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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act V. Scene I.

The Merchant of Venice

Belmont.The Avenue to PORTIA’S House.


Lor.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.

Jes.In such a night

Did Thisbe fearfully o’ertrip the dew,

And saw the lion’s shadow ere himself,

And ran dismay’d away.

Lor.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.

Jes.In such a night

Medea gather’d the enchanted herbs

That did renew old Æson.

Lor.In such a night

Did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew,

And with an unthrift love did run from Venice,

As far as Belmont.

Jes.In such a night

Did young Lorenzo swear he lov’d her well,

Stealing her soul with many vows of faith,

And ne’er a true one.

Lor.In such a night

Did pretty Jessica, like a little shrew,

Slander her love, and he forgave it her.

Jes.I would out-night you, did no body come;

But, hark! I hear the footing of a man.


Lor.Who comes so fast in silence of the night?

Steph.A friend.

Lor.A friend! what friend? your name, I pray you, friend.

Steph.Stephano is my name; and I bring word

My mistress will before the break of day

Be here at Belmont: she doth stray about

By holy crosses, where she kneels and prays

For happy wedlock hours.

Lor.Who comes with her?

Steph.None, but a holy hermit and her maid.

I pray you, is my master yet return’d?

Lor.He is not, nor we have not heard from him.

But go we in, I pray thee, Jessica,

And ceremoniously let us prepare

Some welcome for the mistress of the house.


Laun.Sola, sola! wo ha, ho! sola, sola!

Lor.Who calls?

Laun.Sola! did you see Master Lorenzo?

Master Lorenzo! sola, sola!

Lor.Leave hollaing, man; here.

Laun.Sola! where? where?


Laun.Tell him there’s a post come from my master, with his horn full of good news: my master will be here ere morning.[Exit.

Lor.Sweet soul, let’s in, and there expect their coming.

And yet no matter; why should we go in?

My friend Stephano, signify, I pray you,

Within the house, your mistress is at hand;

And bring your music forth into the air.[Exit STEPHANO.

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 patines 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-eyed cherubins;

Such harmony is in immortal souls;

But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay

Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

Enter Musicians.

Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn:

With sweetest touches pierce your mistress’ ear,

And draw her home with music.[Music.

Jes.I am never merry when I hear sweet music.

Lor.The reason is, your spirits are attentive:

For do but note a wild and wanton herd,

Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,

Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,

Which is the hot condition of their blood;

If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,

Or any air of music touch their ears,

You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,

Their savage eyes turn’d to a modest gaze

By the sweet power of music: therefore the poet

Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones, and floods;

Since nought so stockish, hard, and full of rage,

But music for the time doth change his nature.

The man that hath no music in himself,

Nor is not mov’d 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. Mark the music.

Enter PORTIA and NERISSA, at a distance.

Por.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.

Ner.When the moon shone, we did not see the candle.

Por.So doth the greater glory dim the less:

A substitute shines brightly as a king

Until a king be by, and then his state

Empties itself, as doth an inland brook

Into the main of waters. Music! hark!

Ner.It is your music, madam, of the house.

Por.Nothing is good, I see, without respect:

Methinks it sounds much sweeter than by day.

Ner.Silence bestows that virtue on it, madam.

Por.The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark

When neither is attended, and I think

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!

Peace, ho! the moon sleeps with Endymion,

And would not be awak’d![Music ceases.

Lor.That is the voice,

Or I am much deceiv’d, of Portia.

Por.He knows me, as the blind man knows the cuckoo,

By the bad voice.

Lor.Dear lady, welcome home.

Por.We have been praying for our husbands’ welfare,

Which speed, we hope, the better for our words.

Are they return’d?

Lor.Madam, they are not yet;

But there is come a messenger before,

To signify their coming.

Por.Go in, Nerissa:

Give order to my servants that they take

No note at all of our being absent hence;

Nor you, Lorenzo; Jessica, nor you.[A tucket sounds.

