MODERN MERCHANT OF VENICE PLOT SUMMARY
Antonio is worried. He and his friends, Salerio and Solanio, discuss the reasons why he could be upset: they believe he is anxious about his ships still being out at sea. Antonio isn't sure that's the reason. Bassanio, Antonio's best friend, asks for his help in travelling to Belmont to woo the beautiful and rich Portia to be his bride. The only snag? He needs to borrow money. Antonio will borrow money for him and be his guarantor. They leave to find someone to borrow the money from.
In Belmont, a young woman called Portia complains to her servant, Nerissa, about having her suitors and husband chosen for her. Her dead Father has constructed a game to test the suitors and whoever wins will have her hand in marriage. There are three caskets, made from gold, silver and lead, and Portia's picture sits in one of them. Whoever finds the picture is the most worthy and deserves Portia's hand. She and Nerissa discuss the suitors who have come to choose the caskets and chickened out already. Portia didn't like the suitors, and is extremely witty when she remarks on each of them, proving her intelligence. Nerissa reminds her of Bassanio who visited the house when Portia's Father was still alive. Both believe Bassanio is extremely worthy. A servant announces that the Prince of Morocco will arrive the next day, but Portia is unimpressed with this news.
Back in Venice, Bassanio and Shylock—a Jewish moneylender—discuss the loan. He needs to borrow three thousand ducats for three months. Shylock wants to charge interest, and isn't sure about Antonio being the guarantor for the loan. His fortunes are wrapped up in foreign businesses, which are too unpredictable. Antonio arrives, and Shylock reveals his real reasons for hesitating—he hates Christians, and Antonio is one, and also because Antonio has been damaging Shylock's moneylending business by loaning money without charging interest. Antonio reveals he doesn't usually borrow or lend money, but is doing this as an exception to help Bassanio out. Shylock wonders why Antonio has come to him for help when he insults Shylock behind his back. Antonio knows it will be easier to borrow from his enemy as the terms will be followed precisely, but Shylock wants to be his friend not charge interest. He jokes that if Antonio is unable to pay the money back, Shylock will take a pound of his flesh. Bassanio warns Antonio against it—he doesn't like the sound of that contract—but Antonio waves him off. He'll make three times that amount of money in the next two months. They will put the contract in writing later. Shylock leaves. Antonio thinks Shylock is a kinder man than he thought, but Bassanio thinks he is still a villain and is tricking Antonio.
The Prince of Morocco asks Portia to not judge him based on his complexion. Portia cannot send anyone away who decides to try the caskets for her hand in marriage, and so it is not her choice anyway. Morocco speaks lovingly to her, but is a little self absorbed. Portia reminds Morocco that the penalty for choosing the wrong casket is for him to remain unmarried for his entire life.
Lancelet Gobbo, the Clown, wants to run away from Shylock's household, where he is a servant. When he finally decides that, yes, he will leave the house, he bumps into Old Gobbo, his father. Old Gobbo is half blind, and cannot see Lancelet properly, so Lancelet decides to play a trick on him. Old Gobbo is looking for his son, and for Shylock's home, so that he can give Shylock a present for continuing to keep Lancelet on as staff. Lancelet pretends his son is dead, before revealing that he is, in fact, Lancelet. Once Old Gobbo finally believes Lancelet, he is told that Lancelet is leaving to serve Bassanio. Old Gobbo should give him the present. Bassanio arrives and—after much comic confusion—agrees to take on Lancelet as a new servant.
Jessica, Shylock's daughter, doesn't want Lancelet to leave her. He makes life a little easier for her to deal with at the house. Lancelet is given a letter and money to deliver to Lorenzo, who is staying in Bassanio's home. She wants to marry Lorenzo and become a Christian.
While Lorenzo and the others dress themselves for a masquerade ball to help Jessica escape, Lancelet arrives with the letter. He is going back to Shylock's with an invitation from Bassanio to go to dinner with him, so Lorenzo asks him to tell Jessica he will be there. He sends Salerio and Solanio ahead of him to prepare and keep watch. Lorenzo tells Gratiano that Jessica will be fetching gold and jewels and will be disguised as a torchbearer so she can escape as part of the group of masquers.
Shylock warns Lancelet that working for Bassanio might not be as fantastic as he thinks it's going to be. He tells Jessica to lock the doors and windows after Lancelet warns them there will be a masque that night. She is not to look out onto the streets. Lancelet whispers to Jessica to watch out for a Christian (i.e. Lorenzo) as he is on his way. Shylock reminds Jessica to lock the house up and leaves for Bassanio's dinner.
Meanwhile, Gratiano and Salerio wait for Lorenzo to arrive. They're worried he is late, but then he finally turns up and calls for Jessica. She appears above them at a window, dressed in boy's clothes. She throws down a box of jewels and money to Lorenzo, and then comes down to meet him, even though she's embarrassed by her disguise. They leave to join the masque, leaving Gratiano behind. Antonio appears and tells Gratiano they will leave with Bassanio for Belmont that night as the wind is favourable.
