- In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:
It wearies me; you say it wearies you
In the opening lines of the play, Antonio tells his friends that his chronic depression is depressing for everyone.
- Your mind is tossing on the ocean
Antonio has just said that he does not know why he is feeling so sad and weary. Salerio explains Antonio's troubles by saying that he's worrying about the safety of his fleet of merchant ships.
|16th Century Merchant Vessel|
- I thank my fortune for it,
My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,
Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate
Upon the fortune of this present year
Antonio tells both Salerio and Solanio that his wealth is not dependent upon the fate of one ship, nor solely upon his business interests for that year.
- Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time:
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes
And laugh like parrots at a bag-piper,
And other of such vinegar aspect
That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile
Commenting on Antonio's depressed state of mind, Solanio comes to the conclusion that mother nature makes some "strange fellows" who will laugh no matter what, and others who will smile at nothing.
- You have too much respect upon the world:
They lose it that do buy it with much care
Gratiano, a jolly fellow, advises Antonio to not concern himself so much with his business affairs, as those who worry too much about their wordly goods get no pleasure from them.
- I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.
Antonio answers Gratiano's concern for his state of mind with a bit of fatalism.
- Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
Gratiano, trying to encourage Antonio to be more more lively, asks why any living man would want to be as stiff and cold as an alabaster statue of his grandfather.
|Alabaster statue of Shakespeare|
in Southwark Cathedral
- There are a sort of men whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond,
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dress'd in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit
As who should say 'I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my lips let no dog bark!'
O my Antonio, I do know of these
That therefore only are reputed wise
For saying nothing
Gratiano continues his speech which contrasts liveliness with stodginess in a verbal attempt to return Antonio to his usual lively state. Gratiano says that there are men whose facial expressions purposely freeze ("wilful stillness") into a lifeless and stiff ("cream and mantle") façade in order to impress others with their own deep thought ("profound conceit"), wisdom and seriousness ("gravity")as if to announce to the world at large that I am an oracle (a prophetic deity) and even the dogs should be silenced when I speak. Gratiano tells Antonio that he knows such men who have a reputation for wisdom, based entirely on what they do not say.
- But fish not, with this melancholy bait,
For this fool gudgeon, this opinion.
Gratiano ends his exhortation (his word for his own speech) about melancholy by warning Antonio that he will catch nothing but gudgeon (easily caught bait fish) if he continues to wear such a downcast aspect.
- Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more
than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two
grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you
shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you
have them, they are not worth the search.
Antonio wonders aloud if Gratiano's words have any value, and Bassanio replies that finding the meaning Gratiano seeks to communicate within his words is like seeking two grains of wheat within two bushels of chaff: the search takes all day, so that when you find the two grains (of meaning), they are not worth the search.
- In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft,
I shot his fellow of the self-same flight
The self-same way with more advised watch,
To find the other forth, and by adventuring both
I oft found both
Bassanio is trying to talk Antonio into lending him more money; in his allegory about the lost arrow (his first loan), he finds the first arrow by shooting the second in the same direction in order to find the first, which most often worked.
- 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, a wealthy woman, has just expressed her discontent with life, which causes her waiting woman, Nerissa to philosophize about wealth versus poverty, saying that both the wealthy and the poor suffer equally, that moderate means ("to be seated in the mean") is preferable. Nerissa says that overabundance ("superfluity") comes sooner through your family (the white-haired ancestors), but median revenue is more reliable.
- 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.
Portia tells Nerissa that if doing were as simple as knowing, then chapels would be churches and cottages would be palaces.
- The brain
may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper
leaps o'er a cold decree
Portia continues her theme of knowing versus doing when she says that the brain may devise a plan for the body to carry out ("laws for the blood"), but the mind's cold order ("decree") is no competition for the passions, particularly the passion of an impetuous temperament ("hot temper").
- He doth nothing but
talk of his horse
Nerissa is listing Portia's suitors while Portia gives her opinion of each: "He doth nothing but talk of his horse," is her partial assessment of the horseman (the Neapolitan).
