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The Merchant of Venice

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ACT IV SCENE I Venice. A court of justice. 
[ Enter the DUKE, the Magnificoes, ANTONIO, BASSANIO, GRATIANO, SALERIO, and others ]
DUKEWhat, is Antonio here?
ANTONIOReady, so please your grace.
DUKEI am sorry for thee: thou art come to answer
A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch
uncapable of pity, void and empty
From any dram of mercy.
ANTONIOI have heard
Your grace hath ta'en great pains to qualify
His rigorous course; but since he stands obdurate
And that no lawful means can carry me
Out of his envy's reach, I do oppose10
My patience to his fury, and am arm'd
To suffer, with a quietness of spirit,
The very tyranny and rage of his.
DUKEGo one, and call the Jew into the court.
SALERIOHe is ready at the door: he comes, my lord.
DUKEMake room, and let him stand before our face.
Shylock, the world thinks, and I think so too,
That thou but lead'st this fashion of thy malice
To the last hour of act; and then 'tis thought
Thou'lt show thy mercy and remorse more strange20
Than is thy strange apparent cruelty;
And where thou now exact'st the penalty,
Which is a pound of this poor merchant's flesh,
Thou wilt not only loose the forfeiture,
But, touch'd with human gentleness and love,
Forgive a moiety of the principal;
Glancing an eye of pity on his losses,
That have of late so huddled on his back,
Enow to press a royal merchant down
And pluck commiseration of his state30
From brassy bosoms and rough hearts of flint,
From stubborn Turks and Tartars, never train'd
To offices of tender courtesy.
We all expect a gentle answer, Jew.
SHYLOCKI have possess'd your grace of what I purpose;
And by our holy Sabbath have I sworn
To have the due and forfeit of my bond:
If you deny it, let the danger light
Upon your charter and your city's freedom.
You'll ask me, why I rather choose to have40
A weight of carrion flesh than to receive
Three thousand ducats: I'll not answer that:
But, say, it is my humour: is it answer'd?
What if my house be troubled with a rat
And I be pleased to give ten thousand ducats
To have it baned? What, are you answer'd yet?
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,50
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;
Why he, a woollen bagpipe; but of force
Must yield to such inevitable shame