The Prince of Morocco looks at the three caskets, reading the inscription on each of them. The gold tells him he will gain “what many men desire”, the silver “as much as he deserves” and the lead “to give and hazard all he hath”. Portia tells him about the portrait. Morocco explains his understanding of each casket, revealing his own self importance in his belief that he deserves to have the thing that all men desire the most. He chooses the gold casket, within which lies a human skull with a scroll stuck through the eye socket. According to the scroll he has judged on appearances and has lost his chance. Morocco is too upset to stay and leaves immediately. Portia hopes that everyone like Morocco leaves as quickly.
Salerio and Solanio talk about Jessica's disappearance from Venice, and Shylock's response. He and the Duke of Venice tried to search Bassanio's ship, but it had already set sail. Salerio is sure Lorenzo wasn't on it anyway. Solanio tells Salerio that Shylock ran through the streets crying for his daughter and his gold. They hope that Antonio can repay Shylock's loan; otherwise he will have to face Shylock's anger. Salerio has heard news of Antonio's ships possibly being lost and he is worried.
The Prince of Aragon arrives to try his hand with the three caskets. Aragon chooses the silver casket and finds a picture of an idiot inside. The scroll tells him that he is a foolish man for choosing second best as many other men do throughout their lives. Aragon leaves. A messenger arrives to tell them a Venetian man is on his way. Portia is looking forward to seeing him. Nerissa hopes that it is Bassanio.
Solanio and Salerio discuss the loss of another of Antonio's ships. Shylock appears and accuses them of helping Jessica escape. They admit they did know she was going to leave, but that it wasn't truly a surprise. They ask if Shylock has heard about Antonio's losses at sea. He has, and will be taking the pound of flesh soon. Salerio doesn't understand what he could do with it, but Shylock wants his revenge, even if it is useless to take the flesh. Antonio has mocked and insulted him, so why shouldn't Shylock take his revenge? Antonio's servant arrives and asks Solanio and Salerio to go and visit him. Tubal, Shylock's Jewish friend, appears. Shylock asks if he managed to find Jessica. He has not, but has heard many rumours of her spending money, including exchanging a ring from his dead wife for a monkey. Antonio has also lost another ship. Shylock is angry for his losses, but pleased he will be able to take revenge.
Portia begs Bassanio to wait before choosing a casket because she wants to spend more time with him. Bassanio confesses his love for Portia, but doesn't want to wait because he is nervous. Bassanio is a sound judge—he rejects the gold and silver caskets and chooses the lead. He finds Portia's portrait inside. Portia is extremely happy: she puts Bassanio in charge of the household and staff, and vows herself to him. They will marry that night. She gives him a ring which she makes him vow never to take off, or it will render his love dishonest. Nerissa and Gratiano congratulate them and then reveal they love one another. They too will get married that night. Lorenzo, Salerio and Jessica arrive. Salerio gives Bassanio a letter from Antonio. Portia is worried that Bassanio has gone pale reading the letter. He reveals Antonio is in trouble because of him and tells her about the contract. Jessica tells them that Shylock is extremely fixated on getting his penalty back, and there's probably no way that Shylock will back off. Portia tells Bassanio that he must go and save his friend. They shall be married immediately and then Bassanio and Gratiano will leave for Venice to help Antonio. In the meantime, they shall live like virgins, and wait for their husbands' return. Bassanio reads the letter to Portia—Antonio doesn't think he will live after the flesh is taken from him and cancels all debts between himself and Bassanio.
Antonio will not try to hide from Shylock any longer. Shylock rants and raves, upset that Antonio is being released from jail and vows to make the law recognize his right to the pound of flesh. He knows that the Duke of Venice can't step in the way as if he did all of Venetian law would be questioned. Antonio hopes that Bassanio will come see him pay his debt.
Lorenzo tells Portia that Antonio is well worth saving. She should be proud of Bassanio. Portia and Nerissa are going to retire to a Monastery to pray for their husbands' safe return. She puts Lorenzo and Jessica in charge until they come back. A servant, Balthasar, comes in, and Portia asks him to send a letter to her cousin, a lawyer by the name of Bellario, and to bring whatever clothes or letters he sends to Venice. She and Nerissa will meet them there. Portia reveals her plan to Nerissa; they will be dressed like men!
Lancelet fears for Jessica's soul because of her connection to Shylock. She is sure that Lorenzo has saved her soul by converting her to Christianity. Lorenzo arrives, and Jessica tells him what Lancelet has been saying. Lorenzo simply brings up the fact that he got a woman pregnant, and after many jokes back and forth, orders Lancelet to get the dinner ready.
In the courtroom, the Duke of Venice is terribly sorry that Antonio has to face an enraged man like Shylock. Antonio is ready to accept his sentence. The Duke asks for Shylock's mercy towards Antonio, but he will not budge; he wants the pound of flesh owed to him by the contractual agreement. Bassanio offers him the three thousand ducats, and then twice that, but Shylock will not take the money. A clerk, Nerissa disguised as a man, has arrived with a message from the lawyer Bellario. While the Duke reads the letter, Shylock sharpens his knife on his shoe. The Duke reveals that Bellario cannot come, but has sent a young lawyer called Balthasar in his place. Portia enters, disguised as Balthasar.
