The Merchant of Venice

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Act I, Scene 2

Belmont. A room in PORTIA’S house.

       
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[Enter PORTIA and NERISSA]

  • Portia. By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of 195
    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 200
    is no mean happiness therefore, to be seated in the
    mean: superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but
    competency lives longer.
  • Portia. Good sentences and well pronounced.
  • Nerissa. They would be better, if well followed. 205
  • 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 be one of the 210
    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 215
    choose me a husband. O me, the word 'choose!' I may
    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 refuse none? 220
  • Nerissa. Your father was ever virtuous; and holy men at their
    death have good inspirations: therefore the lottery,
    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 225
    rightly but one who 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 230
    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 235
    shoe him himself. I am much afeard my lady his
    mother played false with a smith.
  • Nerissa. Then there is the County Palatine.
  • Portia. He doth nothing but frown, as who should say 'If you
    will not have me, choose:' he hears merry tales and 240
    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 245
    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 250
    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 capering: he will
    fence with his own shadow: if I should marry him, I
    should marry twenty husbands. If he would despise me 255
    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 260
    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! 265
    I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round
    hose in France, his bonnet in Germany and his
    behavior every where.
  • Nerissa. What think you of the Scottish lord, his neighbour?
  • Portia. That he hath a neighbourly charity in him, for he 270
    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 sealed
    under for another.
  • Nerissa. How like you the young German, the Duke of Saxony's nephew? 275
  • 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 280
    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 285
    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 any
    thing, Nerissa, ere I'll be married to a sponge.
  • Nerissa. You need not fear, lady, the having any of these 290
    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. 295
  • 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 300
    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, he was so called. 305
  • Nerissa. True, madam: he, of all the men that ever my foolish
    eyes looked upon, was the best deserving a fair lady.
  • Portia. I remember him well, and I remember him worthy of
    thy praise.
    [Enter a Serving-man] 310
    How now! what news?
  • Servant. 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 to-night. 315
  • Portia. If I could bid the fifth welcome with so good a
    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, 320
    Nerissa. Sirrah, go before.
    Whiles we shut the gates
    upon one wooer, another knocks at the door.

[Exeunt]

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