- I fear he will prove
the weeping philosopher when he grows old,
being so full of unmannerly sadness in his youth.
Portia continues to assess her suitors, saying that she fears County Palatine will prove to be a melancholic like Heraclitus ("the weeping philosopher") since he is so rudely sad ("unmannerly") and yet still young.
- God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man.
"Let him pass for a man," is Portia's first statement in her gutting of Monsieur Le Bon as a suitor.
he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and
when he is worst, he is little better than a beast:
Portia is decidedly not enthused about the young German as a suitor or a man.
- There is not one among them
but I dote on his very absence
Portia sums up her opinion of all the suitors she has met by saying she will delight in their absence.
- My meaning in saying he is a
good man is to have you understand me that he is
With Antonio's permission, Bassanio is trying to get money from Shylock based on Antonio's credit; it looks as if Shylock is going to loan him the money, as he says that Antonio has good security ("is sufficient").
are but boards, sailors but men: there be land-rats
and water-rats, water-thieves and land-thieves, I
mean pirates, and then there is the peril of waters,
winds and rocks.
Shylock is pointing out the drawbacks of the shipping business to Bassanio so that he will be appreciative of any monies advanced.
- Yes, to smell pork; to eat of the habitation which
your prophet the Nazarite conjured the devil into. I
will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you,
walk with you, and so following, but I will not eat
with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.
Perhaps in an aside where he is thinking to himself, Shylock, a Jew, points out the differences between his culture and the Christian culture practiced by Bassanio and Antonio. Shylock expresses his revulsion to smelling and eating pork and implies that Christians should feel the same way, since Christ ("the Nazarite") cast the spirit causing a man's insanity into a herd of swine, which makes pigs the "habitation" of the devil.
- How like a fawning publican he looks!
I hate him for he is a Christian
But more for that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation, and he rails,
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains and my well-won thrift,
Which he calls interest. Cursed be my tribe,
If I forgive him!
Shylock, in an aside, reveals his own intolerance of Christians when he calls Antonio a "publican" (a tax collector) who is being genial ("fawning") strictly to borrow money. The second thing he has against Antonio is that he loans out money at no charge which brings down the rate of interest ("usance") Shylock and other Venetian money lenders can charge. Shylock promises himself that he will take revenge ("feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him") if he sees a weakness ("If I can catch him once upon the hip") that could work to his advantage. The third thing which enrages Shylock is the damage Antonio does to his reputation when he "rails" against his business practices with other merchants. Shylock calls for a curse upon his own "tribe," the Jews, if he forgives Antonio his grievances.
- Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
Antonio reveals his own prejudices when he tells Bassanio to take especial note: "the devil" (Shylock) knows how to cite biblical passages which justify his profiteering. Antonio then compares Shylock's tactics ("an evil soul producing holy witness") to a criminal who commits crimes with a smile on his face and to an apple which looks perfect ("goodly") on the outside, but is rotten at the center.
- In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances:
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,
Shylock tells Antonio that he has berated ("rated") Shylock's business practices (charging high interest rates on loans) in the Rialto marketplace, yet he has taken the abuse with a patient shrug of his shoulders (because Jews are by their nature a patient people used to suffering) even though Antonio calls him names and spits upon his Jewish apparel.
- Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,
With bated breath and whispering humbleness,
"Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn'd me such a day; another time
You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
I'll lend you thus much moneys"?
Shylock asks Antonio why he should lend him money after the abuse Antonio has dealt him.
- O father Abram, what these Christians are,
Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect
The thoughts of others!
Shylock appeals to an important, long dead Jewish ancestor, confiding in him that Christians suspect Jews of ulterior motives or plans ("thoughts") due to the hard lessons they have learned from fellow Christians.
- I like not fair terms and a villain's mind.
Bassanio is telling Antonio that generous lending terms from the wicked-minded should be suspect: Bassanio does not approve of the deal Antonio just made with Shylock.
- Mislike me not for my complexion,
The shadow'd livery of the burnish'd sun
In the Prince of Morocco's first attempt to gain Portia's attention and affection, he commands her not to judge him by the color of his skin since he belongs to the livery of the sun itself; Morocco equates having black skin to an exalted relationship with the reigning sun.
