The Merchant of Venice
|ACT II SCENE VI||The same.|
|[Enter GRATIANO and SALARINO, masqued]|
|GRATIANO||This is the pent-house under which Lorenzo|
|Desired us to make stand.|
|SALARINO||His hour is almost past.|
|GRATIANO||And it is marvel he out-dwells his hour,|
|For lovers ever run before the clock.|
|SALARINO||O, ten times faster Venus’ pigeons fly|
|To seal love’s bonds new-made, than they are wont|
|To keep obliged faith unforfeited!|
|GRATIANO||That ever holds: who riseth from a feast|
|With that keen appetite that he sits down?|
|Where is the horse that doth untread again||10|
|His tedious measures with the unbated fire|
|That he did pace them first? All things that are,|
|Are with more spirit chased than enjoy’d.|
|How like a younker or a prodigal|
|The scarfed bark puts from her native bay,|
|Hugg’d and embraced by the strumpet wind!|
|How like the prodigal doth she return,|
|With over-weather’d ribs and ragged sails,|
|Lean, rent and beggar’d by the strumpet wind!|
|SALARINO||Here comes Lorenzo: more of this hereafter.||20|
|LORENZO||Sweet friends, your patience for my long abode;|
|Not I, but my affairs, have made you wait:|
|When you shall please to play the thieves for wives,|
|I’ll watch as long for you then. Approach;|
|Here dwells my father Jew. Ho! who’s within?|
|[Enter JESSICA, above, in boy’s clothes]|
|JESSICA||Who are you? Tell me, for more certainty,|
|Albeit I’ll swear that I do know your tongue.|
|LORENZO||Lorenzo, and thy love.|
|JESSICA||Lorenzo, certain, and my love indeed,|
|For who love I so much? And now who knows||30|
|But you, Lorenzo, whether I am yours?|
|LORENZO||Heaven and thy thoughts are witness that thou art.|
|JESSICA||Here, catch this casket; it is worth the pains.|
|I am glad ’tis night, you do not look on me,|
|For I am much ashamed of my exchange:|
|But love is blind and lovers cannot see|
|The pretty follies that themselves commit;|
|For if they could, Cupid himself would blush|
|To see me thus transformed to a boy.|
|LORENZO||Descend, for you must be my torch-bearer.||40|
|JESSICA||What, must I hold a candle to my shames?|
|They in themselves, good-sooth, are too too light.|
|Why, ’tis an office of discovery, love;|
|And I should be obscured.|
|LORENZO||So are you, sweet,|
|Even in the lovely garnish of a boy.|
|But come at once;|
|For the close night doth play the runaway,|
|And we are stay’d for at Bassanio’s feast.|
|JESSICA||I will make fast the doors, and gild myself|
|With some more ducats, and be with you straight.||50|
|GRATIANO||Now, by my hood, a Gentile and no Jew.|
|LORENZO||Beshrew me but I love her heartily;|
|For she is wise, if I can judge of her,|
|And fair she is, if that mine eyes be true,|
|And true she is, as she hath proved herself,|
|And therefore, like herself, wise, fair and true,|
|Shall she be placed in my constant soul.|
|[Enter JESSICA, below]|
|What, art thou come? On, gentlemen; away!|
|Our masquing mates by this time for us stay.|
|[Exit with Jessica and Salarino]|
|ANTONIO||Fie, fie, Gratiano! where are all the rest?|
|‘Tis nine o’clock: our friends all stay for you.|
|No masque to-night: the wind is come about;|
|Bassanio presently will go aboard:|
|I have sent twenty out to seek for you.|
|GRATIANO||I am glad on’t: I desire no more delight|
|Than to be under sail and gone to-night.|
Next: The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 7
Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 6
From The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co.
1. pent-house, a shed hanging out aslope of the main building.
2. This line, like many others, especially in the earlier work of Shakespeare, is too long, according to the metrical scheme of English blank verse. As a matter of fact, Shakespeare frequently employs, in the midst of the usual lines of five accents, lines which contain six, and which are known as Alexandrines. This is more often to be met where the dialogue is broken (that is, where the line is divided between two speakers) than elsewhere. In such cases we had better follow the advice of Dr. Furness, and “forego the pleasure of adjusting the rhythm of fragments of lines. As long as each fragment is in itself rhythmical, I doubt,” continues the editor of the Variorum Shakespeare, “if Shakespeare troubled himself to piece them together.”
3. out-dwells, outstays.
5. Venus’ pigeons, doves were sacred to Venus, the goddess of beauty. See Tempest, iv. 1. 92:
“I met her deity
Cutting the clouds towards Paphos, and her son
Dove-drawn with her.”
7. obliged, pronounced as three syllables. The termination ed was commonly pronounced in Shakespeare’s day, although sometimes contracted. See below, in this scene, chased, line 13 ; scarfed, line 15; andplaced, line 57.
9. sits down [with].
10. untread again, retrace, repeat in reverse order; said to allude to a horse trained to perform tricks, as in a circus.
14. younker, stripling.
15. scarfed bark, ship decked with flags.
17. See Luke, xv. 1 1-32.
18. over-weather’d, weather-beaten.
21. abode, tarrying, stay.
24. I’ll watch as long, etc. This line contains but nine syllables. But the pause after then takes up one of them, and the line becomes perfectly metrical.
This is no uncommon device where there is a change in the thought, as here. Shakespeare, be it repeated, wrote for the ear and not for the eye, nor yet for the fingers. Compare Measure for Measure, ii. 2. 115-117:
30. who love I. Who for whom, as frequently in Shakespeare. This license extended to all the personal pronouns. Compare below, iii. 2. 321: “All debts are cleared between you and I.”
35. exchange, change of costume to that of a boy.
41-50. What, must I, etc. Shames, in modern English shame. They in themselves [i.e. my shames] are only too manifest. Why, [a torch-bearer’s] office [is one] of discovery, for he bears a light; I should be thrown into the dark. There is a play in this passage on both the words light and obscure. Jessica is far more concerned about her appearance in boy’s clothes than about leaving her father and robbing him.
42. too too, the duplication of the adverb for emphasis is very common. Compare Hamlet, i. 2. 1 29: “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt.”
45. garnish, costume.
47. play the runaway, is hurrying away.
47. close, secret.
48. stay’d, awaited.
51. by my hood. Gratiano swears appropriately by the masquerader’s hood with which he is disguised.
51. Gentile, a heathen, with a play on the word gentle, one well born.
52. Beshrew me, dear me, verily.
Much difficulty has been experienced in assigning the period of time during which the action of the play is supposed to take place. And this difficulty arises from the circumstance that Shakespeare hurries or retards the apparent lapse of time to suit the need of the given moment, and thus creates a double scale of time. Early in the play we are told that the bond is for three months and that period is infixed in our minds. Moreover Bassanio speaks of having his servants’ liveries “put to making,” which seems to imply a leisurely preparation. On the other hand, his ducats once “pursed,” from other indications Bassanio is all impatience and hurry.
Supper must be ready at latest at five, letters are to be delivered, purchases made and stowed aboard, servants are sent to and fro and bidden “hie thee, away,” and, cutting short the masque, at nine o’clock he will instantly aboard. This lover’s impatience of Bassanio has beguiled one commentator into supposing that but ten hours elapse between the opening of the action and Bassanio’s setting forth to Belmont: a notion obviously false. It will be better for us to note Shakespeare’s art in effecting the illusion of a lapse or a hurry of time than to seek for that mathematical accuracy which has its place, though not in a work of the imagination.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co., 1903.