The Merchant of Venice

By William Shakespeare
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 ACT I          

SCENE I. Venice. A street.

Enter Antonio, Salarino and Solanio.

ANTONIO. 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, I am to learn. And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, That I have much ado to know myself.

SALARINO. Your mind is tossing on the ocean, 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 That curtsy to them, do them reverence, As they fly by them with their woven wings.

SOLANIO. Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth, The better part of my affections would 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 Misfortune to my ventures, out of doubt Would make me sad.

SALARINO. My wind cooling my broth Would blow me to an ague when I thought What harm a wind too great might do at sea. 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 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, 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 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.

ANTONIO. 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. Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad.

SALARINO. Why then you are in love.

ANTONIO. Fie, fie!

SALARINO. Not in love neither? Then let us say you are sad Because you are not merry; and 'twere as easy 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, And laugh like parrots at a bagpiper. And other of such vinegar aspect That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.

Enter Bassanio, Lorenzo and Gratiano.

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

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

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

SALARINO. Good morrow, my good lords.

BASSANIO. Good signiors both, when shall we laugh? Say, when? You grow exceeding strange. Must it be so?

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

[_Exeunt Salarino and Solanio._]

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

BASSANIO. I will not fail you.

GRATIANO. 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.

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

GRATIANO. Let me play the fool, With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come, 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? Sleep when he wakes? And creep into the jaundice By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio, (I love thee, and 'tis my love that speaks): There are a sort of men whose visages 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, 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 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. But fish not with this melancholy bait For this fool gudgeon, this opinion. Come, good Lorenzo. Fare ye well a while. I'll end my exhortation after dinner.

LORENZO. 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.

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

ANTONIO. Fare you well. I'll grow a talker for this gear.

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

[_Exeunt Gratiano and Lorenzo._]

ANTONIO. Is that anything now?

BASSANIO. 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 bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them they are not worth the search.

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

BASSANIO. 'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio, How much I have disabled mine estate 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 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, And from your love I have a warranty To unburden all my plots and purposes How to get clear of all the debts I owe.

ANTONIO. I pray you, good Bassanio, let me know it; 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.

BASSANIO. 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 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 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, And thankfully rest debtor for the first.

ANTONIO. 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 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, And I am prest unto it. Therefore, speak.

BASSANIO. In Belmont is a lady richly left, And she is fair, and, fairer than that word, Of wondrous virtues. Sometimes from her eyes 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, 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, 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 That I should questionless be fortunate.

ANTONIO. Thou know'st that all my fortunes are at sea; Neither have I money nor commodity To raise a present sum, therefore go forth 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, Where money is, and I no question make To have it of my trust or for my sake.

[_Exeunt._]

SCENE II. Belmont. A room in Portia's house.

Enter Portia with her waiting-woman Nerissa.

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

NERISSA. You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in the same abundance as your 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 happiness, therefore, to be seated in the mean. Superfluity come sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.

PORTIA. Good sentences, and well pronounc'd.

NERISSA. They would be better if well followed.

PORTIA. 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 can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to 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 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 neither choose who I would nor refuse who I dislike, so is the will of a living daughter curb'd by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one, nor refuse none?

NERISSA. Your father was ever virtuous, and holy men at their death have good inspirations. Therefore the lott'ry that he hath devised in these 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 is there in your affection towards any of these princely suitors that are already come?

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

NERISSA. First, there is the Neapolitan prince.

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

NERISSA. Then is there the County Palatine.

PORTIA. He doth nothing but frown, as who should say "And you will not have me, choose." He hears merry tales and smiles not. I fear he will prove the weeping philosopher when he 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!

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

PORTIA. God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man. In truth, I know it is a sin to be a 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 straight a-cap'ring. 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, I shall never requite him.

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

PORTIA. You know I say nothing to him, for he 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 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 behaviour everywhere.

NERISSA. What think you of the Scottish lord, his neighbour?

PORTIA. That he hath a neighbourly charity in 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 became his surety, and seal'd under for another.

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

PORTIA. Very vilely in the morning when he is sober, and most vilely in the afternoon when he 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. And the worst fall that ever fell, I hope I shall make shift to go without him.

