This page contains the original text of Act 2 of The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare’s original The Merchant of Venice text is extremely long, so we’ve split the text into one Act per page. All Acts are listed on the The Merchant of Venice text page, or linked to from the bottom of this page.
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE ACT 2, SCENE 1: Belmont. A room in PORTIA’S house.
Flourish of cornets. Enter the PRINCE OF MOROCCO and his train; PORTIA, NERISSA,
and others attending
Mislike me not for my complexion,
The shadow’d livery of the burnish’d sun,
To whom I am a neighbour and near bred.
Bring me the fairest creature northward born,
Where Phoebus’ fire scarce thaws the icicles,
And let us make incision for your love,
To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine.
I tell thee, lady, this aspect of mine
Hath fear’d the valiant: by my love I swear
The best-regarded virgins of our clime
Have loved it too: I would not change this hue,
Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen.
In terms of choice I am not solely led
By nice direction of a maiden’s eyes;
Besides, the lottery of my destiny
Bars me the right of voluntary choosing:
But if my father had not scanted me
And hedged me by his wit, to yield myself
His wife who wins me by that means I told you,
Yourself, renowned prince, then stood as fair
As any comer I have look’d on yet
For my affection.
Even for that I thank you:
Therefore, I pray you, lead me to the caskets
To try my fortune. By this scimitar
That slew the Sophy and a Persian prince
That won three fields of Sultan Solyman,
I would outstare the sternest eyes that look,
Outbrave the heart most daring on the earth,
Pluck the young sucking cubs from the she-bear,
Yea, mock the lion when he roars for prey,
To win thee, lady. But, alas the while!
If Hercules and Lichas play at dice
Which is the better man, the greater throw
May turn by fortune from the weaker hand:
So is Alcides beaten by his page;
And so may I, blind fortune leading me,
Miss that which one unworthier may attain,
And die with grieving.
You must take your chance,
And either not attempt to choose at all
Or swear before you choose, if you choose wrong
Never to speak to lady afterward
In way of marriage: therefore be advised.
Nor will not. Come, bring me unto my chance.
First, forward to the temple: after dinner
Your hazard shall be made.
Good fortune then!
To make me blest or cursed’st among men.
Cornets, and exeunt
SCENE 2. Venice. A street.
Certainly my conscience will serve me to run from
this Jew my master. The fiend is at mine elbow and
tempts me saying to me ‘Gobbo, Launcelot Gobbo, good
Launcelot,’ or ‘good Gobbo,’ or good Launcelot
Gobbo, use your legs, take the start, run away. My
conscience says ‘No; take heed,’ honest Launcelot;
take heed, honest Gobbo, or, as aforesaid, ‘honest
Launcelot Gobbo; do not run; scorn running with thy
heels.’ Well, the most courageous fiend bids me
pack: ‘Via!’ says the fiend; ‘away!’ says the
fiend; ‘for the heavens, rouse up a brave mind,’
says the fiend, ‘and run.’ Well, my conscience,
hanging about the neck of my heart, says very wisely
to me ‘My honest friend Launcelot, being an honest
man’s son,’ or rather an honest woman’s son; for,
indeed, my father did something smack, something
grow to, he had a kind of taste; well, my conscience
says ‘Launcelot, budge not.’ ‘Budge,’ says the
fiend. ‘Budge not,’ says my conscience.
‘Conscience,’ say I, ‘you counsel well;’ ‘ Fiend,’
say I, ‘you counsel well:’ to be ruled by my
conscience, I should stay with the Jew my master,
who, God bless the mark, is a kind of devil; and, to
run away from the Jew, I should be ruled by the
fiend, who, saving your reverence, is the devil
himself. Certainly the Jew is the very devil
incarnal; and, in my conscience, my conscience is
but a kind of hard conscience, to offer to counsel
me to stay with the Jew. The fiend gives the more
friendly counsel: I will run, fiend; my heels are
at your command; I will run.
Enter Old GOBBO, with a basket
Master young man, you, I pray you, which is the way
to master Jew’s?
