Merchant of Venice (1923) Yale/Text/Act I

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Scene One

[Venice. A Street]

Enter Antonio, Salarino, and Salanio.


Ant. In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:
It wearies me; you say it wearies you;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born, 4
I am to learn;
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.

Salar. Your mind is tossing on the ocean; 8
There, where your argosies with portly sail,—
Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood,
Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea,—
Do overpeer the petty traffickers, 12
That curtsy to them, do them reverence,
As they fly by them with their woven wings.

Salan. Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,
The better part of my affections would 16
Be with my hopes abroad. I should be still
Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind;
Peering in maps for ports, and piers, and roads;
And every object that might make me fear 20
Misfortune to my ventures out of doubt Would make me sad.

Salar.My wind, cooling my broth,
Would blow me to an ague, when I thought
What harm a wind too great might do at sea. 24
I should not see the sandy hour-glass run
But I should think of shallows and of flats,
And see my wealthy Andrew dock'd in sand
Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs 28
To kiss her burial. Should I go to church
And see the holy edifice of stone,
And not bethink me straight of dangerous rocks,
Which touching but my gentle vessel's side 32
Would scatter all her spices on the stream,
Enrobe the roaring waters with my silks;
And, in a word, but even now worth this,
And now worth nothing
? Shall I have the thought 36
To think on this, and shall I lack the thought
That such a thing bechanc'd would make me sad?
But tell not me: I know Antonio
Is sad to think upon his merchandise. 40

Ant. Believe me, no: I thank my fortune for it,
My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,
Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate
Upon the fortune of this present year: 44
Therefore, my merchandise makes me not sad.

Salar. Why, then you are in love.

Ant.Fie, fie!

Salar. Not in love neither? Then let's say you are sad.
Because you are not merry: and 'twere as easy 48
For you to laugh and leap, and say you are merry,
Because you are not sad. Now, by two-headed Janus,
Nature hath fram'd strange fellows in her time:
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes 52
And laugh like parrots at a bag-piper,
And other of such vinegar aspect
That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile,
Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable. 56

Enter Bassanio, Lorenzo, and Gratiano.

Salan. Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman,
Gratiano, and Lorenzo. Fare ye well:
We leave you now with better company.

Salar. I would have stay'd till I had made you merry, 60
If worthier friends had not prevented me.

Ant. Your worth is very dear in my regard.
I take it, your own business calls on you,
And you embrace the occasion to depart. 64

Salar. Good morrow, my good lords.

Bass. Good signiors both, when shall we laugh? say when?
You grow exceeding strange: must it be so?

Salar. We'll make our leisures to attend on yours.

[Exeunt Salarino and Salanio.]

Lor. My Lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio, 69
We too will leave you; but, at dinner-time,
I pray you, have in mind where we must meet.

Bass. I will not fail you. 72

Gra. You look not well, Signior Antonio;
You have too much respect upon the world:
They lose it that do buy it with much care:
Believe me, you are marvellously chang'd. 76

Ant. I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.

Gra.Let me play the fool:
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come, 80
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster? 84
Sleep when he wakes, and creep into the jaundice
By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio—
I love thee, and it is my love that speaks—
There are a sort of men whose visages 88
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond,
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dress'd in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit; 92
As who should say, 'I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my lips let no dog bark!'
O, my Antonio, I do know of these,
That therefore only are reputed wise 96
For saying nothing; when, I am very sure,
If they should speak, would almost damn those ears
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools.
I'll tell thee more of this another time: 100
But fish not, with this melancholy bait,
For this fool-gudgeon, this opinion.
Come, good Lorenzo. Fare ye well awhile:
I'll end my exhortation after dinner. 104

Lor. Well, we will leave you then till dinner-time.
I must be one of these same dumb-wise men,
For Gratiano never lets me speak.

Gra. Well, keep me company but two years moe, 108
Thou shalt not know the sound of thine own tongue.

Ant. Farewell: I'll grow a talker for this gear.

Gra. Thanks, i' faith; for silence is only commendable
In a neat's tongue dried and a maid not vendible. 112

Exit [Gratiano with Lorenzo].

Ant. Is that anything now?

Bass. Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of
nothing, more than any man in all Venice. His
reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two 116
bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day ere you
find them, and, when you have them, they are
not worth the search.

Ant. Well, tell me now, what lady is the same 120
To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage,
That you to-day promis'd to tell me of?