- If Hercules and Lichas play at dice
Which is the better man, the greater throw
May turn by fortune from the weaker hand
Morocco illustrates for Portia the part chance ("fortune") plays in the outcome of events when he brings up the image of Hercules and his slave playing dice, saying it is possible for Hercules' slave ("the weaker hand") to beat his master due to the part played by chance.
- O heavens, this is my true-begotten father!
Launcelot is surprised by the appearance of his father, Gobbo, who is sand blind and so does not recognize his son in return.
- No master, sir, but a poor man's son: his father,
though I say it, is an honest exceeding poor man
Launcelot has just asked Gobbo if he is inquiring "of young Master Launcelot," but Gobbo (his true father) returns that Launcelot does not deserve the title of "master" since he is "a poor man's son," but that his father, though poor, is honestbeyond expectations for his station in life.
- Marry, God forbid! the boy was the very staff of my
age, my very prop.
Gobbo swears when Launcelot announces his own death, saying that his son was everything to him, his support in old age, and what got him up in the morning.
- Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of
the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his
Launcelot insults his father, Gobbo, by calling him a fool in a roundabout waysaying that even if Gobbo weren't blind he might mistake his son for someone else because it takes a wise father to recognize his son, cleverly reversing the usual proverb, "It is a wise child that knows his own father."
- Hear you me, Jessica:
Lock up my doors; and when you hear the drum
And the vile squealing of the wry-neck'd fife,
Clamber not you up to the casements then,
Nor thrust your head into the public street
To gaze on Christian fools with varnish'd faces
Shylock instructs his daughter, Jessica, to lock up the house when she hears the drum and the "vile squealing of the wry-neck'd fife" (who gets a wry neck from playing with his head to one side) which announce the approach of the Christian parade. Once again Shylock's intolerance motivates his plans: his daughter must especially not be standing at the windows ("casements"), nor hanging her head out the front door to watch the foolish, masked ("varnish'd faces") Christians march by.
- That ever holds: who riseth from a feast
With that keen appetite that he sits down?
Where is the horse that doth untread again
His tedious measures with the unbated fire
That he did pace them first? All things that are,
Are with more spirit chased than enjoy'd.
How like a younger or a prodigal
The scarfed bark puts from her native bay,
Hugg'd and embraced by the strumpet wind!
How like the prodigal doth she return,
With over-weather'd ribs and ragged sails,
Lean, rent and beggar'd by the strumpet wind!
Salerio has just told Gratiano that he is surprised that Launcelot is late, as people in love are always in a hurry (to get back to their absent lovers); Gratiano agrees with Salerio, extending the comparison to the appetite experienced before and after a feast and then to the speed and enthusiasm of a horse as he first begins his paces to his later repetitions. Gratiano expands his comparison to a general statement which declares that all events are better in the anticipation than their performance ("more spirit chased than enjoy'd"). Gratiano then declares that a merchant ship ("bark") is merrier decked out in flags ("scarfed") and in better repair when it embarks than when, like the prodigal son, the ship returns to port lean, and looks like a beggar who has been battered to tatters by wind and weather.
- But love is blind and lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit;
For if they could, Cupid himself would blush
To see me thus transformed to a boy.
Jessica feels embarrassed in her boy's clothes and declares to Lorenzo that lovers cannot recognize their own foolishness due to the blindness of love; if lovers could see themselves in a dispassionate light, even Cupid would blush at folly like hers which called for boys' clothing.
- What, must I hold a candle to my shames?
Lorenzo tells Jessica that she needs to descend in order to be his torchbearer in the parade and Jessica pleads with Lorenzo, asking him if it is really necessary to hold up a candle to her own shame.
- Men that hazard all
Do it in hope of fair advantages:
A golden mind stoops not to shows of dross;
I'll then nor give nor hazard aught for lead.
