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The Merchant of Venice

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Act III, Scene 2

Belmont. A room in PORTIA’S house.



  • Portia. I pray you, tarry: pause a day or two
    Before you hazard; for, in choosing wrong, 1365
    I lose your company: therefore forbear awhile.
    There's something tells me, but it is not love,
    I would not lose you; and you know yourself,
    Hate counsels not in such a quality.
    But lest you should not understand me well,— 1370
    And yet a maiden hath no tongue but thought,—
    I would detain you here some month or two
    Before you venture for me. I could teach you
    How to choose right, but I am then forsworn;
    So will I never be: so may you miss me; 1375
    But if you do, you'll make me wish a sin,
    That I had been forsworn. Beshrew your eyes,
    They have o'erlook'd me and divided me;
    One half of me is yours, the other half yours,
    Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours, 1380
    And so all yours. O, these naughty times
    Put bars between the owners and their rights!
    And so, though yours, not yours. Prove it so,
    Let fortune go to hell for it, not I.
    I speak too long; but 'tis to peize the time, 1385
    To eke it and to draw it out in length,
    To stay you from election.
  • Bassanio. Let me choose
    For as I am, I live upon the rack.
  • Portia. Upon the rack, Bassanio! then confess 1390
    What treason there is mingled with your love.
  • Bassanio. None but that ugly treason of mistrust,
    Which makes me fear the enjoying of my love:
    There may as well be amity and life
    'Tween snow and fire, as treason and my love. 1395
  • Portia. Ay, but I fear you speak upon the rack,
    Where men enforced do speak anything.
  • Bassanio. Promise me life, and I'll confess the truth.
  • Portia. Well then, confess and live.
  • Bassanio. 'Confess' and 'love' 1400
    Had been the very sum of my confession:
    O happy torment, when my torturer
    Doth teach me answers for deliverance!
    But let me to my fortune and the caskets.
  • Portia. Away, then! I am lock'd in one of them: 1405
    If you do love me, you will find me out.
    Nerissa and the rest, stand all aloof.
    Let music sound while he doth make his choice;
    Then, if he lose, he makes a swan-like end,
    Fading in music: that the comparison 1410
    May stand more proper, my eye shall be the stream
    And watery death-bed for him. He may win;
    And what is music then? Then music is
    Even as the flourish when true subjects bow
    To a new-crowned monarch: such it is 1415
    As are those dulcet sounds in break of day
    That creep into the dreaming bridegroom's ear,
    And summon him to marriage. Now he goes,
    With no less presence, but with much more love,
    Than young Alcides, when he did redeem 1420
    The virgin tribute paid by howling Troy
    To the sea-monster: I stand for sacrifice
    The rest aloof are the Dardanian wives,
    With bleared visages, come forth to view
    The issue of the exploit. Go, Hercules! 1425
    Live thou, I live: with much, much more dismay
    I view the fight than thou that makest the fray.
    [Music, whilst BASSANIO comments on the caskets to himself]
    Tell me where is fancy bred, 1430
    Or in the heart, or in the head?
    How begot, how nourished?
    Reply, reply.
    It is engender'd in the eyes,
    With gazing fed; and fancy dies 1435
    In the cradle where it lies.
    Let us all ring fancy's knell
    I'll begin it,—Ding, dong, bell.
  • All. Ding, dong, bell.
  • Bassanio. So may the outward shows be least themselves: 1440
    The world is still deceived with ornament.
    In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
    But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,
    Obscures the show of evil? In religion,
    What damned error, but some sober brow 1445
    Will bless it and approve it with a text,
    Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
    There is no vice so simple but assumes
    Some mark of virtue on his outward parts:
    How many cowards, whose hearts are all as false 1450
    As stairs of sand, wear yet upon their chins
    The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars;
    Who, inward search'd, have livers white as milk;
    And these assume but valour's excrement
    To render them redoubted! Look on beauty, 1455
    And you shall see 'tis purchased by the weight;
    Which therein works a miracle in nature,
    Making them lightest that wear most of it:
    So are those crisped snaky golden locks
    Which make such wanton gambols with the wind, 1460
    Upon supposed fairness, often known
    To be the dowry of a second head,
    The skull that bred them in the sepulchre.
    Thus ornament is but the guiled shore
    To a most dangerous sea; the beauteous scarf 1465
    Veiling an Indian beauty; in a word,
    The seeming truth which cunning times put on
    To entrap the wisest. Therefore, thou gaudy gold,
    Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee;
    Nor none of thee, thou pale and common drudge 1470
    'Tween man and man: but thou, thou meagre lead,
    Which rather threatenest than dost promise aught,
    Thy paleness moves me more than eloquence;
    And here choose I; joy be the consequence!
  • Portia. [Aside] How all the other passions fleet to air, 1475
    As doubtful thoughts, and rash-embraced despair,
    And shuddering fear, and green-eyed jealousy! O love,
    Be moderate; allay thy ecstasy,
    In measure rein thy joy; scant this excess.
    I feel too much thy blessing: make it less, 1480
