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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    Not Peer Reviewed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 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 Arrogon, his trayne, and Portia.
    1070Por. Behold, there stand the caskets noble Prince,
    yf you choose that wherein I am containd
    straight shall our nuptiall rights be solemniz'd:
    but if you faile, without more speech my Lord
    you must be gone from hence immediatly.
    1075Arra. I am enioynd by oath to obserue three things,
    First, neuer to vnfold to any one
    vvhich casket twas I chose; next, if I faile
    of the right casket, neuer in my life
    to wooe a maide in way of marriage:
    1080lastly, if I doe faile in fortune of my choyse,
    immediatly to leaue you, and be gone.
    Por. To these iniunctions euery one doth sweare
    that comes to hazard for my worthlesse selfe.
    Arr. And so haue I addrest me, fortune now
    1085To my harts 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.
    What saies the golden chest, ha, let me see,
    Who chooseth me, shall gaine what many men desire,
    1090What 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,
    which pries not to th interiour, but like the Martlet
    Builds in the weather on the outward wall,
    1095Euen in the force and rode of casualty.
    I will not choose what many men desire,
    Because I will not iumpe with common spirits,
    And ranke me with the barbarous multitudes.
    Why then to thee thou siluer treasure house,
    1100Tell me once more what title thou doost beare;
    Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserues,
    And well sayde to; for who shall goe about
    To cosen Fortune, and be honourable
    vvithout the stampe of merrit, let none presume
    1105To weare an vndeserued dignity:
    O that estates, degrees, and offices,
    vvere not deriu'd corruptly, and that cleare honour
    vvere purchast by the merrit of the wearer,
    How many then should couer that stand bare?
    1110How many be commaunded that commaund?
    How much low peasantry would then be gleaned
    From the true seede of honour? and how much honour
    Pickt from the chaft and ruin of the times,
    To be new varnist; well but to my choise.
    1115Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserues,
    I will assume desert; giue me a key for this,
    And instantly vnlocke my fortunes heere.
    Portia. Too long a pause for that which you finde there.
    Arrag. What's heere, the pourtrait of a blinking idiot
    1120Presenting me a shedule, I will reade it:
    How much vnlike art thou to Portia?
    How much vnlike my hopes and my deseruings.
    Who chooseth me, shall haue as much as he deserues?
    Did I deserue no more then a fooles head,
    1125Is that my prize, are my deserts no better?
    Portia. To offend and iudge are distinct offices,
    And of opposed natures.
    Arrag. What is heere?
    The fier seauen times tried this,
    1130Seauen times tried that iudement is,
    That did neuer choose amis,
    Some there be that shadowes kis.
    Such haue but a shadowes blis:
    There be fooles aliue Iwis
    1135Siluerd o're, and so was this.
    Take what wife you will to bed,
    J will euer be your head:
    So be gone, you are sped.
    Arrag. Still more foole I shall appeare
    1140By the time I linger heere,
    With one fooles head I came to woo,
    But I goe away with two.
    Sweet adiew, ile keepe my oath,
    Paciently to beare my wroath.
    1145Portia. Thus hath the candle singd the moath:
    O these deliberate fooles when they doe choose,
    They haue the wisedome by their wit to loose.
    Nerriss. The auncient saying is no herisie,
    Hanging and wiuing goes by destinie.
    1150Portia. Come draw the curtaine Nerrissa.
    Enter Messenger.
    Mess. Where is my Lady.
    Portia. Heere, what would my Lord?
    Mess. Madame, there is a-lighted at your gate
    1155A young Venetian, one that comes before
    To signifie th'approching of his Lord,
    From whom he bringeth sensible regreets;
    To wit, (besides commends and curtious breath)
    Gifts of rich valiew; yet I haue not seene
    1160So likely an Embassador of loue.
    A day in Aprill neuer came so sweete
    To show how costly Sommer was at hand,
    As this fore-spurrer comes before his Lord.
    Portia. No more I pray thee, I am halfe a-feard
    1165Thou wilt say anone he is some kin to thee,
    Thou spendst such high day wit in praysing him:
    Come come Nerryssa, for I long to see
    Quick Cupids Post that comes so mannerly.
    Nerryss. Bassanio Lord, loue if thy will it be.