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About this text

  • Title: The Merchant of Venice (Folio 1, 1623)
  • Editor: Janelle Jenstad

  • Copyright Janelle Jenstad. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Janelle Jenstad
    Not Peer Reviewed

    The Merchant of Venice (Folio 1, 1623)

    The Merchant of Venice.
    Bass. Let me choose,
    For as I am, I liue vpon the racke.
    Por. Vpon the racke Bassanio, then confesse
    What treason there is mingled with your loue.
    1370Bass. None but that vglie treason of mistrust.
    Which makes me feare the enioying of my loue:
    There may as well be amitie and life,
    'Tweene snow and fire, as treason and my loue.
    Por. I, but I feare you speake vpon the racke,
    1375Where men enforced doth speake any thing.
    Bass. Promise me life, and ile confesse the truth.
    Por. Well then, confesse and liue.
    Bass. Confesse and loue
    Had beene the verie sum of my confession:
    1380O happie torment, when my torturer
    Doth teach me answers for deliuerance:
    But let me to my fortune and the caskets.
    Por. Away then, I am lockt in one of them,
    If you doe loue me, you will finde me out.
    1385Nerryssa and the rest, stand all aloofe,
    Let musicke sound while he doth make his choise,
    Then if he loose he makes a Swan-like end,
    Fading in musique. That the comparison
    May stand more proper, my eye shall be the streame
    1390And watrie death-bed for him: he may win,
    And what is musique than? Than musique is
    Euen as the flourish, when true subiects bowe
    To a new crowned Monarch: Such it is,
    As are those dulcet sounds in breake of day,
    1395That creepe into the dreaming bride-groomes eare,
    And summon him to marriage. Now he goes
    With no lesse presence, but with much more loue
    Then yong Alcides, when he did redeeme
    The virgine tribute, paied by howling Troy
    1400To the Sea-monster: I stand for sacrifice,
    The rest aloofe are the Dardanian wiues:
    With bleared visages come forth to view
    The issue of th' exploit: Goe Hercules,
    Liue thou, I liue with much more dismay
    1405I view the sight, then thou that mak'st the fray.
    Here Musicke.

    A Song the whilst Bassanio comments on the
    Caskets to himselfe.

    Tell me where is fancie bred,
    1410 Or in the heart, or in the head:
    How begot, how nourished.
    Replie, replie.
    It is engendred in the eyes,
    With gazing fed, and Fancie dies,
    In the cradle where it lies:
    1415 Let vs all ring Fancies knell.
    Ile begin it.
    Ding, dong, bell.
    All. Ding, dong, bell.

    Bass. So may the outward showes be least themselues
    1420The world is still deceiu'd with ornament.
    In Law, what Plea so tanted and corrupt,
    But being season'd with a gracious voice,
    Obscures the show of euill? In Religion,
    What damned error, but some sober brow
    1425Will blesse it, and approue it with a text,
    Hiding the grosenesse with faire ornament:
    There is no voice so simple, but assumes
    Some marke of vertue on his outward parts;
    How manie cowards, whose hearts are all as false
    1430As stayers of sand, weare yet vpon their chins
    The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars,
    Who inward searcht, haue lyuers white as milke,
    And these assume but valors excrement,
    To render them redoubted. Looke on beautie,
    1435And you shall see 'tis purchast by the weight,
    Which therein workes a miracle in nature,
    Making them lightest that weare most of it:
    So are those crisped snakie golden locks
    Which makes such wanton gambols with the winde
    1440Vpon supposed fairenesse, often knowne
    To be the dowrie of a second head,
    The scull that bred them in the Sepulcher.
    Thus ornament is but the guiled shore
    To a most dangerous sea: the beautious scarfe
    1445Vailing an Indian beautie; In a word,
    The seeming truth which cunning times put on
    To intrap the wisest. Therefore then thou gaudie gold,
    Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee,
    Nor none of thee thou pale and common drudge
    1450'Tweene man and man: but thou, thou meager lead
    Which rather threatnest then dost promise ought,
    Thy palenesse moues me more then eloquence,
    And here choose I, ioy be the consequence.
    Por. How all the other passions fleet to ayre,
    1455As doubtfull thoughts, and rash imbrac'd despaire:
    And shuddring feare, and greene-eyed iealousie.
    O loue be moderate, allay thy extasie,
    In measure raine thy ioy, scant this excesse,
    I feele too much thy blessing, make it lesse,
    1460For feare I surfeit.
    Bas. What finde I here?
    Faire Portias counterfeit. What demie God
    Hath come so neere creation? moue these eies?
    Or whether riding on the bals of mine
    1465Seeme they in motion? Here are seuer'd lips
    Parted with suger breath, so sweet a barre
    Should sunder such sweet friends: here in her haires
    The Painter plaies the Spider, and hath wouen
    A golden mesh t'intrap the hearts of men
    1470Faster then gnats in cobwebs: but her eies,
    How could he see to doe them? hauing made one,
    Me thinkes it should haue power to steale both his
    And leaue it selfe vnfurnisht: Yet looke how farre
    The substance of my praise doth wrong this shadow
    1475In vnderprising it, so farre this shadow
    Doth limpe behinde the substance. Here's the scroule,
    The continent, and summarie of my fortune.

    You that choose not by the view
    Chance as faire, and choose as true:
    1480 Since this fortune fals to you,
    Be content, and seeke no new.
    If you be well pleasd with this,
    And hold your fortune for your blisse,
    Turne you where your Lady is,
    1485 And claime her with a louing kisse.

    Bass. A gentle scroule: Faire Lady, by your leaue,
    I come by note to giue, and to receiue,
    Like one of two contending in a prize
    That thinks he hath done well in peoples eies:
    1490Hearing applause and vniuersall shout,
    Giddie in spirit, still gazing in a doubt
    Whether those peales of praise be his or no.