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The Merchant of Venice

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Act I, Scene 1

Venice. A street.



  • 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, 5
    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, 10
    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. 15
  • Salanio. 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; 20
    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 25
    What harm a wind too great at sea might do.
    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 30
    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, 35
    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 bechanced would make me sad? 40
    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 45
    Upon the fortune of this present year:
    Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad.
  • Salarino. Not in love neither? Then let us say you are sad, 50
    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 framed strange fellows in her time:
    Some that will evermore peep through their eyes 55
    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.


  • Salanio. 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. 65
  • Antonio. Your worth is very dear in my regard.
    I take it, your own business calls on you
    And you embrace the occasion to depart.
  • Bassanio. Good signiors both, when shall we laugh? say, when? 70
    You grow exceeding strange: must it be so?
  • Salarino. We'll make our leisures to attend on yours.

[Exeunt Salarino and Salanio]

  • Lorenzo. My Lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio,
    We two will leave you: but at dinner-time, 75
    I pray you, have in mind where we must meet.
  • 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: 80
    Believe me, you are marvellously changed.
  • 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: 85
    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? 90
    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
    Do cream and mantle like a standing pond, 95
    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!' 100
    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. 105
    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 awhile:
    I'll end my exhortation after dinner. 110
  • 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. 115
  • Antonio. Farewell: 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.


  • Antonio. Is that any thing now? 120
  • 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. 125
  • Antonio. Well, tell me now what lady is the same
    To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage,
    That you to-day promised to tell me of?
  • Bassanio. 'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
    How much I have disabled mine estate, 130
    By something showing a more swelling port
    Than my faint means would grant continuance:
    Nor do I now make moan to be abridged
    From such a noble rate; but my chief care
    Is to come fairly off from the great debts 135
    Wherein my time something too prodigal
    Hath left me gaged. 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 140
    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 assured,
    My purse, my person, my extremest means, 145
    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 150
    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 155
    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 160
    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 165
    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 170
    I did receive fair speechless messages:
    Her name is Portia, nothing undervalued
    To Cato's daughter, Brutus' Portia:
    Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth,
    For the four winds blow in from every coast 175
    Renowned suitors, and her sunny locks
    Hang on her temples like a golden fleece;
    Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos' strand,
    And many Jasons come in quest of her.
    O my Antonio, had I but the means 180
    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 185
    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, 190
    Where money is, and I no question make
    To have it of my trust or for my sake.