She concludes that Shylock needs to be merciful as it is in God's nature to be merciful, and so he must follow that example. Shylock refuses. Bassanio offers to pay ten times the amount and get the law changed, but the law must be upheld. Shylock praises Balthasar/Portia for her sound reasoning. She asks to see the contract and defends Shylock's position: the flesh must be given. She calls for a surgeon to come to stitch Antonio up, so he doesn't die. Shylock doesn't want a surgeon there: that isn't in their contract. Antonio tells them he is ready. Bassanio and Gratiano both claim they would give up their wives if it meant saving Antonio from death. Portia and Nerissa are suitably unimpressed by this.
Portia reminds Shylock that, by Venetian law, he must not spill any blood—the contract will provide him with only flesh, and exactly a pound. If he takes anymore, or spills any blood, he will have broken the law and Shylock will have to surrender his life, his belongings and property. Shylock decides to take the money, but he has already refused that in a court of law and so cannot. Shylock tries to leave, but Portia reminds him that by law half of his money should go to the man he attempted to kill and half to the state of Venice. He should beg for mercy. The Duke grants Shylock mercy before Shylock can even begin to beg to show the differences between himself and Shylock. He will let Shylock live and reduces the fine. Antonio will return his share to Shylock on two conditions: he must convert to Christianity, and leave everything he has to Jessica and Lorenzo when he dies. Shylock agrees and leaves.
The Duke wants to take Portia to dinner, but she has to leave. Before the Duke leaves the room, he tells Antonio and the others that the young lawyer should be rewarded. Bassanio offers the three thousand ducats to Portia as he still does not recognize his own wife. Portia doesn't want the money. Bassanio tries again—he actually wants to reward the lawyer for saving his best friend. Portia relents: she'll take Gratiano's gloves, and Bassanio's ring. Bassanio won't give up the ring as his beloved wife gave it to him. Portia understands, but is sure that his wife would agree to give it away and that it is only an excuse to not give her the thing she wants the most. Portia and Nerissa leave. Antonio tells Bassanio to give her the ring, which he gives to Gratiano to run after the lawyer with.
Still in their disguises, Nerissa and Portia draw up the contract for Shylock to sign. Gratiano enters. He gives Portia the ring. She asks Gratiano to take her clerk, Nerissa, to Shylock's house. Gratiano also doesn't recognize his own wife. Nerissa whispers to Portia that she will try to take her husband's ring, as well.
In Belmont, Lorenzo and Jessica sit outside, talking about love and marvelling at the moon. They are interrupted when a messenger arrives to inform them Nerissa and Portia are on their way home from the Monastery. Lancelet then brings more news: Antonio, Bassanio and Gratiano are also on their way home. Lorenzo organizes musicians to greet Portia home with.
Portia and Nerissa arrive, and they ask Lorenzo not to reveal where they have been, or that they even left. Lorenzo will not tell a soul. Bassanio, Antonio, and Gratiano arrive. Nerissa and Gratiano start arguing over the missing ring. Portia chastises Gratiano—she would be as upset as Nerissa if her husband had lost his ring. Gratiano tells her he did give his ring away. They both try to explain that they had to give them away as rewards and that the rings don't mean that much. Portia and Nerissa are hurt that they would give away symbols of their love so easily. Antonio steps in—he feels responsible for the arguments, and for the rings being given away, and offers to enter into a contract with Bassanio. His soul will be forfeit if Bassanio ever breaks another vow he makes Portia. Portia agrees and hands him a ring to give to Bassanio to seal the deal. Bassanio is shocked to find it is the same ring! Portia pretends that she slept with the lawyer to get it back, as does Nerissa when she too reveals she has the ring Gratiano gave her.
Portia reveals the truth: that she was the lawyer who saved Antonio's life. She produces two letters: one to prove to Bassanio that she speaks the truth, and another that she miraculously found explaining that three of Antonio's ships have returned safe and sound, full of goods. Lorenzo and Jessica hear about Shylock's new will. They decide to go inside and talk more about the events of the last few days as Portia is sure that everyone will have questions.
MODERN MERCHANT OF VENICE CHARACTER ANALYSIS
Antonio is a principled man when you first glance at him. He is sweet, stands up for his friend Bassanio, and helps him in his quest for love. He does not run from Shylock even when facing his death, which shows tremendous courage and a strong sense of justice. He is a businessman who questions Shylock's need to add interest to his loans, which suggests that he is extremely forgiving of those who borrow money from him. Indeed, despite Bassanio being the one to borrow money from him, he does not demand help, but only to think kindly of him when he dies. This could be interpreted as Antonio being weak, but he stands in direct contrast to Shylock's merciless attitude and appears all the stronger for it.
However, through Shylock we hear that Antonio has consistently insulted and undermined Shylock in the market. Although we can take that with a pinch of salt—after all, it is hear-say—Shylock does not seem like someone who would exaggerate someone's impact on his business. Antonio is prone to extreme sadness, assuming all of his ships are gone only to have three return unscathed, and Shylock makes many reasonable arguments throughout the play. This odd separation between appearance and reality comes to no head, and so we're left wondering which one is the real Antonio.
