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The Merchant of Venice


ACT III SCENE VThe same. A garden.
LAUNCELOTYes, truly; for, look you, the sins of the father
are to be laid upon the children: therefore, I
promise ye, I fear you. I was always plain with
you, and so now I speak my agitation of the matter:
therefore be of good cheer, for truly I think you
are damned. There is but one hope in it that can do
you any good; and that is but a kind of bastard
hope neither.
JESSICAAnd what hope is that, I pray thee?10
LAUNCELOTMarry, you may partly hope that your father got you
not, that you are not the Jew’s daughter.
JESSICAThat were a kind of bastard hope, indeed: so the
sins of my mother should be visited upon me.
LAUNCELOTTruly then I fear you are damned both by father and
mother: thus when I shun Scylla, your father, I
fall into Charybdis, your mother: well, you are
gone both ways.20
JESSICAI shall be saved by my husband; he hath made me a
LAUNCELOTTruly, the more to blame he: we were Christians
enow before; e’en as many as could well live, one by
another. This making Christians will raise the
price of hogs: if we grow all to be pork-eaters, we
shall not shortly have a rasher on the coals for money.
JESSICAI’ll tell my husband, Launcelot, what you say: here he comes.30
LORENZOI shall grow jealous of you shortly, Launcelot, if
you thus get my wife into corners.
JESSICANay, you need not fear us, Lorenzo: Launcelot and I
are out. He tells me flatly, there is no mercy for
me in heaven, because I am a Jew’s daughter: and he
says, you are no good member of the commonwealth,

for in converting Jews to Christians, you raise the
price of pork.
LORENZOI shall answer that better to the commonwealth than
you can the getting up of the negro’s belly: the
Moor is with child by you, Launcelot.
LAUNCELOTIt is much that the Moor should be more than reason:
but if she be less than an honest woman, she is
indeed more than I took her for.
LORENZOHow every fool can play upon the word! I think the
best grace of wit will shortly turn into silence,
and discourse grow commendable in none only but
parrots. Go in, sirrah; bid them prepare for dinner.
LAUNCELOTThat is done, sir; they have all stomachs.
LORENZOGoodly Lord, what a wit-snapper are you! then bid
them prepare dinner.
LAUNCELOTThat is done too, sir; only ‘cover’ is the word.
LORENZOWill you cover then, sir?
LAUNCELOTNot so, sir, neither; I know my duty.
LORENZOYet more quarrelling with occasion! Wilt thou show
the whole wealth of thy wit in an instant? I pray
tree, understand a plain man in his plain meaning:
go to thy fellows; bid them cover the table, serve
in the meat, and we will come in to dinner.
LAUNCELOTFor the table, sir, it shall be served in; for the
meat, sir, it shall be covered; for your coming in
to dinner, sir, why, let it be as humours and
conceits shall govern.
LORENZOO dear discretion, how his words are suited!70
The fool hath planted in his memory
An army of good words; and I do know
A many fools, that stand in better place,
Garnish’d like him, that for a tricksy word
Defy the matter. How cheerest thou, Jessica?
And now, good sweet, say thy opinion,
How dost thou like the Lord Bassanio’s wife?
JESSICAPast all expressing. It is very meet
The Lord Bassanio live an upright life;
For, having such a blessing in his lady,
He finds the joys of heaven here on earth;
And if on earth he do not mean it, then82
In reason he should never come to heaven
Why, if two gods should play some heavenly match
And on the wager lay two earthly women,
And Portia one, there must be something else
Pawn’d with the other, for the poor rude world
Hath not her fellow.
LORENZOEven such a husband
Hast thou of me as she is for a wife.
JESSICANay, but ask my opinion too of that.
LORENZOI will anon: first, let us go to dinner.
JESSICANay, let me praise you while I have a stomach.
LORENZONo, pray thee, let it serve for table-talk;
‘ Then, howso’er thou speak’st, ‘mong other things
I shall digest it.
JESSICAWell, I’ll set you forth.

Next: The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 5
From The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co.

This brief scene, which shows us Lorenzo and Jessica in charge of Belmont in the absence of Portia, produces the necessary effect of a lapse of time between Portia’s departure and the day of trial.

3. I fear you, I fear for you.

19. A line from the Alexandreis of Philip Qualtier written in the thirteenth century which became proverbial: Incidis in Scyllam cupiens vitare Charibdim.

21. I shall be saved by my husband. Perhaps an allusion to 1 Corinthians, vii. 14: “The unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband.”

28. a rasher on the coals, a favorite dish of the time.

34. are out, have fallen out.

57. ‘cover.’ Launcelot plays on the word which means to lay covers on the table, that is set the table, and also to put the hat on the head. I know my duty, and do not wear my hat in the presence of my superiors.

60. quarrelling with occasion, quibbling with words at every opportunity.

70. O dear discretion [sober sense and fair meaning], how [absurdly] his words are suited [matched to the thought].

73. A many fools. The a thus inserted before a numeral indicates that the objects enumerated are regarded collectively as one. Compare the expressions: “This nineteen years,” “This many years”; and Tennyson in The Miller’s Daughter: “They have not shed a many tear.”

74, 75. for a tricksy word Defy the matter, for the sake of playing on the word set the meaning at defiance.

82. And if on earth he do not mean itMean is the reading of all the old editions, and various emendations, such as merit it and earn it have been offered. If the reading of the text is to be retained, perhaps the best explanation is that which gives to mean it the force of, “to observe the mean, enjoy blessings moderately.”

95. set you forth, describe you to advantage.


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