[Aside] O heavens, this is my true-begotten father!
who, being more than sand-blind, high-gravel blind,
knows me not: I will try confusions with him.
Master young gentleman, I pray you, which is the way
to master Jew’s?
Turn up on your right hand at the next turning, but,
at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at
the very next turning, turn of no hand, but turn
down indirectly to the Jew’s house.
By God’s sonties, ’twill be a hard way to hit. Can
you tell me whether one Launcelot,
that dwells with him, dwell with him or no?
Talk you of young Master Launcelot?
Mark me now; now will I raise the waters. Talk you
of young Master Launcelot?
No master, sir, but a poor man’s son: his father,
though I say it, is an honest exceeding poor man
and, God be thanked, well to live.
Well, let his father be what a’ will, we talk of
young Master Launcelot.
Your worship’s friend and Launcelot, sir.
But I pray you, ergo, old man, ergo, I beseech you,
talk you of young Master Launcelot?
Of Launcelot, an’t please your mastership.
Ergo, Master Launcelot. Talk not of Master
Launcelot, father; for the young gentleman,
according to Fates and Destinies and such odd
sayings, the Sisters Three and such branches of
learning, is indeed deceased, or, as you would say
in plain terms, gone to heaven.
Marry, God forbid! the boy was the very staff of my
age, my very prop.
Do I look like a cudgel or a hovel-post, a staff or
a prop? Do you know me, father?
Alack the day, I know you not, young gentleman:
but, I pray you, tell me, is my boy, God rest his
soul, alive or dead?
Do you not know me, father?
Alack, sir, I am sand-blind; I know you not.
Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of
the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his
own child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of
your son: give me your blessing: truth will come
to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man’s son
may, but at the length truth will out.
Pray you, sir, stand up: I am sure you are not
Launcelot, my boy.
Pray you, let’s have no more fooling about it, but
give me your blessing: I am Launcelot, your boy
that was, your son that is, your child that shall
I cannot think you are my son.
I know not what I shall think of that: but I am
Launcelot, the Jew’s man, and I am sure Margery your
wife is my mother.
Her name is Margery, indeed: I’ll be sworn, if thou
be Launcelot, thou art mine own flesh and blood.
Lord worshipped might he be! what a beard hast thou
got! thou hast got more hair on thy chin than
Dobbin my fill-horse has on his tail.
It should seem, then, that Dobbin’s tail grows
backward: I am sure he had more hair of his tail
than I have of my face when I last saw him.
Lord, how art thou changed! How dost thou and thy
master agree? I have brought him a present. How
‘gree you now?
Well, well: but, for mine own part, as I have set
up my rest to run away, so I will not rest till I
have run some ground. My master’s a very Jew: give
him a present! give him a halter: I am famished in
his service; you may tell every finger I have with
my ribs. Father, I am glad you are come: give me
your present to one Master Bassanio, who, indeed,
gives rare new liveries: if I serve not him, I
will run as far as God has any ground. O rare
fortune! here comes the man: to him, father; for I
am a Jew, if I serve the Jew any longer.
Enter BASSANIO, with LEONARDO and other followers
You may do so; but let it be so hasted that supper
be ready at the farthest by five of the clock. See
these letters delivered; put the liveries to making,
and desire Gratiano to come anon to my lodging.
Exit a Servant
To him, father.
God bless your worship!
Gramercy! wouldst thou aught with me?
Here’s my son, sir, a poor boy,–
Not a poor boy, sir, but the rich Jew’s man; that
would, sir, as my father shall specify–
He hath a great infection, sir, as one would say, to serve–
Indeed, the short and the long is, I serve the Jew,
and have a desire, as my father shall specify–
His master and he, saving your worship’s reverence,
are scarce cater-cousins–
To be brief, the very truth is that the Jew, having
done me wrong, doth cause me, as my father, being, I
hope, an old man, shall frutify unto you–
I have here a dish of doves that I would bestow upon
your worship, and my suit is–
In very brief, the suit is impertinent to myself, as
your worship shall know by this honest old man; and,
though I say it, though old man, yet poor man, my father.
