William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, famous for the lines, "prick us do we not laugh, wrong us will we not avenge", tells the story of love, honour and justice.
William Shakespeare's plays, sonnets and poems at AbsoluteShakespeare.com
Home Plays Sonnets Poems Quotes Summaries Essays Glossary Links Help

HOME > Plays > The Merchant of Venice > Act I. Scene II.

The Merchant of Venice

Study Guides
Julius Caesar
King Henry IV
King Lear
Merchant of Venice
Romeo and Juliet
The Tempest
Twelfth Night

Bard Facts
Globe Theatre

Act I. Scene II.

Scene II.—Belmont. A Room in PORTIA'S


Por. By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is
aweary of this great world.
Ner. You would be, sweet madam, if your
miseries were in the same abundance as your
good fortunes 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 happi-
ness therefore, to be seated in the mean:
superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but
competency lives longer.
Por. Good sentences and well pronounced.
Ner. They would be better if well followed.
Por, 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 that follows his own instructions: I
can easier teach twenty what were good to be
done, than 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 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 whom I would nor refuse whom
I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter
curbed by the will of a dead father. Is it not
hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor
refuse none?
Ner. 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 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 come?
Por. I pray thee, over-name them, and as
thou namest them, I will describe them; and,
according to my description, level at my affection.
Ner. First, there is the Neapolitan prince.
Por. Ay, 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.
Ner. Then is there the County Palatine.
Por. He doth nothing but frown, as who
should say, 'An you will not have me, choose.'
He hears merry tales, and smiles not: I fear he
will prove the weeping philosopher when he
grows old, being so 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!
Ner. How say you by the French lord,
Monsieur Le Bon?
Por. 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 the Count Palatine; he is every
man in no man; if a throstle sing, he falls
straight a-capering; 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 madness,
I shall Dever requite him.
Ner. What say you, then, to Falconbridge,
the young baron of England?
Por. You know I say nothing to him, for he
understands not me, nor I him: he hath neither
Latin, 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, his round hose in
France, his bonnet in Germany, and his be-
haviour every where.
Ner. What think you of the Scottish lord, his
Por. That he hath a neighbourly charity in
him, for 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 be-
came his surety and sealed under for another.
Ner. How like yon the young German, the
Duke of Saxony's nephew?
Por. 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 the worst fall that ever
fell, I hope I shall make shift to go without him.
Ner. 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
Por. Therefore, 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.
Ner. You 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 father's imposition depending on the
Por. 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 but I dote on his very
absence, and I pray God grant them a fair
Ner. Do you not remember, lady, in your
father's time, a Venetian, a scholar and a soldier,
that came hither in the company of the Marquis
of Montferrat?
Por. Yes, yes: it was Bassanio; as I think he
was so called.
Ner. True, madam: he, of all the men that
ever my foolish eyes looked upon, was the best
deserving a fair lady.
Por. I remember him well, and I remember
him worthy of thy praise.

Enter a Servant.
How now! what news?
Serv. The four strangers seek for you, madam,
to take their leave; and there is a forerunner
come from a fifth, the Prince of Morocco, who
brings word the prince his master will be here
Por. If I could bid the fifth welcome with so
good heart as I can bid the other four farewell,
I should be glad of Ids approach: if he have the
condition of a saint and the complexion of a de-
vil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me.
Come, Nerissa. Sirrah, go before.
Whiles we shut the gate upon one wooer, another
knocks at the door. [Exeunt.
Copyright 2000-2005 AbsoluteShakespeare.com. All rights reserved.  Contact Us  Privacy  Awards