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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    Not Peer Reviewed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 Nerrissa and a Seruiture.
    Ner. Quick, quick I pray thee, draw the curtain strait,
    The Prince of Arragon hath tane his oath,
    And comes to his election presently.
    Enter Arragon, his traine, and Portia.
    Flor. Cornets.
    Por. Behold, there stand the caskets noble Prince,
    If you choose that wherein I am contain'd,
    Straight shall our nuptiall rights be solemniz'd:
    1120But if thou faile, without more speech my Lord,
    You must be gone from hence immediately.
    Ar. I am enioynd by oath to obserue three things;
    First, neuer to vnfold to any one
    Which casket 'twas I chose; next, if I faile
    1125Of the right casket, neuer in my life
    To wooe a maide in way of marriage:
    Lastly, if I doe faile in fortune of my choyse,
    Immediately to leaue you, and be gone.
    Por. To these iniunctions euery one doth sweare
    1130That comes to hazard for my worthlesse selfe.
    Ar. And so haue I addrest me, fortune now
    To my hearts hope: gold, siluer, and base lead.
    Who chooseth me must giue and hazard all he hath.
    You shall looke fairer ere I giue or hazard.
    1135What saies the golden chest, ha, let me see:
    Who chooseth me, shall gaine what many men desire:
    What many men desire, that many may be meant
    By the foole multitude that choose by show,
    Not learning more then the fond eye doth teach,
    1140Which pries not to th' interior, but like the Martlet
    Builds in the weather on the outward wall,
    Euen in the force and rode of casualtie.
    I will not choose what many men desire,
    Because I will not iumpe with common spirits,
    1145And ranke me with the barbarous multitudes.
    Why then to thee thou Siluer treasure house,
    Tell me once more, what title thou doost beare;
    Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserues:
    And well said too; for who shall goe about
    1150To cosen Fortune, and be honourable
    Without the stampe of merrit, let none presume
    To weare an vndeserued dignitie:
    O that estates, degrees, and offices,
    Were not deriu'd corruptly, and that cleare honour
    1155Were purchast by the merrit of the wearer;
    How many then should couer that stand bare?
    How many be commanded that command?
    How much low pleasantry would then be gleaned
    From the true seede of honor? And how much honor
    1160Pickt from the chaffe and ruine of the times,
    To be new varnisht: Well, but to my choise.
    Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserues.
    I will assume desert; giue me a key for this,
    And instantly vnlocke my fortunes here.
    1165Por. Too long a pause for that which you finde there.
    Ar. What's here, the portrait of a blinking idiot
    Presenting me a scedule, I will reade it:
    How much vnlike art thou to Portia?
    How much vnlike my hopes and my deseruings?
    1170Who chooseth me, shall haue as much as he deserues.
    Did I deserue no more then a fooles head,
    Is that my prize, are my deserts no better?
    Por. To offend and iudge are distinct offices,
    And of opposed natures.
    1175Ar. What is here?
    The fier seauen times tried this,
    Seauen times tried that iudement is,
    That did neuer choose amis,
    Some there be that shadowes kisse,
    1180 Such haue but a shadowes blisse:
    There be fooles aliue Iwis
    Siluer'd o're, and so was this:
    Take what wife you will to bed,
    I will euer be your head:
    1185 So be gone, you are sped.
    Ar. Still more foole I shall appeare
    By the time I linger here,
    With one fooles head I came to woo,
    But I goe away with two.
    1190Sweet adue, Ile keepe my oath,
    Patiently to beare my wroath.
    Por. Thus hath the candle sing'd the moath:
    O these deliberate fooles when they doe choose,
    They haue the wisdome by their wit to loose.
    1195Ner. The ancient saying is no heresie,
    Hanging and wiuing goes by destinie.
    Por. Come draw the curtaine Nerrissa.
    Enter Messenger.
    Mes. Where is my Lady?
    1200Por. Here, what would my Lord?
    Mes. Madam, there is a-lighted at your gate
    A yong Venetian, one that comes before
    To signifie th' approaching of his Lord,
    From whom he bringeth sensible regreets;
    1205To wit (besides commends and curteous breath)
    Gifts of rich value; yet I haue not seene
    So likely an Embassador of loue.
    A day in Aprill neuer came so sweete
    To show how costly Sommer was at hand,
    1210As this fore-spurrer comes before his Lord.
    Por. No more I pray thee, I am halfe a-feard
    Thou wilt say anone he is some kin to thee,
    Thou spend'st such high-day wit in praising him:
    Come, come Nerryssa, for I long to see
    1215Quicke Cupids Post, that comes so mannerly.
    Ner. Bassanio Lord, loue if thy will it be.