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The Merchant of Venice


ACT II SCENE IVThe same. A street.
LORENZONay, we will slink away in supper-time,
Disguise us at my lodging and return,
All in an hour.
GRATIANOWe have not made good preparation.
SALARINOWe have not spoke us yet of torchbearers.
SALANIO‘Tis vile, unless it may be quaintly order’d,
And better in my mind not undertook.
LORENZO‘Tis now but four o’clock: we have two hours
To furnish us.
[Enter LAUNCELOT, with a letter]
Friend Launcelot, what’s the news?
LAUNCELOTAn it shall please you to break up10
this, it shall seem to signify.
LORENZOI know the hand: in faith, ’tis a fair hand;
And whiter than the paper it writ on
Is the fair hand that writ.
GRATIANOLove-news, in faith.
LAUNCELOTBy your leave, sir.
LORENZOWhither goest thou?
LAUNCELOTMarry, sir, to bid my old master the
Jew to sup to-night with my new master the Christian.
LORENZOHold here, take this: tell gentle Jessica20
I will not fail her; speak it privately.
Go, gentlemen,
[Exit Launcelot]
Will you prepare you for this masque tonight?
I am provided of a torch-bearer.
SALANIOAy, marry, I’ll be gone about it straight.
SALANIOAnd so will I.
LORENZOMeet me and Gratiano
At Gratiano’s lodging some hour hence.
SALARINO‘Tis good we do so.
GRATIANOWas not that letter from fair Jessica?30
LORENZOI must needs tell thee all. She hath directed
How I shall take her from her father’s house,
What gold and jewels she is furnish’d with,
What page’s suit she hath in readiness.
If e’er the Jew her father come to heaven,
It will be for his gentle daughter’s sake:
And never dare misfortune cross her foot,
Unless she do it under this excuse,
That she is issue to a faithless Jew.
Come, go with me; peruse this as thou goest:40
Fair Jessica shall be my torch-bearer.

Next: The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 5


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 4
From The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co.

Gratiano is arranging with his friends to entertain Bassanio with a masque to celebrate his departure for Belmont. See a similar entertainment in Henry VIII, i. 4. Masquerading was common in the England as in the Venice of Shakespeare’s day.

1. in, during, at. Compare below, v. 1. 1: “In such a night as this.”

5. spoke us yet of torch-bearers, bespoken, or made arrangements for torch-bearers.

10. break up, break open, of a sealed letter. Compare The Winter’s Tale, iii. 2. 132: “Break up the seals and read.”

24. provided of a torch-bearer, with a torch-bearer. Of is used in Elizabethan English not only of the agent, but of the instrument. Compare below, v. I. 296: “You are not satisfied Of these events.”


How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co., 1903.