Morocco is reading the casket inscriptions trying to pry the truth out of riddles and choose the casket which contains Portia's pictureappropriately representing Portia herself whose betrothal is the grand prize. The leaden casket admonishes the hopeful that he who chooses the lead must "hazard all he hath." Morocco says to himself that "a golden mind stoops not to shows of dross," and so decides that being golden, he will not lower himself and risk everything on the unappealing baseness of lead, thus assuming that the exterior is a reflection of the value within.
- All that glitters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been inscroll'd:
Fare you well; your suit is cold."
Morocco's wrong choice, the golden casket, holds a scroll which points out in rhyme the foolishness of his choice, beginning with the famous phrase, "All that glitters is not gold," followed by eight more lines ending in words which rhyme with "gold," which gives the words a sing-song, I-told-you-so effect. The lyrics say that everyone has heard this phrase "All that glitters is not gold," so the phrase is already famous, yet men sell their lives for gold, just to gaze upon gold from the outside when inside worms (agents of decay) may reside. The scroll speaks directly to Morocco, who has made the wrong choice, because he is easily fooled by exteriors (appearances) and not as "wise" as he is "bold" (to take on the challenge in the first place). The scroll bids the suitor farewell, saying the his only chance is over ("your suit is cold").
- I never heard a passion so confused,
So strange, outrageous, and so variable,
As the dog Jew did utter in the streets:
"My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!
Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats!
Justice! the law! my ducats, and my daughter!
A sealed bag, two sealed bags of ducats,
Of double ducats, stolen from me by my daughter!
And jewels, two stones, two rich and precious stones,
Stolen by my daughter! Justice! find the girl;
She hath the stones upon her, and the ducats."
Solanio tells Salerio that Shylock was so upset when he discovered that his daughter had run away with a Christian and had stolen his money and jewels to finance the trip, that he was howling incoherently in the street repeating the words, "Justice! the law! my ducats, and my daughter!"; people could not tell what he missed most.
- "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
The Prince of Arragon is trying to decipher the meaning of the words on the gold casket; he distrusts the word "many" before "men" as he knows the desires of crowds are governed by the grossest exterior standards of appearance ("show") only.
- I will not choose what many men desire,
Because I will not jump with common spirits
And rank me with the barbarous multitudes.
Prince Arragon is deciding whether or not to choose the gold casket when he decides against siding with the many because he identifies the tastes of crowds as unsophisticated ("common") and uncivilized ("barbarous").
- Let none presume
To wear an undeserved dignity.
O, that estates, degrees and offices
Were not deriv'd corruptly, and that clear honor
Were purchased by the merit of the wearer!
While Arragon is trying to decide whether or not to choose the silver casket ("Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves"), he considers the import of "deserves," declaring that "estates, degrees and offices" are not purchased commodities, not "undeserved dignity," but "clear honor," earned by "merit." Arragon laps up his own reasoning about deserved merit, declaring that he is deserving, so this casket must hold his well-deserved prize.
- Some there be that shadows kiss;
Such have but a shadow's bliss
The scroll Arragon finds within the silver casket announces his wrong choice in words just as enigmatic as the hint, ("Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves") when it includes a couplet about shadows for the loser, which implies that the successful contender will want more quietude than can be provided by a shadow's kiss, which by its very nature (having no separate existence of its own after the sun and moon set) can provide only temporary bliss.
- a beggar, that was used to come so smug upon
the mart; let him look to his bond: he was wont to
call me usurer; let him look to his bond: he was
wont to lend money for a Christian cur'sy; let him
look to his bond.
Shylock lists Antonio's offences for Salerio, demanding Antonio "look to his bond" (the contract he signed which included a pound of Antonio's flesh as forfeiture) in between listing Antonio's next fault; Shylock repeating the same words over as a refrain alters their meaningturning them into a threat, as if Antonio should be wondering whether he could survive a one pound reduction.
- I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
he same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
Shylock seems to be justifying the revenge he has planned for Antonio in advance, as he seems to be desperately excusing himself by asking if Jews are any different from Christians in a series of rhetorical questions which query their parallel experiences.
- If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction.
Again Shylock seems to be rationalizing his future actions in advance, saying that any villainy practiced through revenge by a Jew (such as himself) would have been learned at the hands of Christians (such as his listeners, Salerio and Solanio) although Shylock plans to improve ("better") upon his instructionanother statement which sounds like a threat.