As to offend, himself being offended;
So can I give no reason, nor I will not,
More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing60
I bear Antonio, that I follow thus
A losing suit against him. Are you answer'd?
BASSANIOThis is no answer, thou unfeeling man,
To excuse the current of thy cruelty.
SHYLOCKI am not bound to please thee with my answers.
BASSANIODo all men kill the things they do not love?
SHYLOCKHates any man the thing he would not kill?
BASSANIOEvery offence is not a hate at first.
SHYLOCKWhat, wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?
ANTONIOI pray you, think you question with the Jew:70
You may as well go stand upon the beach
And bid the main flood bate his usual height;
You may as well use question with the wolf
Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb;
You may as well forbid the mountain pines
To wag their high tops and to make no noise,
When they are fretten with the gusts of heaven;
You may as well do anything most hard,
As seek to soften that--than which what's harder?--
His Jewish heart: therefore, I do beseech you,80
Make no more offers, use no farther means,
But with all brief and plain conveniency
Let me have judgment and the Jew his will.
BASSANIOFor thy three thousand ducats here is six.
SHYLOCKWhat judgment shall I dread, doing
Were in six parts and every part a ducat,
I would not draw them; I would have my bond.
DUKEHow shalt thou hope for mercy, rendering none?
SHYLOCKWhat judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?
You have among you many a purchased slave,90
Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,
You use in abject and in slavish parts,
Because you bought them: shall I say to you,
Let them be free, marry them to your heirs?
Why sweat they under burthens? let their beds
Be made as soft as yours and let their palates
Be season'd with such viands? You will answer
'The slaves are ours:' so do I answer you:
The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,
Is dearly bought; 'tis mine and I will have it.100
If you deny me, fie upon your law!
There is no force in the decrees of Venice.
I stand for judgment: answer; shall I have it?
DUKEUpon my power I may dismiss this court,
Unless Bellario, a learned doctor,
Whom I have sent for to determine this,
Come here to-day.
SALERIOMy lord, here stays without
A messenger with letters from the doctor,
New come from Padua.
DUKEBring us the letter; call the messenger.110
BASSANIOGood cheer, Antonio! What, man, courage yet!
The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones and all,
Ere thou shalt lose for me one drop of blood.
ANTONIOI 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.120
[Enter NERISSA, dressed like a lawyer's clerk]
DUKECame you from Padua, from Bellario?
NERISSAFrom both, my lord. Bellario greets your grace.
[Presenting a letter]
BASSANIOWhy dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?
SHYLOCKTo cut the forfeiture from that bankrupt there.
GRATIANONot on thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew,
Thou makest thy knife keen; but no metal can,
No, not the hangman's axe, bear half the keenness
Of thy sharp envy. Can no prayers pierce thee?
SHYLOCKNo, none that thou hast wit enough to make.
GRATIANOO, be thou damn'd, inexecrable dog!
And for thy life let justice be accused.
Thou almost makest me waver in my faith130
To hold opinion with Pythagoras,
That souls of animals infuse themselves
Into the trunks of men: thy currish spirit
Govern'd a wolf, who, hang'd for human slaughter,
Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet,
And, whilst thou lay'st in thy unhallow'd dam,
Infused itself in thee; for thy desires
Are wolvish, bloody, starved and ravenous.
SHYLOCKTill thou canst rail the seal from off my bond,
Thou but offend'st thy lungs to speak so loud:140
Repair thy wit, good youth, or it will fall
To cureless ruin. I stand here for law.
DUKEThis letter from Bellario doth commend
A young and learned doctor to our court.
Where is he?
NERISSAHe attendeth here hard by,
To know your answer, whether you'll admit him.
DUKEWith all my heart. Some three or four of you
Go give him courteous conduct to this place.
Meantime the court shall hear Bellario's letter.
Your grace shall understand that at the receipt of150
your letter I am very sick: but in the instant that
your messenger came, in loving visitation was with
me a young doctor of Rome; his name is Balthasar. I
acquainted him with the cause in controversy between
the Jew and Antonio the merchant: we turned o'er
many books together: he is furnished with my
opinion; which, bettered with his own learning, the
greatness whereof I cannot enough commend, comes
with him, at my importunity, to fill up your grace's160
request in my stead. I beseech you, let his lack of
years be no impediment to let him lack a reverend
estimation; for I never knew so young a body with so
old a head. I leave him to your gracious
acceptance, whose trial shall better publish his
DUKEYou hear the learn'd Bellario, what he writes:
And here, I take it, is the doctor come.
[Enter PORTIA, dressed like a doctor of laws]
Give me your hand. Come you from old Bellario?
PORTIAI did, my lord.
DUKEYou are welcome: take your place.170
Are you acquainted with the difference
That holds this present question in the court?
PORTIAI am informed thoroughly of the cause.
Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?
DUKEAntonio and old Shylock, both stand forth.
PORTIAIs your name Shylock?
SHYLOCKShylock is my name.
PORTIAOf a strange nature is the suit you follow;
Yet in such rule that the Venetian law
Cannot impugn you as you do proceed.
