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Read The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Part 343

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Venice. A street


SALERIO. Why, man, I saw Ba.s.sanio under sail; With him is Gratiano gone along; And in their ship I am sure Lorenzo is not.

SOLANIO. The villain Jew with outcries rais’d the Duke, Who went with him to search Ba.s.sanio’s ship.

SALERIO. He came too late, the ship was under sail; But there the Duke was given to understand That in a gondola were seen together Lorenzo and his amorous Jessica; Besides, Antonio certified the Duke They were not with Ba.s.sanio in his ship.

SOLANIO. I never heard a pa.s.sion so confus’d, 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, stol’n from me by my daughter!

And jewels- two stones, two rich and precious stones, Stol’n by my daughter! Justice! Find the girl; She hath the stones upon her and the ducats.’

SALERIO. Why, all the boys in Venice follow him, Crying, his stones, his daughter, and his ducats.

SOLANIO. Let good Antonio look he keep his day, Or he shall pay for this.

SALERIO. Marry, well rememb’red; I reason’d with a Frenchman yesterday, Who told me, in the narrow seas that part The French and English, there miscarried A vessel of our country richly fraught.

I thought upon Antonio when he told me, And wish’d in silence that it were not his.

SOLANIO. You were best to tell Antonio what you hear; Yet do not suddenly, for it may grieve him.

SALERIO. A kinder gentleman treads not the earth.

I saw Ba.s.sanio and Antonio part.

Ba.s.sanio told him he would make some speed Of his return. He answered ‘Do not so; Slubber not business for my sake, Ba.s.sanio, But stay the very riping of the time; And for the Jew’s bond which he hath of me, Let it not enter in your mind of love; Be merry, and employ your chiefest thoughts To courtship, and such fair ostents of love As shall conveniently become you there.’

And even there, his eye being big with tears, Turning his face, he put his hand behind him, And with affection wondrous sensible He wrung Ba.s.sanio’s hand; and so they parted.

SOLANIO. I think he only loves the world for him.

I pray thee, let us go and find him out, And quicken his embraced heaviness With some delight or other.

SALERIO. Do we so. Exeunt


Belmont. PORTIA’S house


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

Flourish of cornets. Enter the PRINCE OF ARRAGON, PORTIA, and their trains

PORTIA. Behold, there stand the caskets, n.o.ble Prince.

If you choose that wherein I am contain’d, Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemniz’d; But if you fail, without more speech, my lord, You must be gone from hence immediately.

ARRAGON. I am enjoin’d by oath to observe three things: First, never to unfold to any one 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, Immediately to leave you and be gone.

PORTIA. To these injunctions every one doth swear That comes to hazard for my worthless self.

ARRAGON. And so have I address’d me. Fortune now To my heart’s hope! Gold, silver, and base lead.

‘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 mult.i.tude, that choose by show, Not learning more than the fond eye doth teach; 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 And rank me with the barbarous mult.i.tudes.

Why, then to thee, thou silver treasure-house!

Tell me once more what t.i.tle 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 Without the stamp of merit? Let none presume To wear an undeserved dignity.

O that estates, degrees, and offices, Were not deriv’d corruptly, and that clear honour Were purchas’d 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 From the true seed of honour! and how much honour Pick’d from the chaff and ruin of the times, To be new varnish’d! Well, but to my choice.

‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.’

I will a.s.sume desert. Give me a key for this, And instantly unlock my fortunes here.

[He opens the silver casket]

PORTIA. [Aside] Too long a pause for that which you find there.

ARRAGON. What’s here? The portrait of a blinking idiot Presenting me a schedule! I will read it.

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?

PORTIA. To offend and judge are distinct offices And of opposed natures.

ARRAGON. What is here? [Reads]

‘The fire seven times tried this; 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 Silver’d 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.’

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. Exit with his train

PORTIA. Thus hath the candle sing’d the moth.

O, these deliberate fools! When they do choose, They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.

NERISSA. The ancient saying is no heresy: Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.

PORTIA. Come, draw the curtain, Nerissa.


SERVANT. Where is my lady?

PORTIA. Here; what would my lord?

SERVANT. 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; To wit, besides commends and courteous breath, Gifts of rich value. Yet I have not seen So likely an amba.s.sador 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.

PORTIA. No more, I pray thee; I am half afeard 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.

NERISSA. Ba.s.sanio, Lord Love, if thy will it be! Exeunt



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