Bassanio's ultimate goal is for love and fortune. He loves many people, Antonio and Portia especially, and this love drives him to Belmont for Portia, and then back to Venice to protect Antonio. He was wise enough to warn Antonio not to add the clause about the flesh to the contract, but not especially wise to see the lawyer defending his friend was his own wife. He is also the only one of many suitors who had the courage to choose from the caskets, and chose the right one because of his ability not to judge something by its appearance. Despite his inability to do business for himself, Bassanio seems to be an excellent judge of character.
Shylock is a Jewish money-lender living in Venice. He has been upset over his mistreatment by Christians, particularly Antonio, who have slandered his name in the business markets and harmed his money-lending business. Shylock can be seen as a stereotypical Jew and made a hard-hearted and miserly character because of this. In the opening of the play, Shylock is quite a rational character and explains his views thoughtfully and without malice, despite Antonio talking about him behind his back. Later on, he shows no mercy towards Antonio or Bassanio, even when presented with what is due to him, and offered twice that to cancel the contract. This uncompromising attitude can be seen as strength from one angle, but generally Shylock is transformed into a tragically narrow minded character with only one thing on his mind: revenge. Ultimately, it is this push for revenge that proves his undoing and turns him into a fool.
After Jessica's escape, his grief is mostly mocked by his focus on the amount of money and goods she took with her, and his demand that he see her dead at his feet wearing the jewels she took, but he does seem particularly upset that Jessica exchanged a ring given to him by his late wife, and shocked that she would have done such a thing. Perhaps this man is insensitive and uncaring simply because he is shown no care himself. On the other hand, he could have been transformed by her escape. As he cannot take his revenge on Jessica and Lorenzo because they are nowhere to be found, he can take it out on Antonio.
Portia is a singularly beautiful, rich and intelligent woman. She is clever enough to formulate and execute the plan to save Antonio's life and holds her own against the most tenacious of men when facing Shylock. She outsmarts him and has enough intelligence to understand contractual law. Despite her gender, Portia has absolute faith in marrying for love, and manages to do this while still holding true to her Father's commands.
Gratiano is loud and a bit insulting during the trial. He is not exactly known for his manners, so perhaps he is of lesser standing than Bassanio or Antonio, and has yet to learn how to act. His marriage to Portia's servant, Nerissa, stands as further evidence that he might be a poorer man and with that generally comes poorer manners in this world.
Lorenzo is in love with Jessica and is Bassanio and Antonio's friend. He and Jessica put together a plan for her to escape, which he is a little nervous about because of her Judaism, but is more than happy to marry someone as beautiful, loyal and rich as her. He, along with Jessica, stands to inherit all of Shylock's money after he dies. He seems to appreciate the finer things in life, because, in Act Five Scene One, he believes that any man who cannot enjoy music should not be trusted.
**Note, Lancelet is known as Launcelot in modern versions of the play.
Lancelet Gobbo is the clown of the play. He insensitively tricks his Father into believing that he is dead, leaving us to wonder how much abuse his Father has certainly endured, and consistently plays with puns and jokes throughout the play. He leaves Shylock's service in search of better employment and pay. Indeed, he thinks his new master, Bassanio, is fantastic because he gives his servants expensive uniforms. We do find out from Shylock that he thought Lancelet was a lazy man who ate too much and did too little, and it's unclear exactly which perspective is true.
Jessica is Shylock's daughter. She hates living in his home and begs Lancelet to stay with her as he has made her life a bit more manageable. Instead of moping around and feeling sorry for herself, Jessica takes her life into her own hands and elopes with Lorenzo, the man she loves, and becomes a Christian. Shylock considers her soul damned from here on in, especially when she—perhaps insensitively—sells the ring her mother gave Shylock. She is another example of a woman outsmarting the men in her life as she is the one to construct her escape plan, buy the boy-clothes, and provide the money to assist in their escape from Venice.
Nerissa is Portia's servant and lady in waiting. She helps Portia with her plan to save Antonio and marries Gratiano. She is also complicit in tricking the two men out of their wedding rings. She is Portia's confidant and guides her well through her Father's casket riddle and hopes for the very best for her. It is Nerissa who also reminds Portia of Bassanio and dearly hopes he will come and win her hand in marriage.
The Duke of Venice is a man of law and position, but not a man smart enough to fight against Shylock's claims for the pound of flesh. He might suffer from prejudice towards Shylock as Portia rightly finds the contract and Shylock's demands sound, and up until this point the Duke had refused to see his side at all. The Duke makes a point of granting Shylock mercy against providing half of his fortunes to Venice, but does so only under the guise of showing Shylock up.
Salerio is another one of Antonio's friends. He usually provides back story—for example enforcing the idea that Antonio is an upstanding man, that he has ships with his goods on the sea and explains in Act Three that Antonio may have lost said ships. Beyond this, there is little else that is known about his character.