You stand within his danger, do you not?180
ANTONIOAy, so he says.
PORTIADo you confess the bond?
PORTIAThen must the Jew be merciful.
SHYLOCKOn what compulsion must I? tell me that.
PORTIAThe 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,190
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;200
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.
SHYLOCKMy deeds upon my head! I crave the law,
The penalty and forfeit of my bond.
PORTIAIs he not able to discharge the money?
BASSANIOYes, here I tender it for him in the court;
Yea, twice the sum: if that will not suffice,210
I will be bound to pay it ten times o'er,
On forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart:
If this will not suffice, it must appear
That malice bears down truth. And I beseech you,
Wrest once the law to your authority:
To do a great right, do a little wrong,
And curb this cruel devil of his will.
PORTIAIt must not be; there is no power in Venice
Can alter a decree established:
'Twill be recorded for a precedent,220
And many an error by the same example
Will rush into the state: it cannot be.
SHYLOCKA Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel!
O wise young judge, how I do honour thee!
PORTIAI pray you, let me look upon the bond.
SHYLOCKHere 'tis, most reverend doctor, here it is.
PORTIAShylock, there's thrice thy money offer'd thee.
SHYLOCKAn oath, an oath, I have an oath in heaven:
Shall I lay perjury upon my soul?
No, not for Venice.
PORTIAWhy, this bond is forfeit;230
And lawfully by this the Jew may claim
A pound of flesh, to be by him cut off
Nearest the merchant's heart. Be merciful:
Take thrice thy money; bid me tear the bond.
SHYLOCKWhen it is paid according to the tenor.
It doth appear you are a worthy judge;
You know the law, your exposition
Hath been most sound: I charge you by the law,
Whereof you are a well-deserving pillar,
Proceed to judgment: by my soul I swear240
There is no power in the tongue of man
To alter me: I stay here on my bond.
ANTONIOMost heartily I do beseech the court
To give the judgment.
PORTIAWhy then, thus it is:
You must prepare your bosom for his knife.
SHYLOCKO noble judge! O excellent young man!
PORTIAFor the intent and purpose of the law
Hath full relation to the penalty,
Which here appeareth due upon the bond.
SHYLOCK'Tis very true: O wise and upright judge!250
How much more elder art thou than thy looks!
PORTIATherefore lay bare your bosom.
SHYLOCKAy, his breast:
So says the bond: doth it not, noble judge?
'Nearest his heart:' those are the very words.
PORTIAIt is so. Are there balance here to weigh
The flesh?
SHYLOCKI have them ready.
PORTIAHave by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge,
To stop his wounds, lest he do bleed to death.
SHYLOCKIs it so nominated in the bond?
PORTIAIt is not so express'd: but what of that?260
'Twere good you do so much for charity.
SHYLOCKI cannot find it; 'tis not in the bond.
PORTIAYou, merchant, have you any thing to say?
ANTONIOBut little: I am arm'd and well prepared.
Give me your hand, Bassanio: fare you well!
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 brow270
An age of poverty; from which lingering penance
Of such misery doth she cut me off.
Commend me to your honourable wife:
Tell her the process of Antonio's end;
Say how I loved you, speak me fair in death;
And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge
Whether Bassanio had not once a love.
Repent but you that you shall lose your friend,
And he repents not that he pays your debt;
For if the Jew do cut but deep enough,280
I'll pay it presently with all my heart.
BASSANIOAntonio, I am married to a wife
Which is as dear to me as life itself;
But life itself, my wife, and all the world,
Are not with me esteem'd above thy life:
I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all
Here to this devil, to deliver you.
PORTIAYour wife would give you little thanks for that,
If she were by, to hear you make the offer.
GRATIANOI have a wife, whom, I protest, I love:290
I would she were in heaven, so she could
Entreat some power to change this currish Jew.
NERISSA'Tis well you offer it behind her back;
The wish would make else an unquiet house.
SHYLOCKThese be the Christian husbands. I have a daughter;
Would any of the stock of Barrabas
Had been her husband rather than a Christian!
We trifle time: I pray thee, pursue sentence.
PORTIAA pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine:
The court awards it, and the law doth give it.300
SHYLOCKMost rightful judge!
PORTIAAnd you must cut this flesh from off his breast:
The law allows it, and the court awards it.
SHYLOCKMost learned judge! A sentence! Come, prepare!
PORTIATarry a little; there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are 'a pound of flesh:'
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;
But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate311
Unto the state of Venice.
GRATIANOO upright judge! Mark, Jew: O learned judge!
SHYLOCKIs that the law?
PORTIAThyself shalt see the act:
For, as thou urgest justice, be assured
Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desirest.
GRATIANOO learned judge! Mark, Jew: a learned judge!
SHYLOCKI take this offer, then; pay the bond thrice
And let the Christian go.
BASSANIOHere is the money.
The Jew shall have all justice; soft! no haste:
He shall have nothing but the penalty.
GRATIANOO Jew! an upright judge, a learned judge!
PORTIATherefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh.
Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more
But just a pound of flesh: if thou cut'st more
Or less than a just pound, be it but so much
