The Jew of Malta/Prologue

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Gracious and Great, that we so boldly dare,

(‘Mongst other plays that now in fashion are)

To present this, writ many years agone,

And in that age thought second unto none,

We humbly crave your pardon: We pursue

The story of a rich and famous Jew

Who lived in Malta: you shall find him still,

In all his projects, a sound Machiavill;

And that's his character. He that hath past

So many censures, is now come at last

To have your princely ears: grace you him; then

You crown the action, and renown the pen.


We know not how our play may pass this stage,

But by the best of poets in that age

The Malta Jew had being, and was made;

And he, then by the best of actors played;

In Hero and Leander, one did gain

A lasting memory: in Tamburlaine,

This Jew, with others many, th' other wan

The attribute of peerless, being a man

Whom we may rank with (doing no one wrong)

Proteus for shapes, and Roscius for a tongue,

So could he speak, so vary; nor is't hate

To merit, in him who doth personate

Our Jew this day; nor is it his ambition

To exceed or equal, being of condition

More modest: this is all that he intends,

(And that too, at the urgence of some friends)

To prove his best, and, if none here gainsay it,

The part he hath studied, and intends to play it.