been the son of some great lord.

Giannetto fell asleep as soon as he lay down; whereupon the lady undressed and placed herself beside him, but he did not awake from sleep all night. Accursed be the fortune which led me into that land! We still have enough to allow us to live in modest fashion. The sea is always wont to give to one and to take from another.

Fear nothing, for as long as we have anything you may treat it as your own. In sooth, if the other two vessels had been fine and fair, this third was much richer and better furnished. Then Ansaldo gave him his blessing, and, having taken leave, they set sail on their voyage.

The two friends who sailed with Giannetto kept good watch over his ship, while he thought of nothing else than how he might again drop into the harbour of Belmonte. Would to God that he were our ruler! He repaired to her presence, and they embraced one another and exchanged greetings and reverence, and then the people set themselves to make merry all that day, and, for the love they had for Giannetto, they held a stately jousting, many barons and cavaliers running a course.

Giannetto also was minded to show his skill, and indeed he wrought such marvellous deeds, and showed such great prowess both with his arms and his horse, and won so completely the favour of the barons, that they all desired to have him to rule over them.

There were merrymakings and feastings many and sumptuous, and when Giannetto came forth from the chamber they made him a cavalier and set him upon the throne, giving him a wand to hold in his hand, and proclaiming him lord with much state and rejoicing. When all the barons and ladies of the land were come to court, Giannetto took to wife the lady with rejoicings and delights so great that they can neither be described nor imagined. For at this time all the barons and nobles of the country came to the feast, and there was no lack of merry jesting, and jousting, and sword-play, and dancing, and singing, and music, and all the other sports appertaining to jollity and rejoicing.

Messer Giannetto, like a high-spirited gentleman, made presents of silken stuffs and of other rich wares which he had brought with him. He was a strong ruler, and made himself respected by the equal justice he maintained towards men of all classes.

Thus he lived his life in joy and gladness, and gave no thought to Messer Ansaldo, who, luckless wight as he was, remained a living pledge for the ten thousand ducats which he had borrowed from the Jew.

One day Messer Giannetto, standing with his wife at the window of the palace, saw, passing through the piazza, a band of men bearing lighted torches in their hands, as if they were going to make some offering. Giannetto inquired of her what this might mean; whereupon she replied that it was a company of craftsmen going to pay their vows at the church of San Giovanni on the festival of the saint. Messer Giannetto then remembered Messer Ansaldo, and, having gone away from the window, he sighed deeply and became grave of countenance, and walked up and down the hall thinking over what he had just seen.

Take what following you wish, and a hundred thousand ducats to boot, and halt not till you shall be come to Venice. Then, if your father be still living, bring him back here with you. When the time set forth in the bond had expired, the Jew caused Messer Ansaldo to be seized, and then he declared he meant to cut away from his debtor the pound of flesh.

But Messer Ansaldo begged him to let him live a few days longer, so that, in case Giannetto should return, he might at least see his son once more. The Jew replied that he was willing to grant this favour, as far as the respite was concerned, but that he was determined to have his pound of flesh according to his agreement, though a hundred Giannettos should come; and Messer Ansaldo declared that he was content.

All the people of Venice were talking of this matter, everyone being grieved thereanent, and divers traders made a partnership together to pay the money, but the Jew would not take it, being minded rather to do this bloody deed, so that he might boast that he had slain the chief of the Christian merchants.

Now it happened that, after Messer Giannetto set forth eagerly for Venice, his wife followed immediately behind him clad in legal garb and taking two servants with her. But the Jew made answer that he wanted not the money, since it had not been paid in due time, [5] but that he desired to cut his pound of flesh from Ansaldo.

On this account all the Venetian merchants came there to entreat the Jew, but he grew harder than before, and then Messer Giannetto offered to give him twenty thousand, but he would not take them; then he advanced his offer to thirty, then to forty, then to fifty, and finally to a hundred thousand ducats. If you were to offer me more ducats than the whole city of Venice is worth, I would not take them.

I would rather have what this bond says is my due. She took lodging at an inn, the host of which inquired of one of her servants who this gentleman might be. The servant, who had been instructed by the lady as to what reply he should make to a question of this sort, replied that his master was a doctor of laws who was returning home after a course of study at Bologna.

Once there came hither from Florence a youth whose name was Giannetto. He came to reside with his godfather, who was called Messer Ansaldo, and so gracious and courteous did he show himself to everyone, that all the ladies of Venice, and the gentlemen as well, held him very dear. Never before had there come to our city so seemly a youth.

Now this godfather of his fitted out for him, on three different occasions, three ships, all of great value, and every time disaster befell his Venture. But for the equipment of the last ship Messer Ansaldo had not money enough, so he had perforce to borrow ten thousand ducats of a certain Jew upon these terms, to wit, that if by the day of San Giovanni in the following June he should not have repaid the debt, the Jew aforesaid should be free to cut away, from whatever part of his body he would, a pound of flesh.

Now this much-desired youth has returned from his last voyage, and, in lieu of the ten thousand ducats, has offered to give a hundred thousand, but this villainous Jew will not accept them; so all our excellent citizens are come hither to entreat him, but all their prayers profit nothing.

The report having come to the ears of Messer Giannetto that there was come from Bologna a doctor of laws who was ready to settle the rights and wrongs of every dispute, he went to the Jew and suggested that they should go before the doctor aforesaid, and the Jew agreed, saying at the same time that, come what might, he would demand the right to do all that his bond allowed him.

When they came before the doctor of laws, and gave him due salutation, he recognized Messer Giannetto, who meantime knew not the doctor to be his wife, because her face was stained with a certain herb.

It simply gives you the right to take a pound of flesh, and says neither less nor more. Now, if you are a wise man, you will consider well which may be the best way to compass this task. Then the Jew came to ninety, and then to eighty thousand, but the doctor stood firmer than ever to his word. If you are minded to take what is yours, take it; if not, I will protest, and cause your bond to be annulled. Now, if you will do me the favour to come and visit me, and see her, I trow you will be amazed at the honourable reception she will give you, and you can see for yourself whether or not she is all that I now tell you.


Il Pecorone

For its historical facts, however, it relies on the Nuova Cronica of Giovanni Villani. One day Giannetto expresses a desire to make a voyage to Alexandria, so as to see something of the world; Ansaldo furnishes him with a fine ship and much merchandise, and off he starts. Sailing along the Venetian coast he observes a beautiful port and asks the captain whose it is. The captain says that it belongs to a widow who has become very rich by gaining the fortunes of many lovers; for she has made it a law that whoever puts into the harbour which is called Belmonte must woo her, and if he fails to fulfil certain difficult conditions, give up to her everything he has brought with him. Many have tried, but the lady who is extremely beautiful has drugged and tricked them. So Giannetto puts into port, tries, fails, loses his valuable ship and merchandise, and returns to Venice with the story that he has been shipwrecked; and Ansaldo receives him again into his house.


Dates and sources

What stories inspired the play? Oil on canvas. This allusion means that the play cannot have been written before the late summer of The play was first printed in a quarto edition in Sources Il Pecorone There are many ancient legends and folk-tales from around the world in which a bargain is struck with a bond of human flesh as security.

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