The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare


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ACT I - Scene II


Belmont. PORTIA'S house

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 too much as they that
starve with nothing. It is no mean happiness, therefore, to be
seated in the mean: superfluity come sooner by white hairs, but
competency lives longer.

PORTIA
Good sentences, and well pronounc'd.

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 his own instructions; I
can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to 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 who I would nor refuse who I dislike; so is the will of a
living daughter curb'd 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 lott'ry 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 are already come?

PORTIA
I pray thee over-name them; and as thou namest them, I will
describe them; and according to my description, level at my
affection.

NERISSA
First, there is the Neapolitan prince.

PORTIA
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 afear'd my lady his
mother play'd false with a smith.

NERISSA
Then is there the County Palatine.

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 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-cap'ring; 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.

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 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 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 seal'd under for 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 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.

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 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, 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.

PORTIA
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.

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 call'd.

NERISSA
True, madam; he, of all the men that ever my foolish eyes
look'd 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
to-night.

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 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 gate upon one wooer, another knocks at the
door.

Exeunt

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