- Tubal: it was my
turquoise; I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor:
I would not have given it for a
wilderness of monkeys.
Shylock has just received the news from his servant, Tubal, that his daughter traded his turquoise (which she stole from Shylock when she eloped) for a monkey. Shylock says that his wife gave it to him before they were married and that he would not trade it for a whole wilderness full of monkeys.
- There's something tells me, but it is not love,
I would not lose you; and you know yourself,
Hate counsels not in such a quality.
Portia is beseeching Bassanio not to hazard a guess, as something is telling her (not the voice of love) that she will lose him; Portia assures him "hate" would not give such advice ("counsel").
- Let music sound while he doth make his choice;
Then, if he lose, he makes a swan-like end
Fading in music
Portia announces to all present that music shall play as Bassanio makes his choice, so if he goes down to defeat, at least he will go down elegantlylike a swan singing the last song he will ever sing.
- Tell me where is fancy bred,
Or in the heart, or in the head?
How begot, how nourished?
[All.] Reply, reply.
It is engend'red in the eyes,
With gazing fed; and fancy dies
In the cradle where it lies.
"Tell me where is fancy (infatuation or love) bred" is the first line of the song the musicians sing upon Portia's order that music be played while Bassanio makes his choice. The next line of lyric asks where love beginsin the heart or the brain. How love begins and, once begun, what keeps it going is the final question. The answer is that infatuation is generated by eyesight, and is fed by continued gazing. Fancy dies in the infant's cradle when sexual infatuation is transformed into a baby.
- In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil?
As Bassanio is making his casket selection, he considers how easily people are fooled by ornamentation: in law the ornament is the "gracious voice"speech characterized by courtesy or civility, which obscures the corruption or tainted truth that may lie at the heart of the legal matter.
- There is no vice so simple but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts
Bassanio who is still considering his choice of caskets in his speech about man's weakness for ornamentation, argues further that no vice exists without an alluring exterior.
- Thus ornament is but the guiled shore
To a most dangerous sea; the beauteous scarf
Veiling an Indian beauty; in a word,
The seeming truth which cunning times put on
To entrap the wisest.
Bassanio continues his meditation upon the influence of ornamentation in the choices men make, saying that the beguiled ("guiled") shore is the epitome of ornamentation which enchants men upon "a most dangerous sea" (bordered all around by the ornamented shore), which is parallel to the enchantment provided by a beautiful scarf veiling "an Indian beauty," and also parallels the current "cunning times" which disguise truth and trap the wisest of men with their exterior ornamentation.
- How all the other passions fleet to air,
As doubtful thoughts, and rash-embraced despair,
And shuddering fear, and green-eyed jealousy!
Portia is trying to calm the rush of emotions which overtake her when she witnesses Bassanio's correct choice of the lead casket, the least ornamented choice, but the correct response for Portia's hand in marriage.
- Is an unlesson'd girl, unschool'd, unpractised;
Happy in this, she is not yet so old
But she may learn; happier than this,
She is not bred so dull but she can learn
Portia is desperately seeking her own strong points, acknowledging that she is an unschooled girl, but she has youth and breeding on her side, which may grant her the ability to learn from her mistakes.
- Here are a few of the unpleasant'st words
That ever blotted paper! Gentle lady Gentle lady,
When I did first impart my love to you,
I freely told you, all the wealth I had
Ran in my veins
Bassanio has just received a letter from Antonio and is trying to explain to Portia how he caused Antonio's current trouble with Shylock. First Bassanio exclaims how these are the worst words he has ever seen in a letter and then he asks Portia if she remembers when he first told her of his love, that he did not pretend to be rich: he told her all the riches he possessed ran in his veins. In other words, he is a gentleman by birth, but destitute.
- I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond.
Thou call'dst me dog before thou hadst a cause;
But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs:
The duke shall grant me justice.