Bass. 'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
How much I have disabled mine estate, 124
By something showing a more swelling port
Than my faint means would grant continuance:
Nor do I now make moan to be abridg'd
From such a noble rate; but my chief care 128
Is, to come fairly off from the great debts
Wherein my time, something too prodigal,
Hath left me gag'd. To you, Antonio,
I owe the most, in money and in love; 132
And from your love I have a warranty
To unburthen all my plots and purposes
How to get clear of all the debts I owe.

Ant. I pray you, good Bassanio, let me know it; 136
And if it stand, as you yourself still do,
Within the eye of honour, be assur'd,
My purse, my person, my extremest means,
Lie all unlock'd to your occasions. 140

Bass. In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft,
I shot his fellow of the self-same flight
The self-same way with more advised watch,
To find the other forth, and by adventuring both, 144
I oft found both. I urge this childhood proof,
Because what follows is pure innocence.
I owe you much, and, like a wilful youth,
That which I owe is lost; but if you please 148
To shoot another arrow that self way
Which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,
As I will watch the aim, or to find both,
Or bring your latter hazard back again, 152
And thankfully rest debtor for the first.

Ant. You know me well, and herein spend but time
To wind about my love with circumstance;
And out of doubt you do me now more wrong 156
In making question of my uttermost
Than if you had made waste of all I have:
Then do but say to me what I should do
That in your knowledge may by me be done, 160
And I am prest unto it: therefore speak.

Bass. In Belmont is a lady richly left,
And she is fair, and, fairer than that word,
Of wondrous virtues: sometimes from her eyes 164
I did receive fair speechless messages:
Her name is Portia; nothing undervalu'd
To Cato's daughter, Brutus' Portia:
Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth, 168
For the four winds blow in from every coast
Renowned suitors; and her sunny locks
Hang on her temples like a golden fleece;
Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos' strond, 172
And many Jasons come in quest of her.
O my Antonio! had I but the means
To hold a rival place with one of them,
I have a mind presages me such thrift, 176
That I should questionless be fortunate.

Ant. Thou knowest that all my fortunes are at sea;
Neither have I money, nor commodity
To raise a present sum: therefore go forth; 180
Try what my credit can in Venice do:
That shall be rack'd, even to the uttermost,
To furnish thee to Belmont, to fair Portia.
Go, presently inquire, and so will I, 184
Where money is, and I no question make
To have it of my trust or for my sake. Exeunt.


Scene Two

[Belmont. A Room in Portia's House]

Portia with her waiting woman Nerissa.


Por. By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is
aweary of this great world.

Ner. You would be, sweet madam, if your
miseries were in the same abundance as your 4
good fortunes are: and yet, for aught I see, they
are as sick that surfeit with too much as they
that starve with nothing. It is no mean happi-
ness therefore to be seated in the mean: 8
superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but
competency lives longer.

Por. Good sentences and well pronounced.

Ner. They would be better if well followed. 12

Por. If to do were as easy as to know what
were good to do, chapels had been churches, and
poor men's cottages princes' palaces. It is a
good divine that follows his own instructions: I 16
can easier teach twenty what were good to be
done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine
own teaching. The brain may devise laws for
the blood, but a hot temper leaps o'er a cold 20
decree: such a hare is madness the youth, to
skip o'er the meshes of good counsel the cripple.
But this reasoning is not in the fashion to choose
me a husband. O me, the word 'choose!' I may 24
neither choose whom I would nor refuse whom
I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter
curbed by the will of a dead father. Is it not
hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor 28
refuse none?

Ner. Your father was ever virtuous, and holy
men at their death have good inspirations;
therefore, the lottery that he hath devised in these 32
three chests of gold, silver, and lead, whereof
who chooses his meaning chooses you, will, no
doubt, never be chosen by any rightly but one
who you shall rightly love. But what warmth 36
is there in your affection towards any of these
princely suitors that are already come?

Por. I pray thee, over-name them, and as
thou namest them, I will describe them; and, 40
according to my description, level at my affection.

Ner. First, there is the Neapolitan prince.

Por. Ay, that's a colt indeed, for he doth
nothing but talk of his horse; and he makes it a 44
great appropriation to his own good parts that
he can shoe him himself. I am much afeard
my lady his mother played false with a smith.

Ner. Then is there the County Palatine. 48

Por. He doth nothing but frown, as who
should say, 'An you will not have me, choose.'
He hears merry tales, and smiles not: I fear he
will prove the weeping philosopher when he 52
grows old, being so full of unmannerly sadness
in his youth. I had rather be married to a
death's-head with a bone in his mouth than to
either of these. God defend me from these two! 56

Ner. How say you by the French lord,
Monsieur Le Bon?