One speak for both. What would you?
Serve you, sir.
That is the very defect of the matter, sir.
I know thee well; thou hast obtain’d thy suit:
Shylock thy master spoke with me this day,
And hath preferr’d thee, if it be preferment
To leave a rich Jew’s service, to become
The follower of so poor a gentleman.
The old proverb is very well parted between my
master Shylock and you, sir: you have the grace of
God, sir, and he hath enough.
Thou speak’st it well. Go, father, with thy son.
Take leave of thy old master and inquire
My lodging out. Give him a livery
More guarded than his fellows’: see it done.
Father, in. I cannot get a service, no; I have
ne’er a tongue in my head. Well, if any man in
Italy have a fairer table which doth offer to swear
upon a book, I shall have good fortune. Go to,
here’s a simple line of life: here’s a small trifle
of wives: alas, fifteen wives is nothing! eleven
widows and nine maids is a simple coming-in for one
man: and then to ‘scape drowning thrice, and to be
in peril of my life with the edge of a feather-bed;
here are simple scapes. Well, if Fortune be a
woman, she’s a good wench for this gear. Father,
come; I’ll take my leave of the Jew in the twinkling of an eye.
Exeunt Launcelot and Old Gobbo
I pray thee, good Leonardo, think on this:
These things being bought and orderly bestow’d,
Return in haste, for I do feast to-night
My best-esteem’d acquaintance: hie thee, go.
My best endeavours shall be done herein.
Where is your master?
Yonder, sir, he walks.
I have a suit to you.
You have obtain’d it.
You must not deny me: I must go with you to Belmont.
Why then you must. But hear thee, Gratiano;
Thou art too wild, too rude and bold of voice;
Parts that become thee happily enough
And in such eyes as ours appear not faults;
But where thou art not known, why, there they show
Something too liberal. Pray thee, take pain
To allay with some cold drops of modesty
Thy skipping spirit, lest through thy wild behavior
I be misconstrued in the place I go to,
And lose my hopes.
Signior Bassanio, hear me:
If I do not put on a sober habit,
Talk with respect and swear but now and then,
Wear prayer-books in my pocket, look demurely,
Nay more, while grace is saying, hood mine eyes
Thus with my hat, and sigh and say ‘amen,’
Use all the observance of civility,
Like one well studied in a sad ostent
To please his grandam, never trust me more.
Well, we shall see your bearing.
Nay, but I bar to-night: you shall not gauge me
By what we do to-night.
No, that were pity:
I would entreat you rather to put on
Your boldest suit of mirth, for we have friends
That purpose merriment. But fare you well:
I have some business.
And I must to Lorenzo and the rest:
But we will visit you at supper-time.
SCENE 3. The same. A room in SHYLOCK’S house.
Enter JESSICA and LAUNCELOT
I am sorry thou wilt leave my father so:
Our house is hell, and thou, a merry devil,
Didst rob it of some taste of tediousness.
But fare thee well, there is a ducat for thee:
And, Launcelot, soon at supper shalt thou see
Lorenzo, who is thy new master’s guest:
Give him this letter; do it secretly;
And so farewell: I would not have my father
See me in talk with thee.
Adieu! tears exhibit my tongue. Most beautiful
pagan, most sweet Jew! if a Christian did not play
the knave and get thee, I am much deceived. But,
adieu: these foolish drops do something drown my
manly spirit: adieu.
Farewell, good Launcelot.
Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
To be ashamed to be my father’s child!
But though I am a daughter to his blood,
I am not to his manners. O Lorenzo,
If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife,
Become a Christian and thy loving wife.
SCENE 4. The same. A street.
Enter GRATIANO, LORENZO, SALARINO, and SALANIO
Nay, we will slink away in supper-time,
Disguise us at my lodging and return,
All in an hour.
We have not made good preparation.