Antonio is trying to get Shylock to listen to him, but Shylock is too busy working himself up into a frenzyrepeating "I will have my bond," and accusing Antonio of calling him a dog before he had a reason to treat him like a dog. Shylock then warns Antonio to watch out for his fangsthe enforcement of his forfeiture, which calls for a pound of Antonio's flesh.
- Truly then I fear you are damned both by father and
mother: thus when I shun Scylla, your father, I
fall into Charybdis, your mother: well, you are
gone both ways.
Launcelot, the clown, has just suggested to Jessica that Shylock might not be her biological father and Jessica has replied that means she will be visited by the sins of her mother. Launcelot then says that he fears she is damned by both parents: to escape her father, Scylla (a sea-monster), she must fall into Charybdis (a whirlpool), so Jessica is doomed either way. [Greek mythology says the Charybdis was a whirlpool off the Sicilian coast, personified as a ship-devouring sea monster and located opposite the cave of Scylla, so avoiding one without falling prey to the other was problematic.]
- Some men there are love not a gaping pig;
Some, that are mad if they behold a cat;
And others, when the bagpipe sings i' the nose,
Cannot contain their urine: for affection,
Mistress of passion, sways it to the mood
Of what it likes or loathes. Now, for your answer:
As there is no firm reason to be render'd,
Why he cannot abide a gaping pig;
Why he, a harmless necessary cat;
The Duke has just asked Shylock why he would prefer a pound of flesh to 3,000 ducats and Shylock has just said he will not give a reason, but he keeps on talking anyway, comparing his "humour" (his desire for Antonio's flesh) to other people's unreasonable fears of cats, pigs and bagpipe playing.
Do all men kill the things they do not love?
Hates any man the thing he would not kill?
After Shylock finishes his long explanation that does not explain why he insists upon Antonio's pound of flesh, Bassanio calls him on it, saying that his answer explains nothing and there is no excuse for his "current" of "cruelty." Shylock retorts that his answers do not have to please Bassanio which is when Bassanio asks the cryptic question, "Do all men kill the things they do not love?" Bassanio is saying that hate is not a sufficient reason to kill; Shylock's comeback seems straightforward, but is contrary to his position, so once again Shylock uses clever responses to obscure, instead of elucidating his true motive.
Every offence is not a hate at first.
What, wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?
The contest of wills continues between Bassanio and Shylock when Bassanio declares that it takes more than one offense to build up to hate and Shylock asks Bassanio if a serpent has to sting him twice before he gets the message.
- I am a tainted wether of the flock,
Meetest for death: the weakest kind of fruit
Drops earliest to the ground; and so let me
You cannot better be employ'd, Bassanio,
Than to live still and write mine epitaph.
Antonio compares himself to the weakest sheep in the flock and the over ripe fruit about to drop, meaning he is close to death. Antonio encourages Bassanio to let him die, saying that Bassanio can live to write his epitaph.
- Thou almost makest me waver in my faith
To hold opinion with Pythagoras,
That souls of animals infuse themselves
Into the trunks of men
Gratiano is disgusted with Shylock, declaring that he might doubt his own religious beliefs because of Shylock's example and side with Pythagoras who believed in the transmigration of souls.
- I never knew so young a body with
so old a head.
The Duke is reading a letter from Bellario, a legal expert, which recommends the young but learned Balthasar (who is really Portia dressed as a man) as a respected legal consultant.
- The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.
Portia (dressed as Balthasar, the legal consultant) has just stated that the Jew must be merciful and Shylock has asked "on what compulsion"; this famous speech about mercy is Shylock's answer. Portia picks up the "compulsion" thread when she says the quality of mercy is not constrained ("strain'd"), but falls freely from heaven and is a double blessing because it blesses those who grant mercy and those who receive it. Mercy has the largest effect on the mighty ("'Tis mightiest in the mightiest"), perhaps because the decisions of those in power effect many people. Mercy "becomes" a king more than his crown, as it shows the king to the best advantage. Mercy is higher (both literally and figuratively) than the "sceptred sway," the awe and majesty represented by the royal staff, as mercy resides in the heart, and is an attribute of God; therefore, when mercy is added to the earthly power of justice, divinity is reflected. Portia tells Shylock that though he seeks justice, he should not expect "salvation" (deliverance of everything desired), but pray for mercy which should teach us all the importance extending mercy to others.
