The Merchant of Venice
|ACT I SCENE I||Venice. A street.|
|[Enter ANTONIO, SALARINO, and SALANIO]|
|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,|
|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,|
|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.|
|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;|
|And every object that might make me fear||20|
|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|
|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|
|To kiss her burial. Should I go to church||30|
|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,|
|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?|
|But tell not me; I know, Antonio|
|Is sad to think upon his merchandise.||40|
|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|
|Upon the fortune of this present year:|
|Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad.|
|SALARINO||Why, then you are in love.|
|SALARINO||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,||50|
|Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time:|
|Some that will evermore peep through their eyes|
|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.|
|[Enter BASSANIO, LORENZO, and GRATIANO]|
|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,||60|
|If worthier friends had not prevented me.|
|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.|
|SALARINO||Good morrow, my good lords.|
|BASSANIO||Good signiors both, when shall we laugh? say, when?|
|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,||70|
|I pray you, have in mind where we must meet.|
|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 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:|
|With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,||80|
|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?|
|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,|
|And do a wilful stillness entertain,||90|
|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!’|
|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.|
|I’ll tell thee more of this another time:||100|
|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.|
|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.|
|ANTONIO||Farewell: I’ll grow a talker for this gear.||110|
|GRATIANO||Thanks, i’ faith, for silence is only commendable|
|In a neat’s tongue dried and a maid not vendible.|
|[Exeunt GRATIANO and LORENZO]|
|ANTONIO||Is that any thing now?|
|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.|
|ANTONIO||Well, tell me now what lady is the same|
|To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage,||120|
|That you to-day promised to tell me of?|
|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|
|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,||130|
|I owe the most, in money and in love,|
|And from your love I have a warranty|
|To unburden 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,|
|Within the eye of honour, be assured,|
|My purse, my person, my extremest means,|
|Lie all unlock’d to your occasions.|
|BASSANIO||In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft,||140|
|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|
|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|
|Which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,|
|As I will watch the aim, or to find both||150|
|Or bring your latter hazard back again|
|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|
|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.||160|
|BASSANIO||In Belmont is a lady richly left;|
|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:|
|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;||170|
|Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos’ strand,|
|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!|
|ANTONIO||Thou know’st 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:||180|
|That shall be rack’d, even to the uttermost,|
|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.|
The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 2
Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 1
From The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co.
The opening passages of a play must put the reader in possession of the essentials on which the plot is based: the place, the circumstances, and the relation of the persons who are to figure in the story. The title has already conveyed to our minds the place, Venice: to the ears of the contemporaries of Shakespeare, the celebrated mart of the East, a synonym for political power, opulence, and glittering barbaric profusion. A merchant of Venice was thus no ordinary man; but, as Antonio is later called, a “royal merchant,” one whose dealings were with kings, and on a scale of magnitude and splendor. In this opening scene the keynote is struck in Antonio’s unreasoning sadness; and the circumstance that he has many ships on many seas, together with the thought of the risks of such ventures, is impressed on the reader’s mind. Then follows the entrance of Bassanio with his friends, the merry mood of Gratiano contrasting with the melancholy of Antonio; and the scene ends with Bassanio’s confession of his hopes as to Portia, and Antonio’s generous offer of his credit to further them. We have in this scene Antonio in doubt as to his argosies abroad, but staunch in his friendship; and we have Bassanio embarked on his project, the winning of Portia. It is out of these two circumstances that the two main stories of the drama grow.
Shylock, as the name of a Jew, was known in prose tracts and in a ballad of Shakespeare’s time. Its origin may have been in the Italian name, Scialocca.
4. stuff. Compare Tempest, iv. 1. 156:
“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on.”
5. I am [yet] to learn, is the fuller modern phrase. Elizabethan English often thus omits a word. Compare The Two Gentlemen of Verona, ii. I. 59.
8. ocean. Pronounced as three syllables.
9. argosies. An argosy was usually a large merchantman; and the word was probably derived from the town of Ragusa or Arragosa, which enjoyed a large trade with England in the sixteenth century.