Solanio is also another of Antonio's friends. He and Salerio are often seen together to serve the purpose of talking about Antonio or the events of the play offstage. There certainly isn't anything else that we know about Solanio.
The Prince of Morocco is paranoid about his complexion: he begs Portia not to think badly about him because of it. He speaks lovingly to Portia, but most of this is wrapped up in his own self importance, and so Portia isn't that unhappy when he fails to choose the right casket. He judges by appearances only and chooses the golden casket.
Although the Prince of Aragon does not stay long, we see enough of him to know he's a complete and utter fool. He believes that men should choose second best, so they don't seem too arrogant, and don't sell themselves short, but in doing so reveals he is a man without ambition who wants to float through life without truly standing for anything.
Tubal is the only other Jew we see in the play—aside from Jessica who denounces her religion for love—and is a friend to Shylock. We don't know much about him aside from his travels to find Jessica came up empty handed. He did manage to hear some rumours about her, which he tortures Shylock with.
EXCERPT THE MERCHANT OF VENICE IN PLAIN AND SIMPLE ENGLISH
SCENE I. Venice. A street.
Enter ANTONIO, SALARINO, and SALANIO
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.
I have no idea why I am so sad.
It tires me and you say it tires you, too.
And how I came about being so sad--
Whatever it’s about and where it comes from--
I do not know.
It all makes me feel so stupid,
And I have to make it my business to know myself.
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.
You’re thinking about the ocean,
And wondering how your ships are doing.
They are fine, like citizens on the deep waves,
Or like a play out on the sea--
They are large and look down on the smaller ships
That bow to them and pay them respects
As they fly past with their elegant sails.
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.
Trust me, if I had dealings going on like you do
Most all of my thoughts and attention would
Be on the business overseas. I would be
Plucking up blades of grass to figure out which way the wind blows,
And peering at maps looking for ports and piers and roads.
Any little thing that might make me afraid
Of bad luck taking over my business would fill me with doubt
And that would make me so sad.
My wind cooling my broth
Would blow me to an ague, when I thought
What harm a wind too great at sea might do.
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 bechanced would make me sad?
But tell not me; I know, Antonio
Is sad to think upon his merchandise.
Blowing on my soup to cool it
Would make me feel so upset because I’d think
Of the harm a strong wind at sea might do to my ships.
I wouldn’t be able to look at sand in an hourglass,
Without worrying about shallow waters with sandbars.
I’d see my majestic ship Andrew docked in the sand,
Upside down with the sails in the water
Sinking to her death. If I were to go to church
I’d see the stones it is made of,
And I couldn’t help but think of dangerous rocks
Which could split the sides of my ship
Scattering all the spices in the hold into the ocean,
And tossing the silks inside upon the waves.
In an instant I’d be worth nothing. How could I have these thoughts
about all that could go wrong and not worry?
The things I’d imagine that could happen would make me so sad.
You don’t have to tell me—I know, Antonio
Is sad to think of all that could happen to his merchandise.
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.
No, trust me, that’s not it. I am financially stable
And I don’t have everything invested in one ship,
Or in one place. My finances are not dependent
On how well I do this year.
So, it’s not the merchandise in the ships making me sad.
Why, then you are in love.
Well, then, you must be in love.
Get out of here!
Not in love neither? Then let us 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 framed 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.
Not in love, either? Well let’s just say you are sad
Because you are not happy. It would be just as easy
For you to laugh and dance and say you are happy
Because you are not sad. Humans have two faces
and many people have strange ways of expressing moods.
Some will look out at the world
and laugh at just about anything,
While others are so sour and bitter
They won’t ever crack a smile
Even at the funniest jokes in the world.
Enter BASSANIO, LORENZO, and GRATIANO
Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman,
Gratiano and Lorenzo. Fare ye well:
We leave you now with better company.
Here comes your cousin Bassanio,
and Gratiano and Lorenzo. We’ll see you later-
They’ll be better company for you.
I would have stay'd till I had made you merry,
If worthier friends had not prevented me.
I would have stayed until I cheered you up,
If friends you are closer to hadn’t shown up.
Your worth is very dear in my regard.
I take it, your own business calls on you
And you embrace the occasion to depart.
You are worth much to me in that way.
I’m thinking your own business needs you
And you are taking the chance to leave.
Good morrow, my good lords.
Hello, my good men!
Good signiors both, when shall we laugh? say, when?
You grow exceeding strange: must it be so?
Hello, both of you. When will we get together for fun? When?
I never see you these days. Does it have to be that way?
We'll make our leisures to attend on yours.
We’ll be available whenever you want to get together.
Exeunt Salarino and Salanio
My Lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio,
We two will leave you: but at dinner-time,
I pray you, have in mind where we must meet.
Bassanio, since you have found Antonio,
We will go ahead. But at dinner time
Don’t forget we’re getting together.
I will not fail you.
No problem, I’ll be there.
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 changed.
You don’t look so good, Antonio.
You take the world too seriously.
You don’t gain anything by investing so much.
Trust me, you don’t seem quite yourself.
I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.