Por. God made him, and therefore let him pass
for a man. In truth, I know it is a sin to be a 60
mocker; but, he! why, he hath a horse better
than the Neapolitan's, a better bad habit of
frowning than the Count Palatine; he is every
man in no man; if a throstle sing, he falls 64
straight a-capering; he will fence with his own
shadow: if I should marry him, I should marry
twenty husbands. If he would despise me, I
would forgive him, for if he love me to madness, 68
I shall never requite him.

Ner. What say you, then, to Falconbridge,
the young baron of England?

Por. You know I say nothing to him, for he 72
understands not me, nor I him: he hath neither
Latin, French, nor Italian; and you will come
into the court and swear that I have a poor
pennyworth in the English. He is a proper 76
man's picture, but, alas! who can converse with
a dumb-show? How oddly he is suited! I think
he bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in
France, his bonnet in Germany, and his be- 80
haviour everywhere.

Ner. What think you of the Scottish lord, his

Por. That he hath a neighbourly charity in 84
him, for he borrowed a box of the ear of the
Englishman, and swore he would pay him again
when he was able: I think the Frenchman be-
came his surety and sealed under for another. 88

Ner. How like you the young German, the
Duke of Saxony's nephew?

Por. Very vilely in the morning, when he is
sober, and most vilely in the afternoon, when he 92
is drunk: when he is best, he is a little worse
than a man, and when he is worst, he is little
better than a beast. An the worst fall that ever
fell, I hope I shall make shift to go without him. 96

Ner. If he should offer to choose, and choose
the right casket, you should refuse to perform
your father's will, if you sbould refuse to accept
him. 100

Por. Therefore, for fear of the worst, I pray
thee, set a deep glass of Rhenish wine on the
contrary casket, for, if the devil be within and
that temptation without, I know he will choose 104
it. I will do anything, Nerissa, ere I will be
married to a sponge.

Ner. You need not fear, lady, the having any
of these lords: they have acquainted me with 108
their determinations; which is, indeed, to return
to their home and to trouble you with no more
suit, unless you may be won by some other sort
than your father's imposition depending on the 112

Por. If I live to be as old as Sibylla, I will die
as chaste as Diana, unless I be obtained by the
manner of my father's will. I am glad this 116
parcel of wooers are so reasonable, for there
is not one among them but I dote on his very
absence, and I pray God grant them a fair
departure. 120

Ner. Do you not remember, lady, in your
father's time, a Venetian, a scholar and a soldier,
that came hither in the company of the Marquis
of Montferrat? 124

Por. Yes, yes: it was Bassanio; as I think, he
was so called.

Ner. True, madam: he, of all the men that
ever my foolish eyes looked upon, was the best 128
deserving a fair lady.

Por. I remember him well, and I remember
him worthy of thy praise.

Enter a Servingman.

How now! what news? 132

Serv. The four strangers seek for you, madam,
to take their leave; and there is a forerunner
come from a fifth, the Prince of Morocco, who
brings word the prince his master will be here 136

Por. If I could bid the fifth welcome with so
good heart as I can bid the other four farewell,
I should be glad of his approach: if he have the 140
condition of a saint and the complexion of a devil,
I had rather he should shrive me than wive me.
Come, Nerissa. Sirrah, go before.
Whiles we shut the gate upon one wooer, another knocks at the door. Exeunt.


Scene Three

[Venice. A public Place]

Enter Bassanio with Shylock the Jew.


Shy. Three thousand ducats; well?

Bass. Ay, sir, for three months.

Shy. For three months; well?

Bass. For the which, as I told you, Antonio 4
shall be bound.

Shy. Antonio shall become bound; well?

Bass. May you stead me? Will you pleasure
me? Shall I know your answer? 8

Shy. Three thousand ducats, for three
months, and Antonio bound.

Bass. Your answer to that.

Shy. Antonio is a good man. 12

Bass. Have you heard any imputation to the

Shy. Ho, no, no, no, no: my meaning in saying
he is a good man is to have you understand me 16
that he is sufficient. Yet his means are in sup-
: he hath an argosy bound to Tripolis,
another to the Indies; I understand moreover
upon the Rialto, he hath a third at Mexico, a 20
fourth for England, and other ventures he hath,
squandered abroad. But ships are but boards,
sailors but men: there be land-rats and water-
rats, land-thieves, and water-thieves,—I mean 24
pirates,—and then there is the peril of waters,
winds, and rocks. The man is, notwithstanding,
sufficient. Three thousand ducats; I think, I
may take his bond. 28

Bass. Be assured you may.

