List iconThe Merchant of Venice:
Act 2, scene 9
List icon

The Merchant of Venice
Act 2, scene 9



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”…

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Scene 9
Enter Nerissa and a Servitor.

 Quick, quick, I pray thee, draw the curtain straight.
 The Prince of Arragon hath ta’en his oath
 And comes to his election presently.

Enter the Prince of Arragon, his train, and Portia.

 Behold, there stand the caskets, noble prince.
5 If you choose that wherein I am contained,
 Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemnized.

The Merchant of Venice
ACT 2. SC. 9

 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:
10 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;
 Lastly, if I do fail in fortune of my choice,
15 Immediately to leave you, and be gone.
 To these injunctions everyone doth swear
 That comes to hazard for my worthless self.
 And so have I addressed me. Fortune now
 To my heart’s hope! Gold, silver, and base lead.
20 “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he
 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
25 desire.”
 What many men desire—that “many” may be
 By the fool multitude that choose by show,
 Not learning more than the fond eye doth teach,
30 Which pries not to th’ interior, but like the martlet
 Builds in the weather on the outward wall,
 Even in the force and road of casualty.
 I will not choose what many men desire,
 Because I will not jump with common spirits
35 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

The Merchant of Venice
ACT 2. SC. 9

40 And well said, too; for who shall go about
 To cozen fortune and be honorable
 Without the stamp of merit? Let none presume
 To wear an undeservèd dignity.
 O, that estates, degrees, and offices
45 Were not derived corruptly, and that clear honor
 Were purchased by the merit of the wearer!
 How many then should cover that stand bare?
 How many be commanded that command?
 How much low peasantry would then be gleaned
50 From the true seed of honor? And how much honor
 Picked from the chaff and ruin of the times,
 To be new varnished? Well, but to my choice.
 “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he
55 I will assume desert. Give me a key for this,
He is given a key.
 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.—
60 How much unlike art thou to Portia!
 How much unlike my hopes and my deservings.
 “Who chooseth me shall have as much as he
 Did I deserve no more than a fool’s head?
65 Is that my prize? Are my deserts no better?
 To offend and judge are distinct offices
 And of opposèd natures.
ARRAGON  What is here?
He reads.

The Merchant of Venice
ACT 2. SC. 9

 The fire seven times tried this;
70 Seven times tried that judgment is
 That did never choose amiss.
 Some there be that shadows kiss;
 Such have but a shadow’s bliss.
 There be fools alive, iwis,
75 Silvered o’er—and so was this.
 Take what wife you will to bed,
 I will ever be your head.
 So begone; you are sped.

 Still more fool I shall appear
80 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.He exits with his train.
85 Thus hath the candle singed the moth.
 O, these deliberate fools, when they do choose,
 They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.
 The ancient saying is no heresy:
 Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.
PORTIA 90Come, draw the curtain, Nerissa.

Enter Messenger.

 Where is my lady?
PORTIA  Here. What would my
 Madam, there is alighted at your gate
95 A young Venetian, one that comes before
 To signify th’ approaching of his lord,
 From whom he bringeth sensible regreets;
 To wit (besides commends and courteous breath),
 Gifts of rich value; yet I have not seen

The Merchant of Venice
ACT 2. SC. 9

100 So likely an ambassador of love.
 A day in April never came so sweet,
 To show how costly summer was at hand,
 As this fore-spurrer comes before his lord.
 No more, I pray thee. I am half afeard
105 Thou wilt say anon he is some kin to thee,
 Thou spend’st such high-day wit in praising him!
 Come, come, Nerissa, for I long to see
 Quick Cupid’s post that comes so mannerly.
 Bassanio, Lord Love, if thy will it be!
They exit.