The world is just the world, Gratiano.
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine is a sad one.
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 awhile:
I'll end my exhortation after dinner.
Well then let me play the fool’s part:
I will have fun and laugh until I am wrinkled.
And let me ruin my liver with wine
Rather than my heart be ruined with crying.
Why should a man whose blood is warm
Sit still like the statue of his grandfather carved in stone?
Why should he sleep when he is awake and grow sickly
From being irritable? I’ll tell you what, Antonio-
I love you, and it is my love that speaks when I say
There is a type of man whose face
Becomes frothy and scummy like a stagnant pond,
Who is purposely silent and still,
To try to make others see them as
Wise, respected and important,
As if they are saying ‘I am Mr. Wiseman,
And when I open my mouth, dogs should stop barking!’
Antonio, I know of many men
Who are thought to be very wise
Simply by saying nothing, but I’m sure
If they were to speak, it would be painful to hear
And those hearing them would see them as fools.
I’ll talk more about this some other time.
But for now, stop looking for sadness
It’s foolish to do so, in my opinion.
Come on, Lorenzo, let’s go.
I’ll say more about this after dinner.
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.
Well, we will see you at dinner time:
I must be one of these dumb wise men
Because Gratiano never lets me speak.
Well, keep me company but two years moe,
Thou shalt not know the sound of thine own tongue.
Well, hang out with me for another couple of years
And you won’t even recognize the sound of your own voice.
Farewell: I'll grow a talker for this gear.
See you later. I’ll become a talker after all of this!
Thanks, i' faith, for silence is only commendable
In a neat's tongue dried and a maid not vendible.
Thanks, and trust me, silence is only good
In a cow’s tongue that’s ready to eat or that of an old maid.
Exeunt GRATIANO and LORENZO
Is that any thing now?
Is that important what he says?
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.
Gratiano says a lot about nothing, more
Than any other man in Venice. The point he tries to make
Is like two grains of wheat hidden in a haystack: you
Spend the whole day looking for them and once
You find them, you realize they weren’t worth the trouble.
Well, tell me now what lady is the same
To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage,
That you to-day promised to tell me of?
So, tell me now who is the girl
You’re taking a secret trip to see?
The one you promised to tell me about today?
'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 abridged
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 gaged. To you, Antonio,
I owe the most, in money and in love,
And from your love I have a warranty
To unburden all my plots and purposes
How to get clear of all the debts I owe.
Well, as you know, Antonio
I’ve more or less ruined my finances
By living the high life
and spending way beyond my means.
I’m not complaining about have to cut back
From what I was used to spending, and my main concern
Is to be able to pay off all of the debts
that all that time of extravagant overspending
left me with. To you, Antonio,
I owe the most, in both money and appreciation,
And because of your kindness I feel it is my duty
To share with you my plan
For clearing myself of the debts I owe.
I pray you, good Bassanio, let me know it;
And if it stand, as you yourself still do,
Within the eye of honour, be assured,
My purse, my person, my extremest means,
Lie all unlock'd to your occasions.
Please, Bassanio, tell me your plan
And if it sounds solid, as you yourself do,
On my word, you can be certain
That my money, myself and anything I can do for you
Are at your disposal to help you.
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.
Back when I was in school, if I lost an arrow
I would shoot another one in the same direction
In the exact same way, but I’d watch it closer
In order to find the first one, and by shooting both
I found both, most of the time. I tell you this story
Because what I’m about to say may sound silly.
I owe you a lot, and like a stubborn child,
I lost everything I owe you. But if you are willing
To shoot another arrow in the same direction
As the first one you shot for me, I have no doubt
I will watch where it goes and find both
Or, at the very least, bring the second one back
And only owe you for the first.
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.
You know me well, and you are spending too much time
Going on about our friendship with such detail.
You’re doing more harm by doubting our friendship
And making me wonder about us now
Than if you had destroyed all that I have.
Just tell me what it is you need me to do
And as long as you know I am capable of doing it,
I will do it. So, just tell me what you need.
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 undervalued
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' strand,
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!
In Belmont there is a woman who has inherited a lot of money
And she is beautiful, and even better than that,
She is a good person. Sometimes the way she looks at me
Makes me think she is trying to let me know she likes me.
Her name is Portia, and she is no less valuable
Than the Portia who is Cato’s daughter and married to Brutus:
The whole world knows how wealthy she is,
And the four winds from every direction blow in
Famous suitors, and her blond hair
Falls in her face like the golden fleece in the Greek myth,
And her estate on the coast of Belmont is like Colchos,
And many men come to win her, like Jason in the myth.
Antonio, if I only had the money
To hold my own against them,
I know in my mind I could win her heart,
And I have no doubt I’d be successful!
Thou know'st 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.
You know that all my money is invested in my ships,
And I don’t have the money on hand or the goods
To raise the cash you need. So, let’s go
And see what my good credit in Venice can drum up:
We’ll get as big a loan as possible
To provide what you need to get to Belmont and beautiful Portia.
Go ask around, and so will I,
Let’s find out where the money is and I won’t hesitate
To sign for it in my name.