We have not spoke us yet of torchbearers.
‘Tis vile, unless it may be quaintly order’d,
And better in my mind not undertook.
‘Tis now but four o’clock: we have two hours
To furnish us.
Enter LAUNCELOT, with a letter
Friend Launcelot, what’s the news?
An it shall please you to break up
this, it shall seem to signify.
I know the hand: in faith, ’tis a fair hand;
And whiter than the paper it writ on
Is the fair hand that writ.
Love-news, in faith.
By your leave, sir.
Whither goest thou?
Marry, sir, to bid my old master the
Jew to sup to-night with my new master the Christian.
Hold here, take this: tell gentle Jessica
I will not fail her; speak it privately.
Will you prepare you for this masque tonight?
I am provided of a torch-bearer.
Ay, marry, I’ll be gone about it straight.
And so will I.
Meet me and Gratiano
At Gratiano’s lodging some hour hence.
‘Tis good we do so.
Exeunt SALARINO and SALANIO
Was not that letter from fair Jessica?
I must needs tell thee all. She hath directed
How I shall take her from her father’s house,
What gold and jewels she is furnish’d with,
What page’s suit she hath in readiness.
If e’er the Jew her father come to heaven,
It will be for his gentle daughter’s sake:
And never dare misfortune cross her foot,
Unless she do it under this excuse,
That she is issue to a faithless Jew.
Come, go with me; peruse this as thou goest:
Fair Jessica shall be my torch-beare r.
SCENE 5. The same. Before SHYLOCK’S house.
Enter SHYLOCK and LAUNCELOT
Well, thou shalt see, thy eyes shall be thy judge,
The difference of old Shylock and Bassanio:–
What, Jessica!–thou shalt not gormandise,
As thou hast done with me:–What, Jessica!–
And sleep and snore, and rend apparel out;–
Why, Jessica, I say!
Who bids thee call? I do not bid thee call.
Your worship was wont to tell me that
I could do nothing without bidding.
Call you? what is your will?
I am bid forth to supper, Jessica:
There are my keys. But wherefore should I go?
I am not bid for love; they flatter me:
But yet I’ll go in hate, to feed upon
The prodigal Christian. Jessica, my girl,
Look to my house. I am right loath to go:
There is some ill a-brewing towards my rest,
For I did dream of money-bags to-night.
I beseech you, sir, go: my young master doth expect
So do I his.
An they have conspired together, I will not say you
shall see a masque; but if you do, then it was not
for nothing that my nose fell a-bleeding on
Black-Monday last at six o’clock i’ the morning,
falling out that year on Ash-Wednesday was four
year, in the afternoon.
What, are there masques? Hear you me, Jessica:
Lock up my doors; and when you hear the drum
And the vile squealing of the wry-neck’d fife,
Clamber not you up to the casements then,
Nor thrust your head into the public street
To gaze on Christian fools with varnish’d faces,
But stop my house’s ears, I mean my casements:
Let not the sound of shallow foppery enter
My sober house. By Jacob’s staff, I swear,
I have no mind of feasting forth to-night:
But I will go. Go you before me, sirrah;
Say I will come.
I will go before, sir. Mistress, look out at
window, for all this, There will come a Christian
boy, will be worth a Jewess’ eye.
What says that fool of Hagar’s offspring, ha?
His words were ‘Farewell mistress;’ nothing else.
The patch is kind enough, but a huge feeder;
Snail-slow in profit, and he sleeps by day
More than the wild-cat: drones hive not with me;
Therefore I part with him, and part with him
To one that would have him help to waste
His borrow’d purse. Well, Jessica, go in;
Perhaps I will return immediately:
Do as I bid you; shut doors after you:
Fast bind, fast find;
A proverb never stale in thrifty mind.
Farewell; and if my fortune be not crost,
I have a father, you a daughter, lost.
SCENE 6. The same.
Enter GRATIANO and SALARINO, masqued
This is the pent-house under which Lorenzo
Desired us to make stand.
His hour is almost past.
