The Merchant of Venice

Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V
Enter Nerissa and a Servitor
servitor (n.) 1 servant
straight (adv.) straightaway, immediately, at once See Topics: Frequency count


Quick, quick I pray thee! Draw the curtain straight.

The Prince of Arragon hath ta'en his oath,

And comes to his election presently.
election (n.) choice, preference
presently (adv.) 1 immediately, instantly, at once See Topics: Frequency count

Flourish of cornets. Enter Arragon, his train, and Portia


Behold, there stand the caskets, noble Prince.

If you choose that wherein I am contained,

Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemnized;
straight (adv.) straightaway, immediately, at once See Topics: Frequency count

But if you fail, without more speech, my lord,

You must be gone from hence immediately.


I am enjoined by oath to observe three things:

First, never to unfold to anyone

Which casket 'twas I chose; next, if I fail

Of the right casket, never in my life

To woo a maid in way of marriage;


If I do fail in fortune of my choice,

Immediately to leave you and be gone.


To these injunctions everyone doth swear

That comes to hazard for my worthless self.
hazard, come / go to play dice, gamble


And so have I addressed me. Fortune now
address (v.) 1 prepare, make ready, poise to act
fortune (n.) 4 lucky chance, good luck

To my heart's hope! Gold, silver, and base lead.
base (adj.) 4 non-precious, worthless, of low value

Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.

You shall look fairer ere I give or hazard.

What says the golden chest? Ha, let me see.

Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.

What many men desire; that ‘ many ’ may be meant

By the fool multitude that choose by show,
fool (adj.) foolish, silly

Not learning more than the fond eye doth teach,
fond (adj.) 2 foolish, trifling, frivolous

Which pries not to th' interior, but like the martlet
martlet (n.) house-martin [which often builds its nest in churches]

Builds in the weather on the outward wall,
weather, in the in an exposed situation, open to the elements

Even in the force and road of casualty.
casualty (n.) 2 mischance, misfortune, disaster
force (n.) 5 [of weather] violence, turbulence, stress
road (n.) 2 pathway, route, course

I will not choose what many men desire,

Because I will not jump with common spirits
jump (v.) 1 agree, coincide, tally

And rank me with the barbarous multitudes.

Why then, to thee, thou silver treasure house.

Tell me once more what title thou dost bear.

Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.

And well said too, for who shall go about

To cozen fortune, and be honourable
cozen (v.) cheat, dupe, trick, deceive

Without the stamp of merit? Let none presume
stamp (n.) 1 impression, mark, imprint

To wear an undeserved dignity.

O that estates, degrees, and offices
degree (n.) 1 rank, station, standing
estate (n.) 2 high rank, standing, status
office (n.) 2 role, position, place, function

Were not derived corruptly, and that clear honour
clear (adj.) 1 pure, spotless, faultless

Were purchased by the merit of the wearer!
purchase (v.) 1 acquire, obtain, win

How many then should cover that stand bare,
cover (v.) 2 put on one's hat [after it has been removed to show respect]

How many be commanded that command;

How much low peasantry would then be gleaned

From the true seed of honour, and how much honour

Picked from the chaff and ruin of the times
ruin (n.) 2 [metaphor for] destitute, case of hardship

To be new varnished. Well, but to my choice.
varnished (adj.) embellished, decked out, adorned

Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.

I will assume desert. Give me a key for this,
assume (v.) 1 acquire, adopt, take on
desert, desart (n.) 1 deserving, due recompense, right

And instantly unlock my fortunes here.

He opens the silver casket


Too long a pause for that which you find there.


What's here? The portrait of a blinking idiot

Presenting me a schedule! I will read it.
schedule (n.) 1 inventory, list, itemization

How much unlike art thou to Portia!

How much unlike my hopes and my deservings!

Who chooseth me shall have as much as he deserves.

Did I deserve no more than a fool's head?

Is that my prize? Are my deserts no better?


To offend and judge are distinct offices,
office (n.) 1 task, service, duty, responsibility See Topics: Frequency count

And of opposed natures.
opposed (adj.) 1 opposite, facing


                         What is here?

The fire seven times tried this;
try (v.) 7 refine, purify

Seven times tried that judgement is

That did never choose amiss.

Some there be that shadows kiss;
shadow (n.) 1 image, likeness, portrait, semblance

Such have but a shadow's bliss.

There be fools alive iwis,
iwis (adv.) [archaism] assuredly, certainly, truly See Topics: Archaisms

Silvered o'er, and so was this.

Take what wife you will to bed,

I will ever be your head.

So be gone; you are sped.
speed (v.) 4 deal with, bring to an end, defeat

Still more fool I shall appear

By the time I linger here.

With one fool's head I came to woo,

But I go away with two.

Sweet, adieu. I'll keep my oath,

Patiently to bear my wroth.
wroth (n.) misfortune, grief, ruin

Exit with his train


Thus hath the candle singed the moth.

O these deliberate fools! When they do choose,
deliberate (adj.) calculating, carefully considering
wit (n.) 1 intelligence, wisdom, good sense, mental ability See Topics: Frequency count

They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.


The ancient saying is no heresy:

Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.


Come draw the curtain, Nerissa.

Enter Messenger


Where is my lady?


                         Here. What would my lord?


Madam, there is alighted at your gate

A young Venetian, one that comes before

To signify th' approaching of his lord,

From whom he bringeth sensible regreets,
regreet (n.) fresh greeting, return of salutation
sensible (adj.) 2 evident, perceptible by the senses, affecting the senses

To wit, besides commends and courteous breath,
breath (n.) 1 utterance, speech, voice
commend (n.) 1 commendation, support, praise

Gifts of rich value. Yet I have not seen

So likely an ambassador of love.
likely (adj.) promising, hopeful; or: seemly, good-looking

A day in April never came so sweet

To show how costly summer was at hand,
costly (adj.) bountiful, lavish, rich

As this fore-spurrer comes before his lord.
fore-spurrer (n.) one who has ridden ahead


No more, I pray thee, I am half afeard
afeard (adj.) afraid, frightened, scared See Topics: Frequency count

Thou wilt say anon he is some kin to thee,
anon (adv.) 1 soon, shortly, presently See Topics: Frequency count

Thou spend'st such high-day wit in praising him.
high-day (adj.) befitting a holiday
wit (n.) 3 reasoning, thinking, deliberation

Come, come, Nerissa, for I long to see

Quick Cupid's post that comes so mannerly.
post (n.) 1 express messenger, courier See Topics: Frequency count


Bassanio Lord, love if thy will it be!


  Previous scene     Next scene