Lor.Your husband is at hand; I hear his trumpet:

We are no tell-tales, madam; fear you not.

Por.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.

Enter BASSANIO, ANTONIO, GRATIANO, and their Followers.

Bass.We should hold day with the Antipodes,

If you would walk in absence of the sun.

Por.Let me give light, but let me not be light;

For a light wife doth make a heavy husband,

And never be Bassanio so for me:

But God sort all! You are welcome home, my lord.

Bass.I thank you, madam. Give welcome to my friend:

This is the man, this is Antonio,

To whom I am so infinitely bound.

Por.You should in all sense be much bound to him,

For, as I hear, he was much bound for you.

Ant.No more than I am well acquitted of.

Por.Sir, you are very welcome to our house:

It must appear in other ways than words,

Therefore I scant this breathing courtesy.

Gra.[To NERISSA.]By yonder moon I swear you do me wrong;

In faith, I gave it to the judge’s clerk:

Would he were gelt that had it, for my part,

Since you do take it, love, so much at heart.

Por.A quarrel, ho, already! what’s the matter?

Gra.About a hoop of gold, a paltry ring

That she did give me, whose poesy was

For all the world like cutlers’ poetry

Upon a knife, ‘Love me, and leave me not.’

Ner.What talk you of the posy, or the value?

You swore to me, when I did give it you,

That you would wear it till your hour of death,

And that it should lie with you in your grave:

Though not for me, yet for your vehement oaths,

You should have been respective and have kept it.

Gave it a judge’s clerk! no, God’s my judge,

The clerk will ne’er wear hair on ’s face that had it.

Gra.He will, an if he live to be a man.

Ner.Ay, if a woman live to be a man.

Gra.Now, by this hand, I gave it to a youth,

A kind of boy, a little scrubbed boy,

No higher than thyself, the judge’s clerk.

A prating boy, that begg’d it as a fee:

I could not for my heart deny it him.

Por.You were to blame,—I must be plain with you,—

To part so slightly with your wife’s first gift;

A thing stuck on with oaths upon your finger,

And riveted so with faith unto your flesh.

I gave my love a ring and made him swear

Never to part with it; and here he stands,

I dare be sworn for him he would not leave it

Nor pluck it from his finger for the wealth

That the world masters. Now, in faith, Gratiano,

You give your wife too unkind a cause of grief:

An ’twere to me, I should be mad at it.

Bass.[Aside.]Why, I were best to cut my left hand off,

And swear I lost the ring defending it.

Gra.My Lord Bassanio gave his ring away

Unto the judge that begg’d it, and indeed

Deserv’d it too; and then the boy, his clerk,

That took some pains in writing, he begg’d mine;

And neither man nor master would take aught

But the two rings.

Por.What ring gave you, my lord?

Not that, I hope, that you receiv’d of me.

Bass.If I could add a lie unto a fault,

I would deny it; but you see my finger

Hath not the ring upon it; it is gone.

Por.Even so void is your false heart of truth.

By heaven, I will ne’er come in your bed

Until I see the ring.

Ner.Nor I in yours,

Till I again see mine.

Bass.Sweet Portia,

If you did know to whom I gave the ring,

If you did know for whom I gave the ring,

And would conceive for what I gave the ring,

And how unwillingly I left the ring,

When naught would be accepted but the ring,

You would abate the strength of your displeasure.

Por.If you had known the virtue of the ring,

Or half her worthiness that gave the ring,

Or your own honour to contain the ring,

You would not then have parted with the ring.

What man is there so much unreasonable,

If you had pleas’d to have defended it

With any terms of zeal, wanted the modesty

To urge the thing held as a ceremony?

Nerissa teaches me what to believe:

I’ll die for ’t but some woman had the ring.

Bass.No, by my honour, madam, by my soul,

No woman had it; but a civil doctor,

Which did refuse three thousand ducats of me,

And begg’d the ring, the which I did deny him,

And suffer’d him to go displeas’d away;

Even he that did uphold the very life

Of my dear friend. What should I say, sweet lady?

