Read The Merchant of Venice‘s ‘How Sweet The Moonlight Sleeps Upon This Bank!’ monologue below with a modern English translation and analysis:
Spoken by Lorenzo, The Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene 1
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn!
With sweetest touches pierce your mistress’ ear,
And draw her home with music.
The reason is, your spirits are attentive:
For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,
Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
Which is the hot condition of their blood;
If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
Or any air of music touch their ears,
You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
Their savage eyes turn’d to a modest gaze
By the sweet power of music: therefore the poet
Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods;
Since nought so stockish, hard and full of rage,
But music for the time doth change his nature.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.
‘How Sweet The Moonlight Sleeps Upon This Bank!’ Monologue Translation
How sweetly the moonlight falls on this flowerbed. We’ll sit here and let the sound of music fall sweetly on our ears. The beauty of harmony is suited to stillness and the night. Sit down, Jessica. See how the dark sky is inlaid with patterns of bright gold. Even the smallest sphere that you can see sings like an angel in its movement, forever harmonising for the keen-eyed cherubim. Such harmony is natural to the immortal souls of angels, but as long as we are shut into these rude earthly decaying bodies we can’t hear it.Come on. Wake Diana with a hymn! Reach your mistress’ ear with sweet strains to draw her home with music. Just look at stampeding cattle or frisking young untamed colts, bellowing and neighing loudly, which is their natural behaviour – if they happen to hear the sound of a trumpet, or if any tune reaches their ears, you’ll see them all stop and stand still, the savagery in their eyes changed to a docile gaze by the sweet power of music. That’s why the poet, Ovid, maintained that Orpheus’ music affected trees and stones and tides. There’s nothing so brutish or stubborn or angry that music won’t soften it for a while. The man who has no music in his soul, who isn’t moved by the harmony of sweet sounds, is fit only for treasons plots and trouble-making. His spiritual life is as dull as night and his character as dark as Erebus. No man like that should be trusted.’ He signaled to the musicians to begin.Listen to the music.’
Read other Shakespeare monologues >>