List iconThe Merchant of VeniceList icon

The Merchant of Venice
Act 1, scene 2

Synopsis:

Contents

Characters in the Play

Entire Play

Antonio, the merchant in The Merchant of Venice, secures a loan from Shylock for his friend Bassanio, who seeks to court…

Act 1, scene 1

Antonio, a Venetian merchant, has invested all his wealth in trading expeditions. Bassanio, his friend and kinsman, asks him for…

Act 1, scene 2

At Portia’s estate of Belmont, Portia and Nerissa talk over Portia’s frustration at being unable to choose her own husband….

Act 1, scene 3

In Venice Bassanio goes to Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, to borrow, in Antonio’s name, 3,000 ducats. Shylock hates Antonio but…

Act 2, scene 1

At Belmont the Prince of Morocco greets Portia, who tells him the terms of the contest: if he chooses the…

Act 2, scene 2

In Venice Shylock’s servant, Lancelet Gobbo, debates whether he should find a new master. Lancelet’s father comes in search of…

Act 2, scene 3

Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, says good-bye to Lancelet and gives him a letter for Lorenzo, a friend of Bassanio. In a…

Act 2, scene 4

Lorenzo, Gratiano, Solanio, and Salarino try to arrange a masque for Bassanio’s dinner that night. Lancelet brings Lorenzo Jessica’s letter…

Act 2, scene 5

Lancelet brings Shylock an invitation to dinner at Bassanio’s. Shylock grudgingly accepts and commands Jessica to guard their house carefully….

Act 2, scene 6

Gratiano and Salarino wait for Lorenzo near Shylock’s house. As soon as Lorenzo arrives, he calls Jessica, who throws him…

Act 2, scene 7

At Belmont the Prince of Morocco attempts to choose the right chest and win Portia. He picks the gold one…

Act 2, scene 8

In Venice Solanio and Salarino discuss the latest news: Shylock’s torment over the loss of his daughter and the treasures…

Act 2, scene 9

At Belmont the Prince of Arragon attempts to win Portia by choosing the silver chest, but finds in it the…

Act 3, scene 1

In Venice Solanio and Salarino have learned that the Italian ship wrecked in the English Channel was Antonio’s. Shylock enters…

Act 3, scene 2

Portia advises Bassanio to postpone choosing for fear he should make the wrong choice. Bassanio declares himself unable to live…

Act 3, scene 3

Antonio seeks out Shylock in an effort to get the moneylender to listen to him. But Shylock insists that the…

Act 3, scene 4

Portia entrusts the management of her household to Lorenzo and pretends to leave with Nerissa for a house of an…

Act 3, scene 5

Lancelet, the clown, makes jokes at the expense of Jessica and then Lorenzo. Jessica praises Portia and jokes with Lorenzo.

Act 4, scene 1

In court at Venice, Shylock demands that the terms of his bond be fulfilled. Portia enters as a doctor of…

Act 4, scene 2

Gratiano gives the disguised Portia Bassanio’s ring. Nerissa decides to try to obtain from Gratiano the ring that she had…

Act 5, scene 1

Portia and Nerissa return to Belmont. When Bassanio and Gratiano also return, bringing Antonio with them, Portia and Nerissa “discover”…

Include links to:

Images
Glosses
Audio
Video
Essays
Quill icon
Scene 2
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
5 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.
PORTIA 10Good sentences, and well pronounced.
NERISSA They would be better if well followed.

21
The Merchant of Venice
ACT 1. SC. 2

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
15 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
20 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
25 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
30 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
35 come?
PORTIA I pray thee, overname 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 40Ay, 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.
NERISSA 45Then is there the County Palatine.
PORTIA He doth nothing but frown, as who should say
 “An you will not have me, choose.” He hears

23
The Merchant of Venice
ACT 1. SC. 2

 merry tales and smiles not. I fear he will prove the
 weeping philosopher when he grows old, being so
50 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
55 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
60 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
65 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,
70 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,
75 his round hose in France, his bonnet in Germany,
 and his behavior everywhere.
NERISSA What think you of the Scottish lord, his
 neighbor?
PORTIA That he hath a neighborly charity in him, for
80 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.

25
The Merchant of Venice
ACT 1. SC. 2

NERISSA How like you the young German, the Duke of
85 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
90 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 95Therefore, 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 100You 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
105 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
110 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 Marquess of Montferrat?
PORTIA 115Yes, 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.

27
The Merchant of Venice
ACT 1. SC. 3

PORTIA 120I 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
125 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
130 a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had rather
 he should shrive me than wive me.
 Come, Nerissa. To Servingman. Sirrah, go before.—
 Whiles we shut the gate upon one wooer, another
 knocks at the door.
They exit.