SCENE II: Belmont. A room in PORTIA'S house.
Enter PORTIA and NERISSA
By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of
this great world.
My word, but my little body is so tired of this big world.
You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in
the same abundance as your good fortunes are: and
yet, for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit
with too much as they that starve with nothing. It
is no mean happiness therefore, to be seated in the
mean: superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but
competency lives longer.
You would be tired, as well, if your troubles were in
the same proportion as your fortunes are, and
yet, from what I see, people who have too much get as sick
from having too much as those who starve and have nothing. It
is no small happiness, therefore, to be right in the
middle: having too much ages one faster, while
having just enough extends your life.
Good sentences and well pronounced.
True words, and well spoken.
They would be better, if well followed.
They would be even better if you followed them.
If to do were as easy as to know what were good to
do, chapels had been churches and poor men's
cottages princes' palaces. It is a good divine that
follows his own instructions: I can easier teach
twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the
twenty to follow mine own teaching. The brain may
devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps
o'er a cold decree: such a hare is madness the
youth, to skip o'er the meshes of good counsel the
cripple. But this reasoning is not in the fashion to
choose me a husband. O me, the word 'choose!' I may
neither choose whom I would nor refuse whom I
dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed
by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard,
Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor refuse none?
If it were as easy to do as it is to know what good to
do, small chapels would be great churches and poor men’s
cottages would become prince’s palaces. It is a good priest who
follows his own instructions: I can easier teach
twenty people of the good that can be done than be one of the
twenty to follow my own teaching. The brain can
come up with laws for the blood, but a hot temper overtakes
a well-thought out decision: just like a rabbit,
young people jump over the nets of good advice
held by crippled old men. But thinking in this way is not the sort that
will help choose a husband. Oh, my! The word ‘choose!’ I can
not choose who I’d like or refuse who I
don’t like; such is the fate of a living daughter restricted
by the wishes of a dead father. It’s hard, isn’t it,
Nerissa, that I can’t choose one or refuse any?
Your father was ever virtuous; and holy men at their
death have good inspirations: therefore the lottery,
that he hath devised in these three chests of gold,
silver and lead, whereof who chooses his meaning
chooses you, will, no doubt, never be chosen by any
rightly but one who shall rightly love. But what
warmth is there in your affection towards any of
these princely suitors that are already come?
Your father was a good man, and religious men at their
death sometimes have well-intentioned ideas, and that’s why we have the lottery
he came up with using these three trunks of gold,
silver and lead, where whoever can figure out the right answer
chooses you and the trunk won’t, don’t doubt it, be chosen by any
except the one who is right for you. But
are you having warm feelings toward any of
these princely suitors that have already arrived?
I pray thee, over-name them; and as thou namest
them, I will describe them; and, according to my
description, level at my affection.
I’ll tell you what—go over their names, and as you name
them, I will describe them, and according to my
description you will be able to guess how I feel about them.
First, there is the Neapolitan prince.
First, there is the Neapolitan prince.
Ay, that's a colt indeed, for he doth nothing but
talk of his horse; and he makes it a great
appropriation to his own good parts, that he can
shoe him himself. I am much afeard my lady his
mother played false with a smith.
Yes, now there’s a foolish youth, for sure, who does nothing but
talk about his horse, and he makes a big deal
that he has the unique ability of being able to
shoe the horse himself. I very much fear the woman
who is his mother had an affair with a blacksmith.
Then there is the County Palatine.
Next is the County Palatine.
He doth nothing but frown, as who should say 'If you
will not have me, choose:' he hears merry tales and
smiles not: I fear he will prove the weeping
philosopher when he grows old, being so full of
unmannerly sadness in his youth. I had rather be
married to a death's-head with a bone in his mouth
than to either of these. God defend me from these
He does nothing but frown, as if to say ‘If you
do not choose me, I do not care.’ He hears happy stories and
does not smile at them: I suspect he will be the sad
philosopher when he grows old since he is so full of
inappropriate sadness in his youth. I would rather be
married to a skull with a bone in it mouth
than to either of these. God forbid I end up
with one of them!
How say you by the French lord, Monsieur Le Bon?
What do you think about the French lord, Monsieur Le Bon?
God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man.
In truth, I know it is a sin to be a mocker: but,
he! why, he hath a horse better than the
Neapolitan's, a better bad habit of frowning than
the Count Palatine; he is every man in no man; if a
throstle sing, he falls straight a capering: he will
fence with his own shadow: if I should marry him, I
should marry twenty husbands. If he would despise me
I would forgive him, for if he love me to madness, I
shall never requite him.
God made him so let’s call him a man.
Truth be told, I know it is a sin to make fun of people, but
him! He has a horse better than the prince
for Naples and a better way of frowning than
the Count Palatine; he is every man you’d want in no man. If a
bird begins to sing, he begins to prance; he will
fence with his own shadow to show off. If I were to marry him
I would marry twenty husbands. It he were to hate me
I would forgive him, and if he were to love me to madness, I
would never give him the same love.