As makes it light or heavy in the substance,
Or the division of the twentieth part
Of one poor scruple, nay, if the scale do turn330
But in the estimation of a hair,
Thou diest and all thy goods are confiscate.
GRATIANOA second Daniel, a Daniel, Jew!
Now, infidel, I have you on the hip.
PORTIAWhy doth the Jew pause? take thy forfeiture.
SHYLOCKGive me my principal, and let me go.
BASSANIOI have it ready for thee; here it is.
PORTIAHe hath refused it in the open court:
He shall have merely justice and his bond.
GRATIANOA Daniel, still say I, a second Daniel!340
I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.
SHYLOCKShall I not have barely my principal?
PORTIAThou shalt have nothing but the forfeiture,
To be so taken at thy peril, Jew.
SHYLOCKWhy, then the devil give him good of it!
I'll stay no longer question.
PORTIATarry, Jew:
The law hath yet another hold on you.
It is enacted in the laws of Venice,
If it be proved against an alien
That by direct or indirect attempts350
He seek the life of any citizen,
The party 'gainst the which he doth contrive
Shall seize one half his goods; the other half
Comes to the privy coffer of the state;
And the offender's life lies in the mercy
Of the duke only, 'gainst all other voice.
In which predicament, I say, thou stand'st;
For it appears, by manifest proceeding,
That indirectly and directly too
Thou hast contrived against the very life
Of the defendant; and thou hast incurr'd
The danger formerly by me rehearsed.
Down therefore and beg mercy of the duke.
GRATIANOBeg that thou mayst have leave to hang thyself:
And yet, thy wealth being forfeit to the state,
Thou hast not left the value of a cord;
Therefore thou must be hang'd at the state's charge.
DUKEThat thou shalt see the difference of our spirits,
I pardon thee thy life before thou ask it:
For half thy wealth, it is Antonio's;370
The other half comes to the general state,
Which humbleness may drive unto a fine.
PORTIAAy, for the state, not for Antonio.
SHYLOCKNay, 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.
PORTIAWhat mercy can you render him, Antonio?
GRATIANOA halter gratis; nothing else, for God's sake.
ANTONIOSo please my lord the duke and all the court380
To quit the fine for one half of his goods,
I am content; so he will let me have
The other half in use, to render it,
Upon his death, unto the gentleman
That lately stole his daughter:
Two things provided more, that, for this favour,
He presently become a Christian;
The other, that he do record a gift,
Here in the court, of all he dies possess'd,
Unto his son Lorenzo and his daughter.390
DUKEHe shall do this, or else I do recant
The pardon that I late pronounced here.
PORTIAArt thou contented, Jew? what dost thou say?
SHYLOCKI am content.
PORTIAClerk, draw a deed of gift.
SHYLOCKI pray you, give me leave to go from hence;
I am not well: send the deed after me,
And I will sign it.
DUKEGet thee gone, but do it.
GRATIANOIn christening shalt thou have two god-fathers:
Had I been judge, thou shouldst have had ten more,
To bring thee to the gallows, not the font.400
DUKESir, I entreat you home with me to dinner.
PORTIAI humbly do desire your grace of pardon:
I must away this night toward Padua,
And it is meet I presently set forth.
DUKEI am sorry that your leisure serves you not.
Antonio, gratify this gentleman,
For, in my mind, you are much bound to him.
[Exeunt Duke and his train]
BASSANIOMost worthy gentleman, I and my friend
Have by your wisdom been this day acquitted
Of grievous penalties; in lieu whereof,410
Three thousand ducats, due unto the Jew,
We freely cope your courteous pains withal.
ANTONIOAnd stand indebted, over and above,
In love and service to you evermore.
PORTIAHe is well paid that is well satisfied;
And I, delivering you, am satisfied
And therein do account myself well paid:
My mind was never yet more mercenary.
I pray you, know me when we meet again:
I wish you well, and so I take my leave.420
BASSANIODear sir, of force I must attempt you further:
Take some remembrance of us, as a tribute,
Not as a fee: grant me two things, I pray you,
Not to deny me, and to pardon me.
PORTIAYou press me far, and therefore I will yield.
Give me your gloves, I'll wear them for your sake;
And, for your love, I'll take this ring from you:
Do not draw back your hand; I'll take no more;
And you in love shall not deny me this.
BASSANIOThis ring, good sir, alas, it is a trifle!430
I will not shame myself to give you this.
PORTIAI will have nothing else but only this;
And now methinks I have a mind to it.
BASSANIOThere's more depends on this than on the value.
The dearest ring in Venice will I give you,
And find it out by proclamation:
Only for this, I pray you, pardon me.
PORTIAI see, sir, you are liberal in offers
You taught me first to beg; and now methinks
You teach me how a beggar should be answer'd.440
BASSANIOGood sir, this ring was given me by my wife;
And when she put it on, she made me vow
That I should neither sell nor give nor lose it.
PORTIAThat 'scuse serves many men to save their gifts.
An if your wife be not a mad-woman,
And know how well I have deserved the ring,
She would not hold out enemy for ever,
For giving it to me. Well, peace be with you!
[Exeunt Portia and Nerissa]
ANTONIOMy Lord Bassanio, let him have the ring:
Let his deservings and my love withal450
Be valued against your wife's commandment.
BASSANIOGo, Gratiano, run and overtake him;
Give him the ring, and bring him, if thou canst,
Unto Antonio's house: away! make haste.
[Exit Gratiano]
Come, you and I will thither presently;
And in the morning early will we both
Fly toward Belmont: come, Antonio.