    For fear I surfeit.
  • Bassanio. What find I here?
    [Opening the leaden casket]
    Fair Portia's counterfeit! What demi-god
    Hath come so near creation? Move these eyes? 1485
    Or whether, riding on the balls of mine,
    Seem they in motion? Here are sever'd lips,
    Parted with sugar breath: so sweet a bar
    Should sunder such sweet friends. Here in her hairs
    The painter plays the spider and hath woven 1490
    A golden mesh to entrap the hearts of men,
    Faster than gnats in cobwebs; but her eyes,—
    How could he see to do them? having made one,
    Methinks it should have power to steal both his
    And leave itself unfurnish'd. Yet look, how far 1495
    The substance of my praise doth wrong this shadow
    In underprizing it, so far this shadow
    Doth limp behind the substance. Here's the scroll,
    The continent and summary of my fortune.
    [Reads] 1500
    You that choose not by the view,
    Chance as fair and choose as true!
    Since this fortune falls to you,
    Be content and seek no new,
    If you be well pleased with this 1505
    And hold your fortune for your bliss,
    Turn you where your lady is
    And claim her with a loving kiss.
    A gentle scroll. Fair lady, by your leave;
    I come by note, to give and to receive. 1510
    Like one of two contending in a prize,
    That thinks he hath done well in people's eyes,
    Hearing applause and universal shout,
    Giddy in spirit, still gazing in a doubt
    Whether these pearls of praise be his or no; 1515
    So, thrice fair lady, stand I, even so;
    As doubtful whether what I see be true,
    Until confirm'd, sign'd, ratified by you.
  • Portia. You see me, Lord Bassanio, where I stand,
    Such as I am: though for myself alone 1520
    I would not be ambitious in my wish,
    To wish myself much better; yet, for you
    I would be trebled twenty times myself;
    A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich;
    That only to stand high in your account, 1525
    I might in virtue, beauties, livings, friends,
    Exceed account; but the full sum of me
    Is sum of something, which, to term in gross,
    Is an unlesson'd girl, unschool'd, unpractised;
    Happy in this, she is not yet so old 1530
    But she may learn; happier than this,
    She is not bred so dull but she can learn;
    Happiest of all is that her gentle spirit
    Commits itself to yours to be directed,
    As from her lord, her governor, her king. 1535
    Myself and what is mine to you and yours
    Is now converted: but now I was the lord
    Of this fair mansion, master of my servants,
    Queen o'er myself: and even now, but now,
    This house, these servants and this same myself 1540
    Are yours, my lord: I give them with this ring;
    Which when you part from, lose, or give away,
    Let it presage the ruin of your love
    And be my vantage to exclaim on you.
  • Bassanio. Madam, you have bereft me of all words, 1545
    Only my blood speaks to you in my veins;
    And there is such confusion in my powers,
    As after some oration fairly spoke
    By a beloved prince, there doth appear
    Among the buzzing pleased multitude; 1550
    Where every something, being blent together,
    Turns to a wild of nothing, save of joy,
    Express'd and not express'd. But when this ring
    Parts from this finger, then parts life from hence:
    O, then be bold to say Bassanio's dead! 1555
  • Nerissa. My lord and lady, it is now our time,
    That have stood by and seen our wishes prosper,
    To cry, good joy: good joy, my lord and lady!
  • Gratiano. My lord Bassanio and my gentle lady,
    I wish you all the joy that you can wish; 1560
    For I am sure you can wish none from me:
    And when your honours mean to solemnize
    The bargain of your faith, I do beseech you,
    Even at that time I may be married too.
  • Bassanio. With all my heart, so thou canst get a wife. 1565
  • Gratiano. I thank your lordship, you have got me one.
    My eyes, my lord, can look as swift as yours:
    You saw the mistress, I beheld the maid;
    You loved, I loved for intermission.
    No more pertains to me, my lord, than you. 1570
    Your fortune stood upon the casket there,
    And so did mine too, as the matter falls;
    For wooing here until I sweat again,
    And sweating until my very roof was dry
    With oaths of love, at last, if promise last, 1575
    I got a promise of this fair one here
    To have her love, provided that your fortune
    Achieved her mistress.
  • Portia. Is this true, Nerissa?
  • Nerissa. Madam, it is, so you stand pleased withal. 1580
  • Bassanio. And do you, Gratiano, mean good faith?
  • Bassanio. Our feast shall be much honour'd in your marriage.
  • Gratiano. We'll play with them the first boy for a thousand ducats.
  • Nerissa. What, and stake down? 1585
  • Gratiano. No; we shall ne'er win at that sport, and stake down.
    But who comes here? Lorenzo and his infidel? What,
    and my old Venetian friend Salerio?
    [Enter LORENZO, JESSICA, and SALERIO, a Messenger]
    from Venice] 1590
  • Bassanio. Lorenzo and Salerio, welcome hither;
    If that the youth of my new interest here
    Have power to bid you welcome. By your leave,
    I bid my very friends and countrymen,
    Sweet Portia, welcome. 1595
  • Portia. So do I, my lord:
    They are entirely welcome.
  • Lorenzo. I thank your honour. For my part, my lord,
    My purpose was not to have seen you here;
    But meeting with Salerio by the way, 1600
    He did entreat me, past all saying nay,
    To come with him along.
  • Salerio. I did, my lord;
    And I have reason for it. Signior Antonio
    Commends him to you. 1605

