The Merchant of Venice


Text
Act I
Act II
Act III
Act IV
Act V
Enter Portia with her waiting-woman, Nerissa


PORTIA

By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of

this great world.


NERISSA

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
aught (n.) anything, [with negative word] nothing See Topics: Frequency count
surfeit (v.) 1 feed to excess, overindulge, glut

too much as they that starve with nothing. It is no mean

happiness, therefore, to be seated in the mean; superfluity
mean (adj.) 4 average, moderate, middling
mean (n.) 10 middle, midway
superfluity 2 excess, indulgence, immoderate living

comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives
competency (n.) 2 sufficiency without excess, modest means

longer.


PORTIA

Good sentences, and well pronounced.
pronounce (v.) 1 deliver, speak, declare
sentence (n.) 1 maxim, wise saying, precept


NERISSA

They would be better if well followed.


PORTIA

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
divine (n.) 1 clergyman, priest, parson

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
blood (n.) 1 passion, feeling, strong emotion [especially sexual]
temper (n.) 1 frame of mind, temperament, disposition

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 who I would nor refuse

who 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?


NERISSA

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 you shall rightly love. But what warmth is there in

your affection towards any of these princely suitors that
affection (n.) 1 fancy, inclination, desire

are already come?


PORTIA

I pray thee overname them, and as thou namest
overname (v.) name in succession, read through the list of

them I will describe them and, according to my description

level at my affection.
level at (v.) 2 guess correctly, rightly anticipate


NERISSA

First, there is the Neapolitan prince.


PORTIA

Ay, that's a colt indeed, for he doth nothing but
colt (n.) 1 foolish youth, callow ass

talk of his horse, and he makes it a great appropriation to
appropriation (n.) special attribute, particular feature

his own good parts that he can shoe him himself. I am

much afeard my lady his mother played false with a
afeard (adj.) afraid, frightened, scared See Topics: Frequency count
false (adv.) 4 unfaithfully, disloyally, inconstantly,

smith.


NERISSA

Then there is the County Palatine.
county (n.) 1 [title of rank] count


PORTIA

He doth nothing but frown, as who should say,

‘ An 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
death's-head (n.) skull, memento mori

with a bone in his mouth than to either of these.

God defend me from these two!


NERISSA

How say you by the French lord, Monsieur Le

Bon?


PORTIA

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
caper (v.) 2 dance with joy, leap with delight
straight (adv.) straightaway, immediately, at once See Topics: Frequency count

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.


NERISSA

What say you then to Falconbridge, the young

baron of England?


PORTIA

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
pennyworth, penn'orth (n.) 1 amount, quantity, sum

proper man's picture, but, alas, who can converse with a
picture (n.) 1 appearance, countenance, visible form
proper (adj.) 1 good-looking, handsome, comely

dumb-show? How oddly he is suited! I think he bought
suit (v.) 1 dress, clothe, equip

his doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, his bonnet
bonnet (n.) hat, cap See Topics: Clothing

in Germany and his behaviour everywhere.


NERISSA

What think you of the Scottish lord, his

neighbour?


PORTIA

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
seal under (v.) become security for, set one's seal to
surety (n.) 2 person undertaking a legal responsibility in relation to another, guarantor

another.


NERISSA

How like you the young German, the Duke of

Saxony's nephew?


PORTIA

Very vilely in the morning when he is sober and
vilely, vildly (adv.) shamefully, wretchedly, meanly

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. An the worst fall

that ever fell, I hope I shall make shift to go without him.
shift (n.) 1 expedient, measure, arrangement [especially as 'make shift' = contrive]


NERISSA

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.


PORTIA

Therefore, for fear of the worst, I pray thee set a

deep glass of Rhenish wine on the contrary casket, for if
contrary (adj.) 3 wrong, incorrect, erroneous
Rhenish (n.) Rhineland wine

the devil be within and that temptation without, I know

he will choose it. I will do anything, Nerissa, ere I will be

married to a sponge.


NERISSA

You need not fear, lady, the having any of these

lords. They have acquainted me with their determinations,
determination (n.) 1 mind, decision, resolution

which is indeed to return to their home and to

trouble you with no more suit, unless you may be won
suit (n.) 2 wooing, courtship

by some other sort than your father's imposition,
imposition (n.) 1 order, charge, command
sort (n.) 3 way, manner

depending on the caskets.


PORTIA

If I live to be as old as Sibylla, I will die as chaste
chaste (adj.) 1 celibate, single, unmarried

as Diana unless I be obtained by the manner of my

father's will. I am glad this parcel of wooers are so
parcel (n.) 3 small group, company, party

reasonable, for there is not one among them but I dote

on his very absence, and I pray God grant them a fair

departure.


NERISSA

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?


PORTIA

Yes, yes, it was Bassanio, as I think, so was he

called.


NERISSA

True, madam. He, of all the men that ever my

foolish eyes looked upon, was the best deserving a fair

lady.


PORTIA

I remember him well, and I remember him

worthy of thy praise.

Enter a Servingman

How now, what news?


SERVINGMAN

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 tonight.


PORTIA

If I could bid the fifth welcome with so good

heart as I can bid the other four farewell, I should be

glad of his approach. If he have the condition of a saint
condition (n.) 1 disposition, temper, mood, character

and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should

shrive me than wive me. Come, Nerissa. Sirrah, go
shrive (v.) hear confession, grant absolution, forgive

before. Whiles we shut the gate upon one wooer, another
before (adv.) 1 ahead, in advance

knocks at the door.

Exeunt

 
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