The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library)

The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library)

by William Shakespeare

ISBN: 9780743477567

Publisher Simon & Schuster

Published in Literature & Fiction/Classics, Arts & Photography/Performing Arts, Entertainment, Children & Teens (Young Adult), Reference

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One


The Duke of Venice The Prince of Morocco (Portia's suitor) The Prince of Arragon (Portia's suitor) Antonio (a merchant of Venice) Bassanio (Antonio's friend, Portia's suitor) Solanio, Salarino, Gratiano (friends of Antonio and Bassanio) Lorenzo (in love with Jessica) Shylock (a rich Jew) Tubal (Shylock's friend) Lancelot Gobbo (a clown,Shylock's servant) Old Gobbo (Lancelot's father) Leonardo (Bassanio's servant) Salerio (Venetian court attendant) Balthasar, Stephano (Portia's servants) Portia (an heiress) Nerissa (Portia's personal attendant) Jessica (Shylock's daughter) Venetian Nobles, Officers of the Court of Justice, Jailer, Servants, and Attendants

Act 1


Venice, a street

ENTER Antonio, Salarino, and Solanio

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 borne, I am to learn. And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, 5 That I have much ado to know myself.

Salarino Your mind is tossing on the ocean, There where your argosies with portly sail Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood, 10 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.

Solanio Believe me sir, had I such venture forth, The better part of my affections would 15 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. And every object that might make me fear Misfortune to my ventures, out of doubt 20 Would make me sad.

Salarino My wind cooling my broth Would blow me to an ague, when I thought What harm a wind too great might do at sea. I should not see the sandy hourglass run But I should think of shallows, and of flats, 25 And see my wealthy "Andrew" docks in sand, Vailing her high top lower than her ribs To kiss her burial. Should I go to church And see the holy edifice of stone, And not bethink me straight of dangerous rocks, 30 Which touching but my gentle vessel's side Would scatter all her spices on the stream, 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 35 To think on this, and shall I lack the thought That such a thing bechanced would make me sad? But tell not me, I know Antonio Is sad to think upon his merchandise.

Antonio Believe me no, I thank my fortune for it, 40 My ventures are not in one bottom trusted, Nor to one place, nor is my whole estate Upon the fortune of this present year. Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad.

Solanio Why then you are in love.

Antonio Fie, fie. 45

Solanio Not in love neither. Then let us say you are sad 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. 50 Some that will evermore peep through their eyes, And laugh like parrots at a bagpiper. And other of such vinegar aspect, That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile, Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable. 55

ENTER Bassanio, Lorenzo, and Gratiano

Solanio Here comes Bassanio,your most noble kinsman, Gratiano, and Lorenzo. Fare ye well, We leave you now with better company.

Salarino I would have stayed till I had made you merry, If worthier friends had not prevented me. 60

Antonio Your worth is very dear in my regard. I take it your own business calls on you, And you embrace th' occasion to depart.

Salarino Good morrow my good lords.

Bassanio Good signiors both, when shall we laugh? Say when? 65 You grow exceeding strange. Must it be so?

Salarino We'll make our leisures to attend on yours.

EXEUNT Salarino and Solanio

Lorenzo My Lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio We two will leave you, but at dinnertime I pray you have in mind where we must meet. 70

Bassanio I will not fail you.

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. Believe me you are marvelously changed. 75

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, With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come, And let my liver rather heat with wine, 80 Than my heart cool with mortifying groans. Why should a man whose blood is warm within Sit like his grandsire, cut in alabaster? Sleep when he wakes? And creep into the jaundice By being peevish? I tell thee what Antonio, 85 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, And do a willful stillness entertain, With purpose to be drest in an opinion 90 Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit, As who should say, I am sir an oracle, And when I ope my lips, let no dog bark. O my Antonio, I do know of these That therefore only are reputed wise 95 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. I'll tell thee more of this another time. But fish not with this melancholy bait 100 For this fool gudgeon, this opinion. Come good Lorenzo, fare ye well a while, I'll end my exhortation after dinner.

Lorenzo Well, we will leave you then till dinnertime. I must be one of these same dumb wise men, 105 For Gratiano never lets me speak.

Gratiano Well, keep me company but two years mo, Thou shalt not know the sound of thine own tongue.

Antonio Fare you well, I'll grow a talker for this gear.

Gratiano Thanks i'faith, for silence is only commendable 110 In a neat's tongue dried, and a maid not vendible

EXEUNT Gratiano and Lorenzo

Antonio It is that anything, now.

Bassanio Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice. His reasons are two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff. You shall seek all day 115 ere you find them,and when you have them they are not worth the search.

Antonio Well. Tell me now, what lady is the same To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage That you today promised to tell me of? 120

Bassanio 'Tis not unknown to you Antonio How much I have disabled mine estate, By something showing a more swelling port Than my faint means would grant continuance. Nor do I now make moan to be abridged 125 From such a noble rate, but my chief care Is to come fairly off from the great debts 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 unburthen all my plots and purposes, 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, 135 Within the eye of honor, be assured My purse, my person, my extremest means Lie all unlocked to your occasions.