And it is marvel he out-dwells his hour,
For lovers ever run before the clock.
O, ten times faster Venus’ pigeons fly
To seal love’s bonds new-made, than they are wont
To keep obliged faith unforfeited!
That ever holds: who riseth from a feast
With that keen appetite that he sits down?
Where is the horse that doth untread again
His tedious measures with the unbated fire
That he did pace them first? All things that are,
Are with more spirit chased than enjoy’d.
How like a younker or a prodigal
The scarfed bark puts from her native bay,
Hugg’d and embraced by the strumpet wind!
How like the prodigal doth she return,
With over-weather’d ribs and ragged sails,
Lean, rent and beggar’d by the strumpet wind!
Here comes Lorenzo: more of this hereafter.
Sweet friends, your patience for my long abode;
Not I, but my affairs, have made you wait:
When you shall please to play the thieves for wives,
I’ll watch as long for you then. Approach;
Here dwells my father Jew. Ho! who’s within?
Enter JESSICA, above, in boy’s clothes
Who are you? Tell me, for more certainty,
Albeit I’ll swear that I do know your tongue.
Lorenzo, and thy love.
Lorenzo, certain, and my love indeed,
For who love I so much? And now who knows
But you, Lorenzo, whether I am yours?
Heaven and thy thoughts are witness that thou art.
Here, catch this casket; it is worth the pains.
I am glad ’tis night, you do not look on me,
For I am much ashamed of my exchange:
But love is blind and lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit;
For if they could, Cupid himself would blush
To see me thus transformed to a boy.
Descend, for you must be my torchbearer.
What, must I hold a candle to my shames?
They in themselves, good-sooth, are too too light.
Why, ’tis an office of discovery, love;
And I should be obscured.
So are you, sweet,
Even in the lovely garnish of a boy.
But come at once;
For the close night doth play the runaway,
And we are stay’d for at Bassanio’s feast.
I will make fast the doors, and gild myself
With some more ducats, and be with you straight.
Now, by my hood, a Gentile and no Jew.
Beshrew me but I love her heartily;
For she is wise, if I can judge of her,
And fair she is, if that mine eyes be true,
And true she is, as she hath proved herself,
And therefore, like herself, wise, fair and true,
Shall she be placed in my constant soul.
Enter JESSICA, below
What, art thou come? On, gentlemen; away!
Our masquing mates by this time for us stay.
Exit with Jessica and Salarino
Fie, fie, Gratiano! where are all the rest?
‘Tis nine o’clock: our friends all stay for you.
No masque to-night: the wind is come about;
Bassanio presently will go aboard:
I have sent twenty out to seek for you.
I am glad on’t: I desire no more delight
Than to be under sail and gone to-night.
SCENE 7. Belmont. A room in PORTIA’S house.
Flourish of cornets. Enter PORTIA, with the PRINCE OF MOROCCO, and their trains
Go draw aside the curtains and discover
The several caskets to this noble prince.
Now make your choice.
The first, of gold, who this inscription bears,
‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire;’
The second, silver, which this promise carries,
‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves;’
This third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt,
‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’
How shall I know if I do choose the right?
The one of them contains my picture, prince:
If you choose that, then I am yours withal.
Some god direct my judgment! Let me see;
I will survey the inscriptions back again.
What says this leaden casket?
‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’
Must give: for what? for lead? hazard for lead?
This casket threatens. Men that hazard all
Do it in hope of fair advantages:
A golden mind stoops not to shows of dross;
I’ll then nor give nor hazard aught for lead.
What says the silver with her virgin hue?
‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.’
As much as he deserves! Pause there, Morocco,
And weigh thy value with an even hand:
If thou be’st rated by thy estimation,
Thou dost deserve enough; and yet enough
May not extend so far as to the lady:
And yet to be afeard of my deserving
Were but a weak disabling of myself.
As much as I deserve! Why, that’s the lady:
I do in birth deserve her, and in fortunes,
In graces and in qualities of breeding;
But more than these, in love I do deserve.
