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The Merchant of Venice

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Act V, Scene 1

Belmont. Avenue to PORTIA’S house.



  • Lorenzo. The moon shines bright: in such a night as this,
    When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees 2445
    And they did make no noise, in such a night
    Troilus methinks mounted the Troyan walls
    And sigh'd his soul toward the Grecian tents,
    Where Cressid lay that night.
  • Jessica. In such a night 2450
    Did Thisbe fearfully o'ertrip the dew
    And saw the lion's shadow ere himself
    And ran dismay'd away.
  • Lorenzo. In such a night
    Stood Dido with a willow in her hand 2455
    Upon the wild sea banks and waft her love
    To come again to Carthage.
  • Jessica. In such a night
    Medea gather'd the enchanted herbs
    That did renew old AEson. 2460
  • Lorenzo. In such a night
    Did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew
    And with an unthrift love did run from Venice
    As far as Belmont.
  • Jessica. In such a night 2465
    Did young Lorenzo swear he loved her well,
    Stealing her soul with many vows of faith
    And ne'er a true one.
  • Lorenzo. In such a night
    Did pretty Jessica, like a little shrew, 2470
    Slander her love, and he forgave it her.
  • Jessica. I would out-night you, did no body come;
    But, hark, I hear the footing of a man.


  • Lorenzo. Who comes so fast in silence of the night? 2475
  • Lorenzo. A friend! what friend? your name, I pray you, friend?
  • Stephano. Stephano is my name; and I bring word
    My mistress will before the break of day
    Be here at Belmont; she doth stray about 2480
    By holy crosses, where she kneels and prays
    For happy wedlock hours.
  • Stephano. None but a holy hermit and her maid.
    I pray you, is my master yet return'd? 2485
  • Lorenzo. He is not, nor we have not heard from him.
    But go we in, I pray thee, Jessica,
    And ceremoniously let us prepare
    Some welcome for the mistress of the house.


  • Launcelot Gobbo. Sola! did you see Master Lorenzo?
    Master Lorenzo, sola, sola!
  • Lorenzo. Leave hollaing, man: here. 2495
  • Launcelot Gobbo. Tell him there's a post come from my master, with
    his horn full of good news: my master will be here
    ere morning. 2500


  • Lorenzo. Sweet soul, let's in, and there expect their coming.
    And yet no matter: why should we go in?
    My friend Stephano, signify, I pray you,
    Within the house, your mistress is at hand; 2505
    And bring your music forth into the air.
    [Exit Stephano]
    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 2510
    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, 2515
    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.
    [Enter Musicians] 2520
    Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn!
    With sweetest touches pierce your mistress' ear,
    And draw her home with music.


  • Jessica. I am never merry when I hear sweet music. 2525
  • Lorenzo. 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; 2530
    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 2535
    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, 2540
    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.


  • Portia. That light we see is burning in my hall.
    How far that little candle throws his beams!
    So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
  • Nerissa. When the moon shone, we did not see the candle.
  • Portia. So doth the greater glory dim the less: 2550
    A substitute shines brightly as a king
    Unto the king be by, and then his state
    Empties itself, as doth an inland brook
    Into the main of waters. Music! hark!
  • Nerissa. It is your music, madam, of the house. 2555
  • Portia. Nothing is good, I see, without respect:
    Methinks it sounds much sweeter than by day.
  • Nerissa. Silence bestows that virtue on it, madam.
  • Portia. The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark,
    When neither is attended, and I think 2560
    The nightingale, if she should sing by day,
    When every goose is cackling, would be thought
    No better a musician than the wren.
    How many things by season season'd are
    To their right praise and true perfection! 2565
    Peace, ho! the moon sleeps with Endymion
    And would not be awaked.

[Music ceases]

  • Lorenzo. That is the voice,
    Or I am much deceived, of Portia. 2570
  • Portia. He knows me as the blind man knows the cuckoo,
    By the bad voice.
  • Portia. We have been praying for our husbands' healths,
    Which speed, we hope, the better for our words. 2575
    Are they return'd?
  • Lorenzo. Madam, they are not yet;
    But there is come a messenger before,
    To signify their coming.
  • Portia. Go in, Nerissa; 2580
    Give order to my servants that they take
    No note at all of our being absent hence;
    Nor you, Lorenzo; Jessica, nor you.

