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  • Title: The Merchant of Venice (Quarto 1, 1600)
  • 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    Not Peer Reviewed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 (Quarto 1, 1600)

    Enter Portia with her wayting woman Nerrissa.
    Portia. By my troth Nerrissa, my little body is awearie of this
    195great world.
    Ner. You would be sweet Madam, if your miseries were in the
    same aboundance as your good fortunes are: and yet for ought I
    see, they are as sicke that surfeite with too much, as they that starue
    with nothing; it is no meane happines therfore to be seated in the
    200meane, superfluitie comes sooner by white haires, but competen-
    cie liues longer.
    Portia. Good sentences, and well pronounc'd.
    Ner. They would be better if well followed.
    Portia. If to do were as easie as to know what were good to do,
    205Chappels had beene Churches, and poore mens cottages Princes
    Pallaces, it is a good diuine that followes his owne instructions, I
    can easier teach twentie what were good to be done, then to be one
    of the twentie to follow mine owne teaching: the braine may de-
    uise lawes for the blood, but a hote temper leapes ore a colde de-
    210cree, such a hare is madnes the youth, to skippe ore the meshes of
    good counsaile the cripple; but this reasoning is not in the fashion
    to choose mee a husband, ô mee the word choose, I may neyther
    choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike, so is the will of a ly-
    uing daughter curbd by the will of a deade father: is it not harde
    215Nerrissa, that I cannot choose one, nor refuse none.
    Ner. Your Father was euer vertuous, and holy men at theyr
    death haue good inspirations, therefore the lottrie that he hath deuised
    in these three chests of gold, siluer, and leade, whereof who
    220chooses his meaning chooses you, will no doubt neuer be chosen
    by any rightlie, but one who you shall rightly loue: But what
    warmth is there in your affection towardes any of these Princelie
    suters that are already come?
    Por. I pray thee ouer-name them, and as thou namest them, I
    225will describe them, and according to my description leuell at my
    Ner. First there is the Neopolitane Prince.
    Por. I thats a colt indeede, for he doth nothing but talke of his
    230horse, & he makes it a great appropriation to his owne good parts
    that he can shoo him himselfe: I am much afeard my Ladie his
    mother plaid false with a Smyth.
    Ner. Than is there the Countie Palentine.
    Por. Hee doth nothing but frowne (as who should say, & you
    235will not haue me, choose, he heares merry tales and smiles not, I
    feare hee will prooue the weeping Phylosopher when hee growes
    old, beeing so full of vnmannerly sadnes in his youth,) I had rather
    be married to a deaths head with a bone in his mouth, then to ey-
    240ther of these: God defend me from these two.
    Ner. How say you by the French Lord, Mounsier Le Boune?
    Por. God made him, and therefore let him passe for a man, in
    truth I knowe it is a sinne to be a mocker, but hee, why hee hath a
    horse better then the Neopolitans, a better bad habite of frowning
    245then the Count Palentine, he is euery man in no man, if a Trassell
    sing, he falls straght a capring, he will fence with his owne shadow.
    If I should marry him, I should marry twenty husbands: if hee
    would despise me, I would forgiue him, for if he loue me to madnes,
    I shall neuer requite him.
    250Ner. What say you then to Fauconbridge, the young Barron
    of England?
    Por. You know I say nothing to him, for hee vnderstands not
    me, nor I him: he hath neither Latine, French, nor Italian, & you
    will come into the Court and sweare that I haue a poore pennie-
    255worth in the English: hee is a proper mans picture, but alas vvho
    can conuerse with a dumbe show? how odly hee is suted, I thinke
    he bought his doublet in Italie, his round hose in Fraunce, his bon-
    net in Germanie, and his behauiour euery where.
    Nerrissa. What thinke you of the Scottish Lorde his neigh-
    Portia. That hee hath a neyghbourlie charitie in him, for hee
    borrowed a boxe of the eare of the Englishman, and swore hee
    would pay him againe when he was able: I think the Frenchman
    became his suretie, and seald vnder for another.
    265Ner. How like you the young Germaine, the Duke of Saxo-
    nies nephew?
    Por. Very vildlie in the morning when hee is sober, and most
    vildly in the afternoone when he is drunke: when he is best, he is
    a little worse then a man, & when he is worst he is little better then
    270a beast, and the worst fall that euer fell, I hope I shall make shift
    to goe without him.
    Ner. Yf hee shoulde offer to choose, and choose the right Cas-
    ket, you should refuse to performe your Fathers will, if you should
    refuse to accept him.
    275Portia. Therefore for feare of the worst, I pray thee set a deepe
    glasse of Reynishe vvine on the contrarie Casket, for if the deuill
    be within, and that temptation without, I knowe hee will choose
    it. I will doe any thing Nerrissa ere I will be married to a spunge.
    Nerrissa. You neede not feare Ladie the hauing anie of these
    280Lords, they haue acquainted me with theyr determinations, which
    is indeede to returne to theyr home, and to trouble you with no
    more sute, vnlesse you may be wonne by some other sort thē your
    Fathers imposition, depending on the Caskets.
    Por. Yf I liue to be as old as Sibilla, I will die as chast as Diana,
    285vnlesse I be obtained by the maner of my Fathers will: I am glad
    this parcell of wooers are so reasonable, for there is not one among
    them but I doate on his very absence: & I pray God graunt them
    a faire departure.
    Nerrissa. Doe you not remember Lady in your Fathers time, a
    290Venecian a Scholler & a Souldiour that came hether in companie
    of the Marquesse of Mountferrat?
    Portia. Yes, yes, it was Bassanio, as I thinke so was he calld.
    Ner. True maddam, hee of all the men that euer my foolish
    eyes look'd vpon, was the best deseruing a faire Ladie.
    295Portia. I remember him well, and I remember him worthie of
    thy prayse.
    How nowe, vvhat newes?
    Enter a Seruingman.
    Ser. The foure strangers seeke for you maddam to take theyr
    300leaue: and there is a fore-runner come from a fift, the Prince of
    Moroco, who brings word the Prince his Maister will be heere to
    Por. Yf I could bid the fift welcome with so good hart as I can
    bid the other foure farewell, I should bee glad of his approch: if
    305he haue the condition of a Saint, and the complexion of a deuill, I
    had rather he should shriue mee then wiue mee. Come Nerrissa,
    sirra goe before: whiles we shut the gate vpon one wooer, another
    knocks at the doore.