Shy. I will be assured I may; and, that I may
be assured, I will bethink me. May I speak with
Antonio? 32

Bass. If it please you to dine with us.

Shy. Yes, to smell pork; to eat of the habita-
tion which your prophet the Nazarite conjured
the devil into. I will buy with you, sell with you, 36
talk with you, walk with you, and so following;
but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor
pray with you. What news on the Rialto? Who
is he comes here? 40

Enter Antonio.

Bass. This is Signior Antonio.

Shy. [Aside.] How like a fawning publican he looks!
I hate him for he is a Christian;
But more for that in low simplicity 44
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him. 48
He hates our sacred nation, and he rails,
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift,
Which he calls interest. Cursed be my tribe, 52
If I forgive him!

Bass. Shylock, do you hear?

Shy. I am debating of my present store,
And, by the near guess of my memory,
I cannot instantly raise up the gross 56
Of full three thousand ducats. What of that?
Tubal, a wealthy Hebrew of my tribe,
Will furnish me. But soft! how many months
Do you desire? [To Antonio.] Rest you fair, good signior; 60
Your worship was the last man in our mouths.

Ant. Shylock, albeit I neither lend nor borrow
By taking nor by giving of excess,
Yet, to supply the ripe wants of my friend, 64
I'll break a custom. [To Bassanio.] Is he yet possess'd
How much ye would?

Shy.Ay, ay, three thousand ducats.

Ant. And for three months.

Shy. I had forgot; three months; you told me so. 68
Well then, your bond; and let me see. But hear you;
Methought you said you neither lend nor borrow
Upon advantage.

Ant.I do never use it.

Shy. When Jacob graz'd his uncle Laban's sheep,—
This Jacob from our holy Abram was, 73
As his wise mother wrought in his behalf,
The third possessor: ay, he was the third,—

Ant. And what of him? did he take interest? 76

Shy. No; not take interest; not, as you would say,
Directly interest: mark what Jacob did.
When Laban and himself were compromis'd,
That all the eanlings which were streak'd and pied 80
Should fall as Jacob's hire, the ewes, being rank,
In end of autumn turned to the rams;
And, when the work of generation was
Between these woolly breeders in the act, 84
The skilful shepherd peel'd me certain wands,
And, in the doing of the deed of kind,
He stuck them up before the fulsome ewes,
Who, then conceiving, did in eaning time 88
Fall parti-colour'd lambs, and those were Jacob's.
This was a way to thrive, and he was blest:
And thrift is blessing, if men steal it not.

Ant. This was a venture, sir, that Jacob serv'd for;
A thing not in his power to bring to pass, 93
But sway'd and fashion'd by the hand of heaven.
Was this inserted to make interest good?
Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams? 96

Shy. I cannot tell; I make it breed as fast:
But note me, signior.

Ant.Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul, producing holy witness, 100
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

Shy. Three thousand ducats; 'tis a good round sum.
Three months from twelve, then let me see the rate. 105

Ant. Well, Shylock, shall we be beholding to you?

Shy. Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me 108
About my moneys and my usances:
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, 112
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it now appears you need my help:
Go to then; you come to me, and you say, 116
'Shylock, we would have moneys:' you say so;
You, that did void your rheum upon my beard,
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold: moneys is your suit. 120
What should I say to you? Should I not say,
'Hath a dog money? Is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?' or
Shall I bend low, and in a bondman's key, 124
With bated breath, and whispering humbleness,
Say this:—
'Fair sir, you spet on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn'd me such a day; another time 128
You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
I'll lend you thus much moneys?'

Ant. I am as like to call thee so again,
To spet on thee again, to spurn thee too. 132
If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not
As to thy friends,—for when did friendship take
A breed for barren metal of his friend?—
But lend it rather to thine enemy; 136
Who if he break, thou mayst with better face
Exact the penalty.

Shy.Why, look you, how you storm!
I would be friends with you, and have your love,
Forget the shames that you have stain'd me with, 140
Supply your present wants, and take no doit
Of usance for my moneys, and you'll not hear me:
This is kind I offer.

Bass. This were kindness.

Shy.This kindness will I show. 144
Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum or sums as are 148
Express'd in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me. 152

Ant. Content, i' faith: I']l seal to such a bond,
And say there is much kindness in the Jew.