[Gives Bassanio a letter]

  • Bassanio. Ere I ope his letter,
    I pray you, tell me how my good friend doth.
  • Salerio. Not sick, my lord, unless it be in mind;
    Nor well, unless in mind: his letter there 1610
    Will show you his estate.
  • Gratiano. Nerissa, cheer yon stranger; bid her welcome.
    Your hand, Salerio: what's the news from Venice?
    How doth that royal merchant, good Antonio?
    I know he will be glad of our success; 1615
    We are the Jasons, we have won the fleece.
  • Salerio. I would you had won the fleece that he hath lost.
  • Portia. There are some shrewd contents in yon same paper,
    That steals the colour from Bassanio's cheek:
    Some dear friend dead; else nothing in the world 1620
    Could turn so much the constitution
    Of any constant man. What, worse and worse!
    With leave, Bassanio: I am half yourself,
    And I must freely have the half of anything
    That this same paper brings you. 1625
  • Bassanio. O sweet Portia,
    Here are a few of the unpleasant'st words
    That ever blotted paper! Gentle lady,
    When I did first impart my love to you,
    I freely told you, all the wealth I had 1630
    Ran in my veins, I was a gentleman;
    And then I told you true: and yet, dear lady,
    Rating myself at nothing, you shall see
    How much I was a braggart. When I told you
    My state was nothing, I should then have told you 1635
    That I was worse than nothing; for, indeed,
    I have engaged myself to a dear friend,
    Engaged my friend to his mere enemy,
    To feed my means. Here is a letter, lady;
    The paper as the body of my friend, 1640
    And every word in it a gaping wound,
    Issuing life-blood. But is it true, Salerio?
    Have all his ventures fail'd? What, not one hit?
    From Tripolis, from Mexico and England,
    From Lisbon, Barbary and India? 1645
    And not one vessel 'scape the dreadful touch
    Of merchant-marring rocks?
  • Salerio. Not one, my lord.
    Besides, it should appear, that if he had
    The present money to discharge the Jew, 1650
    He would not take it. Never did I know
    A creature, that did bear the shape of man,
    So keen and greedy to confound a man:
    He plies the duke at morning and at night,
    And doth impeach the freedom of the state, 1655
    If they deny him justice: twenty merchants,
    The duke himself, and the magnificoes
    Of greatest port, have all persuaded with him;
    But none can drive him from the envious plea
    Of forfeiture, of justice and his bond. 1660
  • Jessica. When I was with him I have heard him swear
    To Tubal and to Chus, his countrymen,
    That he would rather have Antonio's flesh
    Than twenty times the value of the sum
    That he did owe him: and I know, my lord, 1665
    If law, authority and power deny not,
    It will go hard with poor Antonio.
  • Portia. Is it your dear friend that is thus in trouble?
  • Bassanio. The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,
    The best-condition'd and unwearied spirit 1670
    In doing courtesies, and one in whom
    The ancient Roman honour more appears
    Than any that draws breath in Italy.
  • Portia. What sum owes he the Jew?
  • Bassanio. For me three thousand ducats. 1675
  • Portia. What, no more?
    Pay him six thousand, and deface the bond;
    Double six thousand, and then treble that,
    Before a friend of this description
    Shall lose a hair through Bassanio's fault. 1680
    First go with me to church and call me wife,
    And then away to Venice to your friend;
    For never shall you lie by Portia's side
    With an unquiet soul. You shall have gold
    To pay the petty debt twenty times over: 1685
    When it is paid, bring your true friend along.
    My maid Nerissa and myself meantime
    Will live as maids and widows. Come, away!
    For you shall hence upon your wedding-day:
    Bid your friends welcome, show a merry cheer: 1690
    Since you are dear bought, I will love you dear.
    But let me hear the letter of your friend.
  • Bassanio. [Reads] Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all
    miscarried, my creditors grow cruel, my estate is
    very low, my bond to the Jew is forfeit; and since 1695
    in paying it, it is impossible I should live, all
    debts are cleared between you and I, if I might but
    see you at my death. Notwithstanding, use your
    pleasure: if your love do not persuade you to come,
    let not my letter. 1700
  • Portia. O love, dispatch all business, and be gone!
  • Bassanio. Since I have your good leave to go away,
    I will make haste: but, till I come again,
    No bed shall e'er be guilty of my stay,
    No rest be interposer 'twixt us twain. 1705