In the "Merchant of Venic" Shakspeare has several fine, highborn suitors applying for the hand of Portia. There is first "the Neapolitan Prince," then "the County Palatine," the "French Lord, Monsieur Le Bon," "Falconbridge, the young Baron of England," a "Scottish Lord ... .. the young German, the Duke of Saxony's nephew," (an ancestor of Prince Albert, perhaps,) after whom comes the "Prince of Morocco," and the "Prince of Arragon," these two last being introduced personally in the play, while the former respectable individuals are only "over-named" to her mistress by Nerissa. But as the piece is acted, even these two are "cut out,"' and they are scarcely named in modern performances.
"Old Sol" Smith was some years since making a circuit of several towns in Georgia and Alabama, where he had theatres, when, at one place he was pestered by a persevering country simpleton who wanted to "come out and act." Nothing is more difficult than to get rid of one of these stage-struck innocents, when once touched by the mania. Sol saw at a glance the character he had before him, and determined to repay himself for the constant annoyance of the young man, by extracting some amusement from him. He accordingly told the youth that he might attend when he liked behind the scenes, and some opportunity would perhaps occur when he could come out. This privilege was greedily seized upon by the aspirant, who immediately became almost part and parcel of the scenery, so closely did he scrutinize the actors and lounge around the stage.
Still pertinaciously he demanded every morning what his part was to be, and when he was to play. Worn out with continual teasing, Old Sol told him one day, during a rehearsal of the Merchant of Venice, that he should appear that evening, and his part should be that of the "Prince of Morocco," a personage now wholly unknown in "Cumberland's Acting Edition." This new and original cast had its designed effect of raising a laugh at the time and was then forgotten until the evening, when the stage-doorkeeper was heard in loud words with some one who wanted to come in and act.
"Who are you?" said the doorkeeper.
"I'm the Prince of Morocco," said the unsophisticated young gentleman, "and you must let me in to act."
Sol knew the voice and hurried to quench the disturbance, in doing which his ready drollery and wit at once displayed themselves.
"Ah, you are here," said Sol, "that's right; but, shade of Thespis! what do I behold?-Man! man! where is your red morocco dress?"
"Eh?" said the Georgia bumpkin, with a stupid stare.
"O, all the gods at once, and miching mallecho to boot! who ever heard of a Prince of Morocco without a full suit of red morocco armour! Go away, sir; I see now you will never do for an actor," and so Old Sol got rid of the young tragedian this time.
Months afterwards our eccentric manager had his company in another town, several hundred miles away, when the Merchant of Venice, or, as an old stager would say, "the Shylock piece," in due time came to be announced, as it was one of the standing stock performances of the troup. When the actors were assembling for rehearsal, every body was astounded at the apparition of a man dressed from head to foot in red leather, standing in front of the theatre, waiting, as he said, to see Sol Smith. Presently, Sol came along, recognised his old protege, went through the operation of a side-splitting fit of laughter, and then commenced studying how to get rid once more of so strange an annoyance.
"Ah, you are here," said Old Sol, "that's right; but eh? shade of Thespis! where's your horse?"
"Horse!" ejaculated the gentleman in red, with profound astonishment spreading over his face.
"Your horse," cried Old Sol, pretending to fly into a tremendous passion, "O, miching mallecho and all the gods! who ever saw a Prince of Morocco on foot? Begone, sir, I see you are no actor."
The poor young fellow went away abashed, and Sol concluded his crazy desires were checked, when once again, after a long travel through Georgia to Montgomery, Alabama, one morning, just when the theatre was announced to open for the first time, up rode the young Georgia Cracker, in his scarlet dress, on a wild looking Indian pony, followed by twenty or thirty boys, just starting out to school, all screaming and flinging up their caps with delight at the strange spectacle.
Orally, Old Sol tells the story with a droll and irresistible effect, much of which may be lost in our attempt at writing it, but we have never had a more ludicrous occurrence to record. The mirth of the actors and the whimsical manager may be imagined when the tragic tyro from Georgia came riding into Montgomery, armed and equipped according to order, with red leather pantaloons, jacket, and cap, and valiantly mounted, to niake his first appearance on any stage as the Prince of Morocco on horseback!