What if I stray’d no further, but chose here?
Let’s see once more this saying graved in gold
‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.’
Why, that’s the lady; all the world desires her;
From the four corners of the earth they come,
To kiss this shrine, this mortal-breathing saint:
The Hyrcanian deserts and the vasty wilds
Of wide Arabia are as thoroughfares now
For princes to come view fair Portia:
The watery kingdom, whose ambitious head
Spits in the face of heaven, is no bar
To stop the foreign spirits, but they come,
As o’er a brook, to see fair Portia.
One of these three contains her heavenly picture.
Is’t like that lead contains her? ‘Twere damnation
To think so base a thought: it were too gross
To rib her cerecloth in the obscure grave.
Or shall I think in silver she’s immured,
Being ten times undervalued to tried gold?
O sinful thought! Never so rich a gem
Was set in worse than gold. They have in England
A coin that bears the figure of an angel
Stamped in gold, but that’s insculp’d upon;
But here an angel in a golden bed
Lies all within. Deliver me the key:
Here do I choose, and thrive I as I may!
There, take it, prince; and if my form lie there,
Then I am yours.
He unlocks the golden casket
O hell! what have we here?
A carrion Death, within whose empty eye
There is a written scroll! I’ll read the writing.
All that glitters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been inscroll’d:
Fare you well; your suit is cold.
Cold, indeed; and labour lost:
Then, farewell, heat, and welcome, frost!
Portia, adieu. I have too grieved a heart
To take a tedious leave: thus losers part.
Exit with his train. Flourish of cornets
A gentle riddance. Draw the curtains, go.
Let all of his complexion choose me so.
SCENE 8. Venice. A street.
Enter SALARINO and SALANIO
Why, man, I saw Bassanio under sail:
With him is Gratiano gone along;
And in their ship I am sure Lorenzo is not.
The villain Jew with outcries raised the duke,
Who went with him to search Bassanio’s ship.
He came too late, the ship was under sail:
But there the duke was given to understand
That in a gondola were seen together
Lorenzo and his amorous Jessica:
Besides, Antonio certified the duke
They were not with Bassanio in his ship.
I never heard a passion so confused,
So strange, outrageous, and so variable,
As the dog Jew did utter in the streets:
‘My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!
Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats!
Justice! the law! my ducats, and my daughter!
A sealed bag, two sealed bags of ducats,
Of double ducats, stolen from me by my daughter!
And jewels, two stones, two rich and precious stones,
Stolen by my daughter! Justice! find the girl;
She hath the stones upon her, and the ducats.’
Why, all the boys in Venice follow him,
Crying, his stones, his daughter, and his ducats.
Let good Antonio look he keep his day,
Or he shall pay for this.
Marry, well remember’d.
I reason’d with a Frenchman yesterday,
Who told me, in the narrow seas that part
The French and English, there miscarried
A vessel of our country richly fraught:
I thought upon Antonio when he told me;
And wish’d in silence that it were not his.
You were best to tell Antonio what you hear;
Yet do not suddenly, for it may grieve him.
A kinder gentleman treads not the earth.
I saw Bassanio and Antonio part:
Bassanio told him he would make some speed
Of his return: he answer’d, ‘Do not so;
Slubber not business for my sake, Bassanio
But stay the very riping of the time;
And for the Jew’s bond which he hath of me,
Let it not enter in your mind of love:
Be merry, and employ your chiefest thoughts
To courtship and such fair ostents of love
As shall conveniently become you there:’
And even there, his eye being big with tears,
Turning his face, he put his hand behind him,
And with affection wondrous sensible
He wrung Bassanio’s hand; and so they parted.
I think he only loves the world for him.
I pray thee, let us go and find him out
And quicken his embraced heaviness
With some delight or other.
Do we so.
SCENE 9. Belmont. A room in PORTIA’S house.
Enter NERISSA with a Servitor
Quick, quick, I pray thee; draw the curtain straight:
The Prince of Arragon hath ta’en his oath,
And comes to his election presently.