- Wrest once the law to your authority:
To do a great right, do a little wrong,
And curb this cruel devil of his will.
Bassanio has just told everyone that the Jew will not accept twice the sum owed and implores the Duke to unite his authority with the law, to "do a little wrong" in order to serve true justice ("a great right") and curb Shylock's cruel will, which does not accept compromise.
- A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel!
O wise young judge, how I do honor thee!
Shylock exclaims in delight when Portia (as Balthasar) declares that no power in Venice can alter an established decree. He honors the judge by calling him (her) Daniel, who in biblical times intervened in a case in order to save an innocent.
- How much more elder art thou than thy looks!
Portia has just stated that the bond appears to be in accordance with the lawa statement which elicits additional praise from Shylock who calls young Balthasar (Portia) "elder," meaning that she is unexpectedly wise for her years.
Is it so nominated in the bond?
It is not so express'd: but what of that?
'Twere good you do so much for charity.
I cannot find it; 'tis not in the bond.
Portia (as Balthasar) has just asked Shylock if he has a surgeon to keep Antonio from bleeding to death once the pound of flesh is cut away. Shylock asks if that requirement is stated in the bond and Portia responds that the bond does not spell out that requirement, but he should do it for the sake of "charity" (respect due a fellow human being). Once again Shylock responds that he cannot find it in the bond (which states all the legal requirements).
- Grieve not that I am fallen to this for you;
For herein Fortune shows herself more kind
Than is her custom: it is still her use
To let the wretched man outlive his wealth,
To view with hollow eye and wrinkled brow
An age of poverty; from which lingering penance
Of such misery doth she cut me off.
Antonio tells Bassanio not to grieve because this whole situation is his fault, but to celebrate his friend's good luck, as Fortune quite frequently lets old men outlive their wealth to die in poverty: Antonio will avoid this fate.
- I have a daughter;
Would any of the stock of Barrabas
Had been her husband rather than a Christian!
The talk turns to what a husband should or should not do, which causes Shylock to comment in an aside that he would rather have his daughter marry the worst kind of Jew in preference to a Christian (especially any of these Christians).
- O Jew! an upright judge, a learned judge!
Gratiano is mocking Shylock's previous words of praise for Balthasar, much like an audience boos the opposing team.
- Now, infidel, I have you on the hip.
Gratiano is cheering on his friend Antonio by calling Shylock an "infidel" and saying, essentially, "I gotcha!".
- A Daniel, still say I, a second Daniel!
I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.
Portia (as Balthasar) has just made Shylock's flesh forfeiture impossible; she has also denied Shylock the bond's original principal, so Gratiano is continuing to mock and taunt the Jew (mimicking his earlier allusion to Daniel as a compliment to Balthasar) and letting Shylock know that his losses are Gratiano's delight.
- Nay, take my life and all; pardon not that:
You take my house when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house; you take my life
When you do take the means whereby I live.
Portia (as Balthasar) has assigned half of Shylock's wealth to Antonio and the other half to the state; Portia has also ordered Shylock to beg mercy from the Duke to spare his life. The Duke pardons the Jew's life "before thou ask it," but Shylock declares that he should go ahead and take his life, as divesting him of his wealth robs him of the ability to make a living, which puts both his house and his life in jeopardy.
- He is well paid that is well satisfied;
And I, delivering you, am satisfied
Antonio has just thanked Portia (as Balthasar) by saying he will always be indebted to her in "love and service." Portia replies that saving his life is satisfaction enoughthe satisfaction itself makes her feel "well paid."
The moon shines bright: in such a night as this,
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees
And they did make no noise, in such a night
Troilus methinks mounted the Troyan walls
And sigh'd his soul toward the Grecian tents,
Where Cressid lay that night.
In such a night
Did Thisbe fearfully o'ertrip the dew
And saw the lion's shadow ere himself
And ran dismay'd away.