Bass. You shall not seal to such a bond for me:
I'll rather dwell in my necessity. 156

Ant. Why, fear not, man; I will not forfeit it:
Within these two months, that's a month before
This bond expires, I do expect return
Of thrice three times the value of this bond. 160

Shy. O father Abram! what these Christians are,
Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect
The thoughts of others. Pray you, tell me this;
If he should break his day, what should I gain 164
By the exaction of the forfeiture?
A pound of man's flesh, taken from a man,
Is not so estimable, profitable neither,
As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats. I say, 168
To buy his favour, I extend this friendship:
If he will take it, so; if not, adieu;
And, for my love, I pray you wrong me not.

Ant. Yes, Shylock, I will seal unto this bond. 172

Shy. Then meet me forthwith at the notary's;
Give him direction for this merry bond,
And I will go and purse the ducats straight,
See to my house, left in the fearful guard 176
Of an unthrifty knave, and presently
I will be with you. Exit.

Ant.Hie thee, gentle Jew.
This Hebrew will turn Christian: he grows kind.

Bass. I like not fair terms and a villain's mind. 180

Ant. Come on: in this there can be no dismay;
My ships come home a month before the day.



Footnotes to Act I

Scene One

1 sooth: truth
9 argosies: large merchant ships
11 pageants: festival cars or floats
12 overpeer: tower over
13 curtsy: bow with the swell
16 affections: emotions
17 still: always
21 out of doubt: undoubtedly
27 wealthy: richly laden
28 Vailing: letting down
high-top: topmast
35, 36 but even . . . nothing: think how in a moment I may he deprived of all this wealth
36 thought: anxiety
38 bechanc'd: if it happened
50 Janus: images of the god Janus had two faces, one laughing, one sad
54 other: others
56 Nestor: the oldest and gravest of the Greek heroes at Troy
61 prevented: anticipated
62 I regard your worthiness very highly
74 respect . . . world: concern about business
79 sad: serious
82 mortifying: self-denying
89 cream and mantle: grow a scum
standing: stagnant
91 opinion: reputation
92 conceit: thought
98 damn those ears; cf. n.
102 fool-gudgeon: an easily caught fish
108 moe: more
110 gear: indefinite word for business of any kind
112 In a neat's, etc.; cf. n.
116 reasons: sensible ideas
122 That: cf. n.
125 By living in a somewhat more lavish way
127 abridg'd: obliged to desist
128 rate: standard of life
130 time: time of life, youth
131 gag'd: entangled
138 eye: view, scope
142 flight: power of flight, range
144 forth: out
146 innocence; cf. n.
149 self: same
151 or: either
154 spend but: only waste
157 question: doubt
161 prest: ready
162 richly left: a wealthy heiress
163, 164 fair . . . virtues: beautiful and accomplished
164 sometimes: formerly
166 nothing undervalu'd: in no way inferior
167 Portia; cf. n.
172 Colchos'; cf. n.
175 hold . . . with: make a show equal to
176 thrift: thriving
182 rack'd: strained
184 presently: instantly
186 of my trust, etc.: either on my credit or from some friend

Scene Two

8 seated . . . mean: moderately endowed
9 comes . . . by: brings on
11 sentences: sentiments
34 his meaning: the chest he meant
41 level: aim
43 colt: 'brainless youth'
45 appropriation: peculiar merit
48 County Palatine: a count possessing royal privileges
50 An: if
choose; cf. n.
52 weeping philosopher: Heraclitus
57 by: concerning
64 throstle: thrush
74 Latin; cf. n.
76 proper: handsome
78 suited: dressed
79 doublet: tight-fitting coat
round hose: a variety of knee-breeches
87 Frenchman; cf. n.
88 sealed under: pledged himself
111 sort: lot
112 imposition: injunction
114 Sibylla; cf. n.
133 four; cf. n.
141 condition: disposition

Scene Three

7 stead: assist
17 supposition: not in cash or in the bank
20 Rialto: the Exchange
21 for: bound for
22 squandered: scattered
35 Nazarite; cf. n.
42 fawning publican: see Luke 18. 10–14.
44 low simplicity: meek folly
46 usance: interest
47 upon the hip: a wrestling grip
56 gross: total sum
63 excess: interest
64 ripe: immediate
65 possess'd: informed
72 Jacob: see Gen. 30. 37.
79 compromis'd: agreed
80 eanlings: new lambs
85 peel'd me; cf. n.
86 kind: nature
87 fulsome: lustful
89 Fall: give birth to
106 beholding: indebted
113 gaberdine: cloak or long coat
118 void your rheum: clear your throat
127 spet: spat
141 doit: Dutch coin of small value
144 Bass.; cf. n.
146 Your single: merely your
150 equal: exact
176 fearful: fearfully insecure