Bassanio In my schooldays, when I had lost one shaft I shot his fellow of the selfsame flight 140 The selfsame way, with more advised watch, To find the other forth, and by adventuring both, I oft found both. I urge this childhood proof Because what follows is pure innocence. I owe you much, and like a willful youth 145 That which I owe is lost, but if you please To shoot another arrow that self way 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, 150 And thankfully rest debtor for the first.

Antonio You know me well, and herein spend but time To wind about my love with circumstance, And out of doubt you do me now more wrong In making question of my uttermost 155 Than if you had made waste of all I have. Then do but say to me what I should do 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, 160 And she is fair, and fairer than that word, Of wondrous virtues. Sometimes from her eyes I did receive fair speechless messages. Her name is Portia, nothing undervalued To Cato's daughter, Brutus' Portia. 165 Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth, For the four winds blow in from every coast Renowned suitors, and her sunny locks Hang on her temples like a golden fleece, Which makes her seat of Belmont Cholchis' strond, 170 And many Jasons come in quest of her. O my Antonio, had I but the means To hold a rival place with one of them, I have a mind presages me such thrift That I should questionless be fortunate. 175

Antonio Thou knowst that all my fortunes are at sea, Neither have I money, nor commodity To raise a present sum. Therefore go forth, Try what my credit can in Venice do, That shall be racked even to the uttermost 180 To furnish thee to Belmont to fair Portia. Go presently inquire, and so will I, Where money is, and I no question make To have it of my trust, or for my sake.



Belmont, Portia's residence

ENTER Portia with Nerissa, her personal attendant

Portia By my troth Nerissa, my little body is aweary of 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 ought I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much, as 5 they that starve with nothing. It is no mean happiness therefore to be seated in the mean. Superfluity comes sooner by white hair, but competency lives longer.

Portia Good sentences, and well pronounced.

Nerissa They would be better if well followed. 10

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 twenty to follow mine own 15 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 reason is not in fashion to choose me a husband. O me, the word "choose." I may 20 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?

Nerissa Your father was ever virtuous, and holy men at their 25 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 ne'er be chosen by any rightly but one who you shall rightly love. But what warmth is there in 30 your affection towards any of these princely suitors that are already come?

Portia I pray thee overname them, and as thou namest them, I will describe them, and according to my description level at my affection. 35

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 shoe him himself. I am much afraid my lady his mother played false with a smith. 40

Nerissa Then is there the County Palantine.

Portia He doth nothing but frown, as who should say, and you will not have me, choose. He hears merry tales and smiles not. I fear he will prove the weeping philosopher when he grows old, being so full of unmannerly sadness in 45 his youth. I had rather to be married to a death's head with a bone in his mouth, then to either of these. God defend me from these two.

Nerissa How say you by54 the French lord, Monsieur Le Bon?

Portia God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man. 50 In truth I know it is a sin to be a mocker, but he, why he hath a horse better than the Neapolitan's, a better bad habit of frowning than the Count Palantine,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 55 should marry twenty husbands. If he would despise me, I would forgive him, for if he love me to madness, I should never requite him.

Nerissa What say you then to Falconbridge,the young baron of England? 60

Portia You know I say nothing to him, for he understands 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? 65 How oddly he is suited. I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behavior everywhere.

Nerissa What think you of the Scottish lord, his neighbor?

Portia That he hath a neighborly charity in him, for he 70 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 75 nephew?

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 80 I shall 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 deep 85 glass of Rhenish wine on the contrary casket, for if the divel be within, and that temptation without, I know he will choose it. I will do anything Nerissa, ere I will be married to a sponge.

Nerissa You need not fear, lady, the having any of these lords. 90 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. 95

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 wish them a fair departure. 100

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 Mountferrat?

Portia Yes, yes, it was Bassanio, as I think so was he called.

Nerissa True madam, he of all the men that ever my foolish eyes 105 looked upon, was the best deserving a fair lady.

Portia I remember him well, and I remember him worthy of thy praise.

ENTER a Servant

Servant The four strangers seek you madam to take their leave. And there is a fore-runner come from a fifth, the Prince of 110 Morocco, who brings word the Prince his master will be here tonight.


Excerpted from "The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library)" by William Shakespeare. Copyright © 2004 by William Shakespeare. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is considered the greatest writer in the English language, and one of the greatest in Western literature as a whole. Much of his life is unknown, leading to many conspiracy theories concerning his "nonexistence." Many of his plays, such as "Hamlet" and "King Lear," are reworkings of existing stories. Although he is most famous for his dramatic works, he also wrote a cycle of 154 sonnets and several longer epic poems. He died in 1616, and is buried in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon.

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