11. pageants. The pageant was the stage on which the old popular plays were acted in the streets. The word was often used of the plays themselves. Shakespeare here likens the lofty merchantmen with sails spread to these tall and decorated structures.
13. curtsy. “Suggested by the rocking, ducking motion in the petty traffiquers caused by the wake of the argosy as it sails past them” (Furness).
15. venture. What is risked in a merchant’s voyage.
18. Plucking the grass, to test the direction of the wind by dropping it from the hand.
25. hour-glass. An hour-glass, placed near the pulpit, was commonly used to mark the duration of the sermon in Shakespeare’s day.
27. Andrew, the name of the ship.
35. worth this. The thought is probably here completed by a gesture of the actor.
50. Janus, the Roman guardian deity of gates, represented with two heads because every door looks two ways.
56. Nestor, the oldest and hence the gravest of the heroes.
67. You grow exceeding strange. Compare the modern, “You are becoming quite a stranger.”
67. must it be so? Must you really go? or, perhaps, Must you continue such a stranger?
74. You have too much respect upon the world. You have too much regard for the world’s opinion.
75. They lose it. It here refers to the opinion of the world.
78. a stage, etc. Compare the famous passage: “All the world’s a stage,” As You Like It, ii. 7. 139.
79. play the fool. The fool, with his cap, bells, and bauble, was a favorite character in the old comedy.
84. grandsire cut in alabaster, an allusion to the tombs of old time, of which a stone or alabaster figure of the deceased formed a conspicuous part.
85. jaundice. This disease was supposed to cause everything to appear yellow to the person afflicted with it. Compare Troilus and Cressida, i. 3. 2.
89. cream and mantle, thicken in scum on the surface and completely cover. Notice the Elizabethan freedom which compels the noun, without change in form, to do service as a verb.
93. As who shall say, in modern phrase, “As if one should say.” An old idiom very common in Shakespeare. See below, i. 2. 50.
93. I am, sir, an oracle. This is the reading of the folios; the quartos read Sir Oracle.
96, 97. reputed wise For saying nothing. Compare Proverbs, xvii. 28: “Even a fool when he holdeth his peace is counted wise; and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”
98. If they should speak, [they] would, etc. Shakespeare often omits the nominative when the sense will easily supply it, as here. See Hamlet, ii. 2. 67; iii. I. 8. This passage contains an allusion to Matthew, v. 22: “Whosoever shall say to his brother … ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
101. melancholy bait, i.e. melancholy as a bait.
125. continuance, i.e. continuance of.
126. make moan to be abridged, complain that I am cut short.
137. Within the eye of honor, within the limits of what can be considered honorable.
139. occasions, to be pronounced as four syllables. The terminations ion and ian are commonly pronounced as two syllables; see ocean above, i. I. 8.
141. fellow of the self-same flight, an arrow of the same length, weight, and feathering, calculated to carry the same distance.
143. To find the other forth, to find out the other. Compare Comedy of Errors, i. 2. 37. This line is two syllables longer than the usual decasyllabic line of English blank verse; but it runs easily off the tongue in precisely the interval of time required for a verse of ten syllables. Shakespeare wrote for the ear, and not for the eye; and these “irregularities,” as they are sometimes called, are not only true to the speech of his day, but are often real beauties from the variety which they give to the versification.
145. pure innocence, childish foolishness. Bassanio is anxious that his friend, Antonio, shall understand that he himself fully appreciates the real folly of his plan to throw good money after bad.
156. In making question of my uttermost, in doubting my readiness to do my utmost in your service.
165, 166. nothing undervalued To … Brutus’ Portia, i.e. when brought to the side of, and compared with Brutus’s Portia. See below, ii. 7. 53. Portia, wife of Brutus, a woman of renown for her greatness of spirit, figures in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
171. Colchos’ strand, in allusion to the story of Jason, the famous leader of the Argonauts, who sought and found the golden fleece in Colchos by the aid of Medea, whom he made his wife and brought back to Greece.
175. a mind presages. Note the omission of the relative, a common Shakespearean idiom. See Measure for Measure, ii. 2. 23; Richard II, ii. 2. 128.
185. of my trust or for my sake, in consequence of my credit or for the sake of my friendship.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co., 1903.