[A tucket sounds]

  • Lorenzo. Your husband is at hand; I hear his trumpet: 2585
    We are no tell-tales, madam; fear you not.
  • Portia. This night methinks is but the daylight sick;
    It looks a little paler: 'tis a day,
    Such as the day is when the sun is hid.
    [Enter BASSANIO, ANTONIO, GRATIANO, and] 2590
    their followers]
  • Bassanio. We should hold day with the Antipodes,
    If you would walk in absence of the sun.
  • Portia. Let me give light, but let me not be light;
    For a light wife doth make a heavy husband, 2595
    And never be Bassanio so for me:
    But God sort all! You are welcome home, my lord.
  • Bassanio. I thank you, madam. Give welcome to my friend.
    This is the man, this is Antonio,
    To whom I am so infinitely bound. 2600
  • Portia. You should in all sense be much bound to him.
    For, as I hear, he was much bound for you.
  • Antonio. No more than I am well acquitted of.
  • Portia. Sir, you are very welcome to our house:
    It must appear in other ways than words, 2605
    Therefore I scant this breathing courtesy.
  • Gratiano. [To NERISSA] By yonder moon I swear you do me wrong;
    In faith, I gave it to the judge's clerk:
    Would he were gelt that had it, for my part,
    Since you do take it, love, so much at heart. 2610
  • Portia. A quarrel, ho, already! what's the matter?
  • Gratiano. About a hoop of gold, a paltry ring
    That she did give me, whose posy was
    For all the world like cutler's poetry
    Upon a knife, 'Love me, and leave me not.' 2615
  • Nerissa. What talk you of the posy or the value?
    You swore to me, when I did give it you,
    That you would wear it till your hour of death
    And that it should lie with you in your grave:
    Though not for me, yet for your vehement oaths, 2620
    You should have been respective and have kept it.
    Gave it a judge's clerk! no, God's my judge,
    The clerk will ne'er wear hair on's face that had it.
  • Gratiano. He will, an if he live to be a man.
  • Nerissa. Ay, if a woman live to be a man. 2625
  • Gratiano. Now, by this hand, I gave it to a youth,
    A kind of boy, a little scrubbed boy,
    No higher than thyself; the judge's clerk,
    A prating boy, that begg'd it as a fee:
    I could not for my heart deny it him. 2630
  • Portia. You were to blame, I must be plain with you,
    To part so slightly with your wife's first gift:
    A thing stuck on with oaths upon your finger
    And so riveted with faith unto your flesh.
    I gave my love a ring and made him swear 2635
    Never to part with it; and here he stands;
    I dare be sworn for him he would not leave it
    Nor pluck it from his finger, for the wealth
    That the world masters. Now, in faith, Gratiano,
    You give your wife too unkind a cause of grief: 2640
    An 'twere to me, I should be mad at it.
  • Bassanio. [Aside] Why, I were best to cut my left hand off
    And swear I lost the ring defending it.
  • Gratiano. My Lord Bassanio gave his ring away
    Unto the judge that begg'd it and indeed 2645
    Deserved it too; and then the boy, his clerk,
    That took some pains in writing, he begg'd mine;
    And neither man nor master would take aught
    But the two rings.
  • Portia. What ring gave you my lord? 2650
    Not that, I hope, which you received of me.
  • Bassanio. If I could add a lie unto a fault,
    I would deny it; but you see my finger
    Hath not the ring upon it; it is gone.
  • Portia. Even so void is your false heart of truth. 2655
    By heaven, I will ne'er come in your bed
    Until I see the ring.
  • Nerissa. Nor I in yours
    Till I again see mine.
  • Bassanio. Sweet Portia, 2660
    If you did know to whom I gave the ring,
    If you did know for whom I gave the ring
    And would conceive for what I gave the ring
    And how unwillingly I left the ring,
    When nought would be accepted but the ring, 2665
    You would abate the strength of your displeasure.
  • Portia. If you had known the virtue of the ring,
    Or half her worthiness that gave the ring,
    Or your own honour to contain the ring,
    You would not then have parted with the ring. 2670
    What man is there so much unreasonable,
    If you had pleased to have defended it
    With any terms of zeal, wanted the modesty
    To urge the thing held as a ceremony?
    Nerissa teaches me what to believe: 2675
    I'll die for't but some woman had the ring.
  • Bassanio. No, by my honour, madam, by my soul,
    No woman had it, but a civil doctor,
    Which did refuse three thousand ducats of me
    And begg'd the ring; the which I did deny him 2680
    And suffer'd him to go displeased away;