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

PORTIA. 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 it. I will do anything, Nerissa, ere I will be married to a sponge.

NERISSA. You need not fear, lady, the having any of these lords. They have acquainted me with 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 caskets.

PORTIA. 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 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.

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

PORTIA. Yes, yes, it was Bassanio, as I think, so was he call'd.

NERISSA. True, madam. He, of all the men that ever my foolish eyes look'd upon, was the best deserving a fair lady.

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

Enter a Servingman.

How now! what news?

SERVINGMAN. 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 tonight.

PORTIA. 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 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 III. Venice. A public place.

Enter Bassanio with Shylock the Jew.

SHYLOCK. Three thousand ducats, well.

BASSANIO. Ay, sir, for three months.

SHYLOCK. For three months, well.

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

SHYLOCK. Antonio shall become bound, well.

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

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

BASSANIO. Your answer to that.

SHYLOCK. Antonio is a good man.

BASSANIO. Have you heard any imputation to the contrary?

SHYLOCK. Ho, no, no, no, no: my meaning in saying he is a good man is to have you understand me that he is sufficient. Yet his means are in supposition: he hath an argosy bound to Tripolis, another to the Indies. I understand, moreover, upon the Rialto, he hath a third at Mexico, a 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, water-thieves and land-thieves—I mean 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.

BASSANIO. Be assured you may.

SHYLOCK. I will be assured I may. And that I may be assured, I will bethink me. May I speak with Antonio?

BASSANIO. If it please you to dine with us.

SHYLOCK. Yes, to smell pork, to eat of the habitation which your prophet, the Nazarite, conjured the devil into. I will buy with you, sell with you, 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?

Enter Antonio.

BASSANIO. This is Signior Antonio.

SHYLOCK. [_Aside._] How like a fawning publican he looks! I hate him for he is a Christian, But more for that in low simplicity 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. 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 If I forgive him!

BASSANIO. Shylock, do you hear?

SHYLOCK. I am debating of my present store, And by the near guess of my memory I cannot instantly raise up the gross 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, Your worship was the last man in our mouths.

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

SHYLOCK. Ay, ay, three thousand ducats.

ANTONIO. And for three months.

SHYLOCK. I had forgot, three months, you told me so. Well then, your bond. And let me see, but hear you, Methought you said you neither lend nor borrow Upon advantage.

ANTONIO. I do never use it.

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

ANTONIO. And what of him? Did he take interest?

SHYLOCK. 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 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, The skilful shepherd pill'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 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.

ANTONIO. This was a venture, sir, that Jacob serv'd for, A thing not in his power to bring to pass, 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?

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

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

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

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

SHYLOCK. Signior Antonio, many a time and oft In the Rialto you have rated me About my moneys and my usances. Still have I borne it with a patient shrug, (For suff'rance is the badge of all our tribe.) You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, And spet 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 "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. 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, With bated breath and whisp'ring humbleness, Say this: "Fair sir, you spet on me on Wednesday last; You spurn'd me such a day; another time You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies I'll lend you thus much moneys"?

ANTONIO. I am as like to call thee so again, To spet on thee again, to spurn thee too. 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, Who if he break, thou mayst with better face Exact the penalty.

SHYLOCK. 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, Supply your present wants, and take no doit Of usance for my moneys, and you'll not hear me, This is kind I offer.

BASSANIO. This were kindness.

SHYLOCK. This kindness will I show. 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 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.

ANTONIO. Content, in faith, I'll seal to such a bond, And say there is much kindness in the Jew.

BASSANIO. You shall not seal to such a bond for me, I'll rather dwell in my necessity.

ANTONIO. 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.

SHYLOCK. 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 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, 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.

ANTONIO. Yes, Shylock, I will seal unto this bond.

SHYLOCK. 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 Of an unthrifty knave, and presently I'll be with you.

ANTONIO. Hie thee, gentle Jew.

[_Exit Shylock._]

This Hebrew will turn Christian; he grows kind.

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

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

[_Exeunt._]