What say you, then, to Falconbridge, the young baron
Well, what do you say about Falconbridge, the young baron
You know I say nothing to him, for he understands
not me, nor I him: he hath neither Latin, French,
nor Italian, and you will come into the court and
swear that I have a poor pennyworth in the English.
He is a proper man's picture, but, alas, who can
converse with a dumb-show? How oddly he is suited!
I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round
hose in France, his bonnet in Germany and his
behavior every where.
I really have nothing to say about him because he does not understand
me, and I don’t understand him. He doesn’t speak Latin, French,
or Italian, and anyone in the court knows
I don’t know English of any value at all.
He’s really good looking, but who can
talk with someone who doesn’t understand them? And he was dressed so weirdly!
He must have bought his jacket in Italy, his tights
in France, his hat in Germany and his
way of behaving everywhere.
What think you of the Scottish lord, his neighbour?
What do you think of his neighbor, the Scottish lord?
That he hath a neighbourly charity in him, for he
borrowed a box of the ear of the Englishman and
swore he would pay him again when he was able: I
think the Frenchman became his surety and sealed
under for another.
I think he has a neighborly generosity about him, because he
took a slap to the ear by the Englishman and
swore he would pay him back as soon as he was able. I
think the Frenchman guaranteed he would help the Scotsman
and then added a slap of his own.
How like you the young German, the Duke of Saxony's nephew?
How do you like the young German, the Duke of Saxony’s nephew?
Very vilely in the morning, when he is sober, and
most vilely in the afternoon, when he is drunk: when
he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and
when he is worst, he is little better than a beast:
and the worst fall that ever fell, I hope I shall
make shift to go without him.
He’s pretty wretched in the morning, when he is sober, and
even more so in the afternoon, when he is drunk: when
he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and
when he is worst, he is not much better than an animal:
if he where to die, I would think I could
do okay without him.
If he should offer to choose, and choose the right
casket, you should refuse to perform your father's
will, if you should refuse to accept him.
If he wants to try and choose and he chooses the right
box, you would be refusing to go by what your father
wants if you were to refuse to marry him.
Therefore, for fear of the worst, I pray thee, set a
deep glass of rhenish wine on the contrary casket,
for if the devil be within and that temptation
without, I know he will choose it. I will do any
thing, Nerissa, ere I'll be married to a sponge.
I know, so for fear of the worst, let me ask you to place
a huge glass of German white wine on the wrong box
so that even if it is the wrong one he will be tempted
by the wine and I know he would choose it. I will do
anything, Nerissa, before I marry a drunk.
You need not fear, lady, the having any of these
lords: they have acquainted me with their
determinations; which is, indeed, to return to their
home and to trouble you with no more suit, unless
you may be won by some other sort than your father's
imposition depending on the caskets.
You don’t have to worry about having any of these
suitors: they have all told me their
decision is to, indeed, return to
their home and to not try to win you unless
you may be won in some other way than your father’s
command that they choose the correct box.
If I live to be as old as Sibylla, I will die as
chaste as Diana, unless I be obtained by the manner
of my father's will. I am glad this parcel of wooers
are so reasonable, for there is not one among them
but I dote on his very absence, and I pray God grant
them a fair departure.
If I live to be as old as Sibylla, I will die an
old maid unless I am won in the manner
my father has willed. I am glad this group of wooers
is so reasonable as to leave because there is not one of them
I care about except for their absence, so I wish them all
a good departure.
Do you not remember, lady, in your father's time, a
Venetian, a scholar and a soldier, that came hither
in company of the Marquis of Montferrat?
Do you remember when your father was alive, a
Venetian—a scholar and a soldier—who came her
in the company of the Marquis of Montferrat?
Yes, yes, it was Bassanio; as I think, he was so called.
Yes, yes I do. That was Bassanio, at least I think that was his name.
True, madam: he, of all the men that ever my foolish
eyes looked upon, was the best deserving a fair lady.
Yes, madam: he, of all the men that I’ve ever laid
eyes on, was the best and deserving of a beautiful woman.
I remember him well, and I remember him worthy of
I remember him well, and I recall him being worthy of
Enter a Serving-man
How now! what news?
What is it? What is the news?
The four strangers seek for you, madam, to take
their leave: and there is a forerunner come from a
fifth, the Prince of Morocco, who brings word the
prince his master will be here to-night.
There are four strangers here for you, madam, they want
to say goodbye: and there is a messenger coming from a
fifth, the Prince of Morocco, who brings news that
the prince, his master, will be here tonight.
If I could bid the fifth welcome with so good a
heart as I can bid the other four farewell, I should
be glad of his approach: if he have the condition
of a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had
rather he should shrive me than wive me. Come,
Nerissa. Sirrah, go before.
Whiles we shut the gates
upon one wooer, another knocks at the door.
If I could say hello to the fifth with as much
enthusiasm as I say goodbye to the other four, I would
be glad of his arrival: if he is like
a saint but looks like a devil, I would
rather he would forgive me rather than marry me. Come on,
Nerissa. Sir, go ahead.
While we shut the gates
upon one wooer, another one knocks at the door.