    Even he that did uphold the very life
    Of my dear friend. What should I say, sweet lady?
    I was enforced to send it after him;
    I was beset with shame and courtesy; 2685
    My honour would not let ingratitude
    So much besmear it. Pardon me, good lady;
    For, by these blessed candles of the night,
    Had you been there, I think you would have begg'd
    The ring of me to give the worthy doctor. 2690
  • Portia. Let not that doctor e'er come near my house:
    Since he hath got the jewel that I loved,
    And that which you did swear to keep for me,
    I will become as liberal as you;
    I'll not deny him any thing I have, 2695
    No, not my body nor my husband's bed:
    Know him I shall, I am well sure of it:
    Lie not a night from home; watch me like Argus:
    If you do not, if I be left alone,
    Now, by mine honour, which is yet mine own, 2700
    I'll have that doctor for my bedfellow.
  • Nerissa. And I his clerk; therefore be well advised
    How you do leave me to mine own protection.
  • Gratiano. Well, do you so; let not me take him, then;
    For if I do, I'll mar the young clerk's pen. 2705
  • Antonio. I am the unhappy subject of these quarrels.
  • Portia. Sir, grieve not you; you are welcome notwithstanding.
  • Bassanio. Portia, forgive me this enforced wrong;
    And, in the hearing of these many friends,
    I swear to thee, even by thine own fair eyes, 2710
    Wherein I see myself—
  • Portia. Mark you but that!
    In both my eyes he doubly sees himself;
    In each eye, one: swear by your double self,
    And there's an oath of credit. 2715
  • Bassanio. Nay, but hear me:
    Pardon this fault, and by my soul I swear
    I never more will break an oath with thee.
  • Antonio. I once did lend my body for his wealth;
    Which, but for him that had your husband's ring, 2720
    Had quite miscarried: I dare be bound again,
    My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord
    Will never more break faith advisedly.
  • Portia. Then you shall be his surety. Give him this
    And bid him keep it better than the other. 2725
  • Antonio. Here, Lord Bassanio; swear to keep this ring.
  • Bassanio. By heaven, it is the same I gave the doctor!
  • Portia. I had it of him: pardon me, Bassanio;
    For, by this ring, the doctor lay with me.
  • Nerissa. And pardon me, my gentle Gratiano; 2730
    For that same scrubbed boy, the doctor's clerk,
    In lieu of this last night did lie with me.
  • Gratiano. Why, this is like the mending of highways
    In summer, where the ways are fair enough:
    What, are we cuckolds ere we have deserved it? 2735
  • Portia. Speak not so grossly. You are all amazed:
    Here is a letter; read it at your leisure;
    It comes from Padua, from Bellario:
    There you shall find that Portia was the doctor,
    Nerissa there her clerk: Lorenzo here 2740
    Shall witness I set forth as soon as you
    And even but now return'd; I have not yet
    Enter'd my house. Antonio, you are welcome;
    And I have better news in store for you
    Than you expect: unseal this letter soon; 2745
    There you shall find three of your argosies
    Are richly come to harbour suddenly:
    You shall not know by what strange accident
    I chanced on this letter.
  • Bassanio. Were you the doctor and I knew you not?
  • Gratiano. Were you the clerk that is to make me cuckold?
  • Nerissa. Ay, but the clerk that never means to do it,
    Unless he live until he be a man.
  • Bassanio. Sweet doctor, you shall be my bed-fellow: 2755
    When I am absent, then lie with my wife.
  • Antonio. Sweet lady, you have given me life and living;
    For here I read for certain that my ships
    Are safely come to road.
  • Portia. How now, Lorenzo! 2760
    My clerk hath some good comforts too for you.
  • Nerissa. Ay, and I'll give them him without a fee.
    There do I give to you and Jessica,
    From the rich Jew, a special deed of gift,
    After his death, of all he dies possess'd of. 2765
  • Lorenzo. Fair ladies, you drop manna in the way
    Of starved people.
  • Portia. It is almost morning,
    And yet I am sure you are not satisfied
    Of these events at full. Let us go in; 2770
    And charge us there upon inter'gatories,
    And we will answer all things faithfully.
  • Gratiano. Let it be so: the first inter'gatory
    That my Nerissa shall be sworn on is,
    Whether till the next night she had rather stay, 2775
    Or go to bed now, being two hours to day:
    But were the day come, I should wish it dark,
    That I were couching with the doctor's clerk.
    Well, while I live I'll fear no other thing
    So sore as keeping safe Nerissa's ring. 2780