In such a night
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand
Upon the wild sea banks and waft her love
To come again to Carthage.
In such a night
Medea gather'd the enchanted herbs
That did renew old Aeson.
Lorenzo and Jessica are new lovers enjoying a balmy summer night together when Lorenzo brings up the names of famous lovers, saying that it must have been a night such as this that Troilus climbed a wall near Cressid's tent and sighed with his soul full of his love for her. Jessica returns that it must have been a night such as this that Thisbe, another famous but ill-fated lover, was on her way to see her lover when she was frightened by the shadow of a lion. Lorenzo counters that on such a night Dido, Queen of Carthage, stood on "the wild sea banks" wishing her lover home. Jessica then claims that on such a night Medea, an enchantress, gathered the magic herbs to bring youth to her lover's father. As Jessica later says, she and Lorenzo are out-nighting each other.
- How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patenes of bright gold:
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-ey'd cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
Lorenzo is once more putting the night into words as he speaks to Jessica, his love. He personifies the "sweet" moonlight, saying that it sleeps on the bank where they will sit and listen to the "soft stillness and the night," which shall become harmonic in their ears. He tells Jessica to sit and see how the "floor of heaven" seems to be composed of small, interwoven golden disks. Lorenzo declares that the motion of even the smallest celestial orb that she sees creates its own musical harmony, like the sound of angels singing to the cherubs; that same harmony exists in our immortal souls, but as long as we live and our souls are enclosed by our earthly bodies, we cannot hear the music of the spheres.
- I am never merry when I hear sweet music.
Jessica declares to Lorenzo that hearing sweet music never makes her happy, which gives Lorenzo a talking point for his following speech about music.
- The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted.
Lorenzo has just told Jessica that even a wild frolicking herd of horses will pause to listen to music, which makes the man who is not affected by music, which he describes next, seem particularly bereft. Lorenzo declares that a man without music or music appreciation is a born conniver, whose spirits are unresponsive (merriment was thought to enliven the spirits' motions within the body) and affections are as dark as the primeval darkness ("Erebus") itself: such men were not to be trusted.
- That light we see is burning in my hall.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
As Portia approaches her home, she exclaims to Nerissa how bright the small candle seems: Portia personifies the candle, saying that it "throws his beams," which reminds her of the metaphorical light of a good deed in a wicked world.
- The nightingale, if she should sing by day,
When every goose is cackling, would be thought
No better a musician than the wren.
How many things by season season'd are
To their right praise and true perfection!
Portia has just told Nerissa that the music emanating from her house sounds sweeter than it sounds during the day and Nerissa has said the improvement is due to the contrasting silence of the night. Along the same line of thinking, Portia says that a single birdsong is superior to the cacophony of many and then declares that the highly regarded nightingale call, sung beside a cackling goose (during the day) would lose its charm. She concludes that many events are perfected by occurring during their season (their appropriate time and place); the seasoning (the enhancement) of season makes it seem like nature knows exactly what it is doing by promoting beauty which deserves praise.
- This night methinks is but the daylight sick;
It looks a little paler: 'tis a day,
Such as the day is when the sun is hid.
Now Portia is putting the night into words when she says the night "is but the daylight sick" because it looks paler than usuallike a cloudy day.
- Let me give light, but let me not be light;
For a light wife doth make a heavy husband
Bassanio has just complimented his wife, saying that no sun is needed due to Portia's (metaphorical) light and Portia responds with a play on words, " Let me give light, but let me not be light," as being light was equivalent to wantonness which makes for a sad ("heavy") husband.
- Pardon me, good lady;
For, by these blessed candles of the night,
Had you been there, I think you would have begg'd
The ring of me to give the worthy doctor.
Bassanio is attempting to defend himself against Portia's alleged anger over his giving Balthazar, the doctor of law who saved Antonio's life, the ring which was his wife's first gift. Bassanio asks her pardon and swears by the "blessed candles of the night" that she would have begged him for the ring to give to the doctor had she been present. The audience is enjoying these ring discussions because Bassanio and Gratiano are the only ones who do not know Portia was disguised as the doctor and Nerissa played her clerk.