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The Merchant of Venice


ACT II SCENE VThe same. Before Shylock’s house.
SHYLOCKWell, thou shalt see, thy eyes shall be thy judge,
The difference of old Shylock and Bassanio:–
What, Jessica!–thou shalt not gormandise,
As thou hast done with me:–What, Jessica!–
And sleep and snore, and rend apparel out;–
Why, Jessica, I say!
LAUNCELOTWhy, Jessica!
SHYLOCKWho bids thee call? I do not bid thee call.
LAUNCELOTYour worship was wont to tell me that
I could do nothing without bidding.
[Enter Jessica]
JESSICACall you? what is your will?10
SHYLOCKI am bid forth to supper, Jessica:
There are my keys. But wherefore should I go?
I am not bid for love; they flatter me:
But yet I’ll go in hate, to feed upon
The prodigal Christian. Jessica, my girl,
Look to my house. I am right loath to go:
There is some ill a-brewing towards my rest,
For I did dream of money-bags to-night.
LAUNCELOTI beseech you, sir, go: my young master doth expect
your reproach.20
SHYLOCKSo do I his.
LAUNCELOTAn they have conspired together, I will not say you
shall see a masque; but if you do, then it was not
for nothing that my nose fell a-bleeding on
Black-Monday last at six o’clock i’ the morning,
falling out that year on Ash-Wednesday was four
year, in the afternoon.
SHYLOCKWhat, are there masques? Hear you me, Jessica:
Lock up my doors; and when you hear the drum
And the vile squealing of the wry-neck’d fife,30
Clamber not you up to the casements then,
Nor thrust your head into the public street
To gaze on Christian fools with varnish’d faces,
But stop my house’s ears, I mean my casements:
Let not the sound of shallow foppery enter
My sober house. By Jacob’s staff, I swear,
I have no mind of feasting forth to-night:
But I will go. Go you before me, sirrah;
Say I will come.
LAUNCELOTI will go before, sir. Mistress, look out at40
window, for all this, There will come a Christian
boy, will be worth a Jewess’ eye.
SHYLOCKWhat says that fool of Hagar’s offspring, ha?
JESSICAHis words were ‘Farewell mistress;’ nothing else.

SHYLOCKThe patch is kind enough, but a huge feeder;
Snail-slow in profit, and he sleeps by day
More than the wild-cat: drones hive not with me;
Therefore I part with him, and part with him
To one that would have him help to waste50
His borrow’d purse. Well, Jessica, go in;
Perhaps I will return immediately:
Do as I bid you; shut doors after you:
Fast bind, fast find;
A proverb never stale in thrifty mind.
JESSICAFarewell; and if my fortune be not crost,
I have a father, you a daughter, lost.

Next: The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 6


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 5
From The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co.

This scene gives us briefly the relation of Shylock and Jessica; his faith in her, shown in his intrusting to her his keys; but his mistrust of her levity in his injunction concerning the masquers, and his premonition of coming evil. The scene also completes, by means of Launcelot’s hint concerning the masque, Jessica’s plan to run away with Lorenzo.

3. What, Jessica! What, like why and when, was used as an exclamation of impatience. Compare below, v. 1. 151: “What talk you of the posy.”

3. gormandize, the thrifty Shylock and the indolent, careless Launcelot would have very different ideas on this subject. See above, ii. 2. 113, Launcelot’s complaint that he was famished.

5. rend apparel out, tear out, burst.

11. bid forth, invited out.

14. to feed upon The prodigal Christian. This change in Shylock’s earlier determination not to eat with a Christian is due to his purpose of revenge.

18. money-bags. Dreams go by contraries.

18. to-night, here last night, although sometimes used in the modern sense, as below, line 37 of this scene.

21. So do I his [reproach], Shylock takes Launcelot’s word reproach, intended for approach, in its actual sense.

22. An, if.

25. a-bleeding. Bleeding at the nose was formerly regarded as an indication of coming misfortune.

25. Black-Monday. Easter Monday, so called because of a violent winter storm, April 14, 1360, in which many of the soldiers of King Edward III, then besieging Paris, perished of cold.

30. wry-neck’d fife, variously explained as a fife with a wry or crooked neck, or as applying to the fife player, “awry-necked musician, for he always looks away from his instrument.”

33. varnish’d faces. In allusion to the varnished and painted masques worn by masqueraders.

36. Jacob’s staff. Though popularly used of a pilgrim’s staff in general, the word here has reference to Genesis, xxxii. 10 and Hebrews, xi. 21.

37. forth, from home.

37. no mind of feasting forth, no inclination to feast from home. See below, iv. I. 402: “I humbly do desire your grace of pardon.” Observe the use of forth as an adverb; and compare The Merry Wives of Windsor, ii. 2. 276: “Her husband will he forth.”

44. Hagar’s offspring, i.e. son of a bondswoman. Genesis, xvi.

46. patch, used as a nickname for a jester, is probably derived from the motley or patched coat of the professional fool. Notice the touch of kindliness in Shylock’s allusion to Launcelot, and that at the very moment when Jessica is deceiving him with a deliberate lie.

48. the wild-cat, which prowls by night and sleeps all day.

52. Perhaps I will, in modern English shall. Shylock did not feel perfect confidence in Jessica.

56. Note the rhyming couplet which marks the conclusion of a scene, although here the stage setting remains the same, and the action proceeds at once to Jessica’s elopement.


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