The Merchant of Venice
|ACT II SCENE VII||Belmont. A room in PORTIA’S house.|
|[ Flourish of cornets. Enter PORTIA, with the PRINCE OF MOROCCO, and their trains ]|
|PORTIA||Go draw aside the curtains and discover|
|The several caskets to this noble prince.|
|Now make your choice.|
|MOROCCO||The first, of gold, who this inscription bears,|
|‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire;’|
|The second, silver, which this promise carries,|
|‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves;’|
|This third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt,|
|‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’|
|How shall I know if I do choose the right?||10|
|PORTIA||The one of them contains my picture, prince:|
|If you choose that, then I am yours withal.|
|MOROCCO||Some god direct my judgment! Let me see;|
|I will survey the inscriptions back again.|
|What says this leaden casket?|
|‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’|
|Must give: for what? for lead? hazard for lead?|
|This casket threatens. Men that hazard all|
|Do it in hope of fair advantages:|
|A golden mind stoops not to shows of dross;||20|
|I’ll then nor give nor hazard aught for lead.|
|What says the silver with her virgin hue?|
|‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.’|
|As much as he deserves! Pause there, Morocco,|
|And weigh thy value with an even hand:|
|If thou be’st rated by thy estimation,|
|Thou dost deserve enough; and yet enough|
|May not extend so far as to the lady:|
|And yet to be afeard of my deserving|
|Were but a weak disabling of myself.||30|
|As much as I deserve! Why, that’s the lady:|
|I do in birth deserve her, and in fortunes,|
|In graces and in qualities of breeding;|
|But more than these, in love I do deserve.|
|What if I stray’d no further, but chose here?|
|Let’s see once more this saying graved in gold|
|‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.’|
|Why, that’s the lady; all the world desires her;|
|From the four corners of the earth they come,|
|To kiss this shrine, this mortal-breathing saint:||40|
|The Hyrcanian deserts and the vasty wilds|
|Of wide Arabia are as thoroughfares now|
|For princes to come view fair Portia:|
|The watery kingdom, whose ambitious head|
|Spits in the face of heaven, is no bar|
|To stop the foreign spirits, but they come,|
|As o’er a brook, to see fair Portia.|
|One of these three contains her heavenly picture.|
|Is’t like that lead contains her? ‘Twere damnation|
|To think so base a thought: it were too gross||50|
|To rib her cerecloth in the obscure grave.|
|Or shall I think in silver she’s immured,|
|Being ten times undervalued to tried gold?|
|O sinful thought! Never so rich a gem|
|Was set in worse than gold. They have in England|
|A coin that bears the figure of an angel|
|Stamped in gold, but that’s insculp’d upon;|
|But here an angel in a golden bed|
|Lies all within. Deliver me the key:|
|Here do I choose, and thrive I as I may!||60|
|PORTIA||There, take it, prince; and if my form lie there,|
|Then I am yours.|
|[He unlocks the golden casket]|
|MOROCCO||O hell! what have we here?|
|A carrion Death, within whose empty eye|
|There is a written scroll! I’ll read the writing.|
|All that glisters is not gold;|
|Often have you heard that told:|
|Many a man his life hath sold|
|But my outside to behold:|
|Gilded tombs do worms enfold.|
|Had you been as wise as bold,||70|
|Young in limbs, in judgment old,|
|Your answer had not been inscroll’d:|
|Fare you well; your suit is cold.|
|Cold, indeed; and labour lost:|
|Then, farewell, heat, and welcome, frost!|
|Portia, adieu. I have too grieved a heart|
|To take a tedious leave: thus losers part.|
|[Exit with his train. Flourish of cornets]|
|PORTIA||A gentle riddance. Draw the curtains, go.|
|Let all of his complexion choose me so.||79|
Next: The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 8
Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 7
From The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co.
In this scene the Prince of Morocco proceeds to his choice of the caskets and is discomforted.
4. who is occasionally used referring to an inanimate object as its antecedent, as here. Compare Pericles, i. I. 45: “A mirror Who tells us life’s but breath.”
8. blunt, dull.
14. back again, in inverse order.
20. shows, appearances.
30. disabling, depreciation.
40. mortal-breathing, endowed with human life. Compare mortal-living in Richard III, iv. 4. 26.
41. vasty, desolate.
41. Hyrcanian deserts. Hyrcania was a desert region lying south of the Caspian sea.
43. come [to] view. A common idiom. See Hamlet, ii. 1. 101: “I will go seek the king.”
50. it were too gross, etc. It would be too gross a thing to wrap the burial cloths of such a saint in an obscure grave, i.e. in a casket made of so common a substance as lead.
51. rib, cover, wrap.
51. cerecloth, waxed cloth used in burial.
53. undervalued, inferior in value to. Compare above, i. I. 165. At the date of this play the proportionate value of gold to silver was as about ten to one.
56. an angel, was a gold coin worth at most ten shillings; it was so called from the figure of St. Michael slaying the dragon, on one side.
57. insculp’d upon, engraven on the outside of the coin. Here, on the contrary, an angel [the picture of Portia] lies all within the golden bed, [its casket].
59, 60. key … may, a rhyme in Shakespeare’s day.
63. A carrion Death, a skull or death’s head from which the flesh had rotted away.
63. Death, Death’s head.
65. glisters, glitters.
73. your suit is cold. A proverbial expression. Compare The Two Gentlemen of Verona, iv. 4. 186: “I hope my master’s suit will be but cold.”
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co., 1903.