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  • 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    Not Peer Reviewed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)

    Enter Portia with her waiting woman Nerissa.
    Portia. By my troth Nerrissa, my little body is a wea-
    rie of this great world.
    Ner. You would be sweet Madam, if your miseries
    were in the same abundance as your good fortunes are:
    200and yet for ought I see, they are as sicke that surfet with
    too much, as they that starue with nothing; it is no smal
    happinesse therefore to bee seated in the meane, super-
    fluitie comes sooner by white haires, but competencie
    liues longer.
    205Portia. Good sentences, and well pronounc'd.
    Ner. They would be better if well followed.
    Portia. If to doe were as easie as to know what were
    good to doe, Chappels had beene Churches, and poore
    mens cottages Princes Pallaces: it is a good Diuine that
    210followes his owne instructions; I can easier teach twen-
    tie what were good to be done, then be one of the twen-
    tie to follow mine owne teaching: the braine may de-
    uise lawes for the blood, but a hot temper leapes ore a
    colde decree, such a hare is madnesse the youth, to skip
    215ore the meshes of good counsaile the cripple; but this
    reason is not in fashion to choose me a husband: O mee,
    the word choose, I may neither choose whom I would,
    nor refuse whom I dislike, so is the wil of a liuing daugh-
    ter curb'd by the will of a dead father: it is not hard Ner-
    220rissa, that I cannot choose one, nor refuse none.
    Ner. Your father was euer vertuous, and holy men
    at their death haue good inspirations, therefore the lot-
    terie that hee hath deuised in these three chests of gold,
    siluer, and leade, whereof who chooses his meaning,
    225chooses you, wil no doubt neuer be chosen by any right-
    ly, but one who you shall rightly loue: but what warmth
    is there in your affection towards any of these Princely
    suters that are already come?
    Por. I pray thee ouer-name them, and as thou namest
    230them, I will describe them, and according to my descrip-
    tion leuell at my affection.
    Ner. First there is the Neopolitane Prince.
    Por. I that's a colt indeede, for he doth nothing but
    talke of his horse, and hee makes it a great appropria-
    235tion to his owne good parts that he can shoo him him-
    selfe: I am much afraid my Ladie his mother plaid false
    with a Smyth.
    Ner. Than is there the Countie Palentine.
    Por. He doth nothing but frowne (as who should
    240say, and you will not haue me, choose: he heares merrie
    tales and smiles not, I feare hee will proue the weeping
    Phylosopher when he growes old, being so full of vn-
    mannerly sadnesse in his youth.) I had rather to be marri-
    ed to a deaths head with a bone in his mouth, then to ei-
    245ther of these: God defend me from these two.
    Ner. How say you by the French Lord, Mounsier
    Le Boune?
    Pro. God made him, and therefore let him passe for a
    man, in truth I know it is a sinne to be a mocker, but he,
    250why he hath a horse better then the Neopolitans, a bet-
    ter bad habite of frowning then the Count Palentine, he
    is euery man in no man, if a Trassell sing, he fals straight
    a capring, he will fence with his own shadow. If I should
    marry him, I should marry twentie husbands: if hee
    255would despise me, I would forgiue him, for if he loue me
    to madnesse, I should neuer requite him.
    Ner. What say you then to Fauconbridge, the yong
    Baron of England?
    Por. You know I say nothing to him, for hee vnder-
    260stands not me, nor I him: he hath neither Latine, French,
    nor Italian, and you will come into the Court & sweare
    that I haue a poore pennie-worth in the English: hee is a
    proper mans picture, but alas who can conuerse with a
    dumbe show? how odly he is suited, I thinke he bought
    265his doublet in Italie, his round hose in France, his bonnet
    in Germanie, and his behauiour euery where.
    Ner. What thinke you of the other Lord his neigh-
    Por. That he hath a neighbourly charitie in him, for
    270he borrowed a boxe of the eare of the Englishman, and
    swore he would pay him againe when hee was able: I
    thinke the Frenchman became his suretie, and seald vnder
    for another.
    Ner. How like you the yong Germaine, the Duke of
    275Saxonies Nephew?
    Por. Very vildely in the morning when hee is sober,
    and most vildely in the afternoone when hee is drunke:
    when he is best, he is a little worse then a man, and when
    he is worst, he is little better then a beast: and the worst
    280fall that euer fell, I hope I shall make shift to goe with-
    out him.
    Ner. If he should offer to choose, and choose the right
    Casket, you should refuse to performe your Fathers will,
    if you should refuse to accept him.
    285Por. Therefore for feare of the worst, I pray thee set
    a deepe glasse of Reinish-wine on the contrary Casket,
    for if the diuell be within, and that temptation without,
    I know he will choose it. I will doe any thing Nerrissa
    ere I will be married to a spunge.
    290Ner. You neede not feare Lady the hauing any of
    these Lords, they haue acquainted me with their deter-
    minations, which is indeede to returne to their home,
    and to trouble you with no more suite, vnlesse you may
    be won by some other sort then your Fathers impositi-
    295on, depending on the Caskets.
    Por. If I liue to be as olde as Sibilla, I will dye as
    chaste as Diana: vnlesse I be obtained by the manner
    of my Fathers will: I am glad this parcell of wooers
    are so reasonable, for there is not one among them but
    300I doate on his verie absence: and I wish them a faire de-
    Ner. Doe you not remember Ladie in your Fa-
    thers time, a Venecian, a Scholler and a Souldior that
    came hither in companie of the Marquesse of Mount-
    Por. Yes, yes, it was Bassanio, as I thinke, so was hee
    Ner. True Madam, hee of all the men that euer my
    foolish eyes look'd vpon, was the best deseruing a faire
    Por. I remember him well, and I remember him wor-
    thy of thy praise.
    Enter a Seruingman.
    Ser. The foure Strangers seeke you Madam to take
    315their leaue: and there is a fore-runner come from a fift,
    the Prince of Moroco, who brings word the Prince his
    Maister will be here to night.
    Por. If I could bid the fift welcome with so good
    heart as I can bid the other foure farewell, I should be
    320glad of his approach: if he haue the condition of a Saint,
    and the complexion of a diuell, I had rather hee should
    shriue me then wiue me. Come Nerrissa, sirra go before;
    whiles wee shut the gate vpon one wooer, another
    knocks at the doore.