I was enforc’d to send it after him;

I was beset with shame and courtesy;

My honour would not let ingratitude

So much besmear it. 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.

Por.Let not that doctor e’er come near my house.

Since he hath got the jewel that I lov’d,

And that which you did swear to keep for me,

I will become as liberal as you;

I’ll not deny him anything I have;

No, not my body, nor my husband’s bed.

Know him I shall, I am well sure of it:

Lie not a night from home; watch me like Argus:

If you do not, if I be left alone,

Now by mine honour, which is yet mine own,

I’ll have that doctor for my bedfellow.

Ner.And I his clerk; therefore be well advis’d

How you do leave me to mine own protection.

Gra.Well, do you so: let me not take him, then;

For if I do, I’ll mar the young clerk’s pen.

Ant.I am the unhappy subject of these quarrels.

Por.Sir, grieve not you; you are welcome notwithstanding.

Bass.Portia, forgive me this enforced wrong;

And in the hearing of these many friends,

I swear to thee, even by thine own fair eyes,

Wherein I see myself,—

Por.Mark you but that!

In both my eyes he doubly sees himself;

In each eye, one: swear by your double self,

And there’s an oath of credit.

Bass.Nay, but hear me:

Pardon this fault, and by my soul I swear

I never more will break an oath with thee.

Ant.I once did lend my body for his wealth,

Which, but for him that had your husband’s ring,

Had quite miscarried: I dare be bound again,

My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord

Will never more break faith advisedly.

Por.Then you shall be his surety. Give him this,

And bid him keep it better than the other.

Ant.Here, Lord Bassanio; swear to keep this ring.

Bass.By heaven! it is the same I gave the doctor!

Por.I had it of him: pardon me, Bassanio,

For, by this ring, the doctor lay with me.

Ner.And pardon me, my gentle Gratiano;

For that same scrubbed boy, the doctor’s clerk,

In lieu of this last night did lie with me.

Gra.Why, this is like the mending of highways

In summer, where the ways are fair enough.

What! are we cuckolds ere we have deserv’d it?

Por.Speak not so grossly. You are all amaz’d:

Here is a letter; read it at your leisure;

It comes from Padua, from Bellario:

There you shall find that Portia was the doctor,

Nerissa, there, her clerk: Lorenzo here

Shall witness I set forth as soon as you

And even but now return’d; I have not yet

Enter’d my house. Antonio, you are welcome;

And I have better news in store for you

Than you expect: unseal this letter soon;

There you shall find three of your argosies

Are richly come to harbour suddenly.

You shall not know by what strange accident

I chanced on this letter.

Ant.I am dumb.

Bass.Were you the doctor and I knew you not?

Gra.Were you the clerk that is to make me cuckold?

Ner.Ay; but the clerk that never means to do it,

Unless he live until he be a man.

Bass.Sweet doctor, you shall be my bedfellow:

When I am absent, then, lie with my wife.

Ant.Sweet lady, you have given me life and living;

For here I read for certain that my ships

Are safely come to road.

Por.How now, Lorenzo!

My clerk hath some good comforts too for you.

Ner.Ay, and I’ll give them him without a fee.

There do I give to you and Jessica,

From the rich Jew, a special deed of gift,

After his death, of all he dies possess’d of.

Lor.Fair ladies, you drop manna in the way

Of starved people.

Por.It is almost morning,

And yet I am sure you are not satisfied

Of these events at full. Let us go in;

And charge us there upon inter’gatories,

And we will answer all things faithfully.

Gra.Let it be so: the first inter’gatory

That my Nerissa shall be sworn on is,

Whe’r till the next night she had rather stay,

Or go to bed now, being two hours to day:

But were the day come, I should wish it dark,

That I were couching with the doctor’s clerk.

Well, while I live I’ll fear no other thing

So sore as keeping safe Nerissa’s ring.[Exeunt.