Flourish of cornets. Enter the PRINCE OF ARRAGON, PORTIA, and their trains
Behold, there stand the caskets, noble prince:
If you choose that wherein I am contain’d,
Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemnized:
But if you fail, without more speech, my lord,
You must be gone from hence immediately.
I am enjoin’d by oath to observe three things:
First, never to unfold to any one
Which casket ’twas I chose; next, if I fail
Of the right casket, never in my life
To woo a maid in way of marriage: Lastly,
If I do fail in fortune of my choice,
Immediately to leave you and be gone.
To these injunctions every one doth swear
That comes to hazard for my worthless self.
And so have I address’d me. Fortune now
To my heart’s hope! Gold; silver; and base lead.
‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’
You shall look fairer, ere I give or hazard.
What says the golden chest? ha! let me see:
‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.’
What many men desire! that ‘many’ may be meant
By the fool multitude, that choose by show,
Not learning more than the fond eye doth teach;
Which pries not to the interior, but, like the martlet,
Builds in the weather on the outward wall,
Even in the force and road of casualty.
I will not choose what many men desire,
Because I will not jump with common spirits
And rank me with the barbarous multitudes.
Why, then to thee, thou silver treasure-house;
Tell me once more what title thou dost bear:
‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves:’
And well said too; for who shall go about
To cozen fortune and be honourable
Without the stamp of merit? Let none presume
To wear an undeserved dignity.
O, that estates, degrees and offices
Were not derived corruptly, and that clear honour
Were purchased by the merit of the wearer!
How many then should cover that stand bare!
How many be commanded that command!
How much low peasantry would then be glean’d
From the true seed of honour! and how much honour
Pick’d from the chaff and ruin of the times
To be new-varnish’d! Well, but to my choice:
‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.’
I will assume desert. Give me a key for this,
And instantly unlock my fortunes here.
He opens the silver casket
Too long a pause for that which you find there.
What’s here? the portrait of a blinking idiot,
Presenting me a schedule! I will read it.
How much unlike art thou to Portia!
How much unlike my hopes and my deservings!
‘Who chooseth me shall have as much as he deserves.’
Did I deserve no more than a fool’s head?
Is that my prize? are my deserts no better?
To offend, and judge, are distinct offices
And of opposed natures.
What is here?
The fire seven times tried this:
Seven times tried that judgment is,
That did never choose amiss.
Some there be that shadows kiss;
Such have but a shadow’s bliss:
There be fools alive, I wis,
Silver’d o’er; and so was this.
Take what wife you will to bed,
I will ever be your head:
So be gone: you are sped.
Still more fool I shall appear
By the time I linger here
With one fool’s head I came to woo,
But I go away with two.
Sweet, adieu. I’ll keep my oath,
Patiently to bear my wroth.
Exeunt Arragon and train
Thus hath the candle singed the moth.
O, these deliberate fools! when they do choose,
They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.
The ancient saying is no heresy,
Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.
Come, draw the curtain, Nerissa.
Enter a Servant
Where is my lady?
Here: what would my lord?
Madam, there is alighted at your gate
A young Venetian, one that comes before
To signify the approaching of his lord;
From whom he bringeth sensible regreets,
To wit, besides commends and courteous breath,
Gifts of rich value. Yet I have not seen
So likely an ambassador of love:
A day in April never came so sweet,
To show how costly summer was at hand,
As this fore-spurrer comes before his lord.
No more, I pray thee: I am half afeard
Thou wilt say anon he is some kin to thee,
Thou spend’st such high-day wit in praising him.
Come, come, Nerissa; for I long to see
Quick Cupid’s post that comes so mannerly.
Bassanio, lord Love, if thy will it be!
The Merchant of Venice text
The Merchant of Venice Act 1
The Merchant of Venice Act 2
The Merchant of Venice Act 3
The Merchant of Venice Act 4
The Merchant of Venice Act 5
A guide to Shakespeare’s stage directions