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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act I. Scene I.

The Merchant of Venice

Venice.A Street.


Ant.In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:

It wearies me; you say it wearies you;

But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,

What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born,

I am to learn;

And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,

That I have much ado to know myself.

Salar.Your mind is tossing on the ocean;

There, where your argosies with portly sail,—

Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood,

Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea,—

Do overpeer the petty traffickers,

That curtsy to them, do them reverence,

As they fly by them with their woven wings.

Salan.Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,

The better part of my affections would

Be with my hopes abroad. I should be still

Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind;

Peering in maps for ports, and piers, and roads;

And every object that might make me fear

Misfortune to my ventures, out of doubt

Would make me sad.

Salar.My wind, cooling my broth,

Would blow me to an ague, when I thought

What harm a wind too great might do at sea.

I should not see the sandy hour-glass run

But I should think of shallows and of flats,

And see my wealthy Andrew dock’d in sand

Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs

To kiss her burial. Should I go to church

And see the holy edifice of stone,

And not bethink me straight of dangerous rocks,

Which touching but my gentle vessel’s side

Would scatter all her spices on the stream,

Enrobe the roaring waters with my silks;

And, in a word, but even now worth this,

And now worth nothing? Shall I have the thought

To think on this, and shall I lack the thought

That such a thing bechanc’d would make me sad?

But tell not me: I know Antonio

Is sad to think upon his merchandise.

Ant.Believe me, no: I thank my fortune for it,

My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,

Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate

Upon the fortune of this present year:

Therefore, my merchandise makes me not sad.

Salar.Why, then you are in love.

Ant.Fie, fie!

Salar.Not in love neither? Then let’s say you are sad,

Because you are not merry: and ’twere as easy

For you to laugh and leap, and say you are merry,

Because you are not sad. Now, by two-headed Janus,

Nature hath fram’d strange fellows in her time:

Some that will evermore peep through their eyes

And laugh like parrots at a bag-piper,

And other of such vinegar aspect

That they’ll not show their teeth in way of smile,

Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.


Salan.Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman,

Gratiano, and Lorenzo. Fare ye well:

We leave you now with better company.

Salar.I would have stay’d till I had made you merry,

If worthier friends had not prevented me.

Ant.Your worth is very dear in my regard.

I take it, your own business calls on you,

And you embrace the occasion to depart.

Salar.Good morrow, my good lords.

Bass.Good signiors both, when shall we laugh? say when?

You grow exceeding strange: must it be so?

Salar.We’ll make our leisures to attend on yours.[Exeunt SALARINO and SALANIO.

Lor.My Lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio,

We too will leave you; but, at dinner-time,

I pray you, have in mind where we must meet.

Bass.I will not fail you.

Gra.You look not well, Signior Antonio;

You have too much respect upon the world:

They lose it that do buy it with much care:

Believe me, you are marvellously chang’d.

Ant.I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;

A stage where every man must play a part,

And mine a sad one.

Gra.Let me play the fool:

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,

And let my liver rather heat with wine

Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.

Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,

Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?

Sleep when he wakes, and creep into the jaundice

By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio—

I love thee, and it is my love that speaks—

There are a sort of men whose visages

Do cream and mantle like a standing pond,

And do a wilful stillness entertain,

With purpose to be dress’d in an opinion

Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit;

As who should say, ‘I am Sir Oracle,

And when I ope my lips let no dog bark!’

O, my Antonio, I do know of these,

That therefore only are reputed wise

For saying nothing; when, I am very sure,

If they should speak, would almost damn those ears

Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools.

I’ll tell thee more of this another time:

But fish not, with this melancholy bait,

For this fool-gudgeon, this opinion.

Come, good Lorenzo. Fare ye well a while:

I’ll end my exhortation after dinner.

Lor.Well, we will leave you then till dinner-time.

I must be one of these same dumb-wise men,

For Gratiano never lets me speak.

Gra.Well, keep me company but two years moe,

Thou shalt not know the sound of thine own tongue.

Ant.Farewell: I’ll grow a talker for this gear.

Gra.Thanks, i’ faith; for silence is only commendable

In a neat’s tongue dried and a maid not vendible.[Exeunt GRATIANO and LORENZO.

Ant.Is that anything now?

Bass.Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day ere you find them, and, when you have them, they are not worth the search.

Ant.Well, tell me now, what lady is the same

To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage,

That you to-day promis’d to tell me of?

Bass.’Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,

How much I have disabled mine estate,

By something showing a more swelling port

Than my faint means would grant continuance:

Nor do I now make moan to be abridg’d

From such a noble rate; but my chief care

Is, to come fairly off from the great debts

Wherein my time, something too prodigal,

Hath left me gag’d. To you, Antonio,

I owe the most, in money and in love;

And from your love I have a warranty

To unburthen all my plots and purposes

How to get clear of all the debts I owe.

Ant.I pray you, good Bassanio, let me know it;

And if it stand, as you yourself still do,

Within the eye of honour, be assur’d,

My purse, my person, my extremest means,

Lie all unlock’d to your occasions.

Bass.In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft,

I shot his fellow of the self-same flight

The self-same way with more advised watch,

To find the other forth, and by adventuring both,

I oft found both. I urge this childhood proof,

Because what follows is pure innocence.

I owe you much, and, like a wilful youth,

That which I owe is lost; but if you please

To shoot another arrow that self way

Which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,

As I will watch the aim, or to find both,

Or bring your latter hazard back again,

And thankfully rest debtor for the first.

Ant.You know me well, and herein spend but time

To wind about my love with circumstance;

And out of doubt you do me now more wrong

In making question of my uttermost

Than if you had made waste of all I have:

Then do but say to me what I should do

That in your knowledge may by me be done,

And I am prest unto it: therefore speak.

Bass.In Belmont is a lady richly left,

And she is fair, and, fairer than that word,

Of wondrous virtues: sometimes from her eyes

I did receive fair speechless messages:

Her name is Portia; nothing undervalu’d

To Cato’s daughter, Brutus’ Portia:

Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth,

For the four winds blow in from every coast

Renowned suitors; and her sunny locks

Hang on her temples like a golden fleece;

Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos’ Strond,

And many Jasons come in quest of her.

O my Antonio! had I but the means

To hold a rival place with one of them,

I have a mind presages me such thrift,

That I should questionless be fortunate.

Ant.Thou knowest that all my fortunes are at sea;

Neither have I money, nor commodity

To raise a present sum: therefore go forth;

Try what my credit can in Venice do:

That shall be rack’d, even to the uttermost,

To furnish thee to Belmont, to fair Portia.

Go, presently inquire, and so will I,

Where money is, and I no question make

To have it of my trust or for my sake.[Exeunt.