Next: The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 1
From The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co.

"The trial Scene, with its tugging vicissitudes of passion and its hush of terrible expectation, - now ringing with the Jew's sharp, spiteful snaps of malice, now made musical with Portia's strains of eloquence, now holy with Antonio's tender breathings of friendship, and dashed, from time to time, with Gratiano's fierce jets of wrath and fiercer jets of mirth, - is hardly surpassed in tragic power anywhere; and as it forms the catastrophe proper, so it concentrates the interest of the whole play" (Hudson).

1. What, an exclamation of attention. See below, lines 46 and III of this scene.

5, 6. empty From. Shakespeare also uses the modern empty of. We say free from.

8. obdurate, accent on the second syllable.

9. And that, and because.

16. Shylock shows great deference to the Duke, but to no one else except to Portia, disguised as a young lawyer, during that part of her discourse which agrees with his claims.

29. a royal merchant. See above, note on iii. 2. 242.

34. a gentle [Gentile] answer. See above, note on ii. 6. 51.

37. the due and forfeit, the forfeiture which is due.

38. let the danger light, etc. Such a threat could have had little weight with the Doge of Venice, the charter of which was not revokable as the gift of any prince.

43. But [I'll] say, it is my humor [my fancy or determination to act thus]. Shylock is not using the word humor in the later restricted sense which Jonson applied to it of a ruling passion or propensity. By some this passage is punctuated: But, say it is my humor, i.e. suppose it is my humor.

47. a gaping pig, a pig's head served as a dish at table.

50. "for affection [either for love or dislike - sympathy or antipathy, - being the] master of passion, sways it [passion] to the mood of what it [affection] likes or loathes." This, the reading of Knight, has the advantage of changing only one letter of the original and doubtless corrupt text, master for masters. Affection, emotion produced through the senses by external objects, is here as above, iii. I. 62, distinguished from passion, emotion stirred from inward feeling.

56. woollen bag-pipe. Woollen is the reading of all the old editions and doubtless refers to the material with which the bag containing the reservoir of wind which blows the pipe is covered.

62. A losing suit, one in which I lose my money.

68. Every offence [resentment for an injury], is not a hate. In his reply Shylock takes offence to mean affront, insult.

69. a serpent sting thee twice. Dr. Furness calls attention to the hiss in these words.

70. think [remember], you question [are arguing] with the Jew, [a man on whose hard, cruel nature you are wasting your words]. Compare As You Like It, iii. 4. 38: "I met the Duke yesterday and had much question with him."

76. and [command them] to make no noise.

82. with all brief and plain conveniency, with such directness and brevity as is fitting the case.

92. slavish parts. Notice the actor's figure of the world conceived as a play in which the various parts or roles are distributed. Compare As You Like It, ii. 7. 142: "And one man in his time plays many parts."

105. Bellario, a learned doctor. The reputation of Bellario, Portia's cousin (see above, iii. 4. 50), must be conceived of as such that (like one Discalzio, a famous jurist contemporary with Shakespeare and also of Padua), Portia could feel sure that the Doge would consult him in a case of such moment. She was thus able to arrange her plot during the time intervening between Bassanio's departure from Belmont and the day of the trial, and to come into court as young Balthasar accredited as a judge - not as an advocate - by the letter of Bellario.

129. And for thy life let justice be accused. Let justice be impeached that she allows a being so cruel to live.

131. Pythagoras, of Samos, who held the doctrine of the transmigration of souls. Compare Twelfth Night, iv. 2. 54:
"Clown. What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild-fowl?
Malvolio. That the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird."
134. a wolf who hang'd for human slaughter. A connection has been surmised between Shylock and the Jewish Doctor Lopez, an alleged conspirator against the queen, hanged at Tyburn in the very year of the earliest performance of this play. The affair made a great noise, and the hatred of the people was roused against the Jews, of which there were not a few in England, although their presence was not officially allowed.

134. who hang'd for human slaughter. This clause is an absolute one, and not dependent on the rest of the sentence. It is variously called by the grammarians a nominative absolute or by the Latin term nominativus pendens, the hanging nominative.

162. no impediment to let him lack, no hindrance to his receiving.

165. whose, for he. Compare King Lear, v. 3. 46:
"To send the old and miserable king
To some retention and appointed guard;
Whose [for his] age has charms in it."
170. your place, Portia's place as a judge would be on the dais, or lower platform below the Doge's seat, or possibly beside him.

171. the difference That holds this present question, the dispute that is the cause of this discussion.

182. Then must the Jew be merciful. Portia means to convey no idea of compulsion in her word must, but Shylock misunderstands her.

184. The quality of mercy. Notice how naturally this splendid passage rises from the necessities of the dialogue. Compare Ecclesiasticus, xxxv. 20: "Mercy is seasonable in the time of affliction as clouds of rain in the time of drought."

204. if thou follow, if you insist on your plea in all its strictness.

208. discharge the money, i.e. the debt.

210. twice the sum. See below, line 234, thrice. The disparity is trivial.

215. Wrest once the law, etc., for once bend the law to your authority.

217. curb ... of his will. Compare 1 Henry IV, iii. 1. 171: "And curbs himself even of his natural scope."

223. A Daniel come to judgment. Compare The History of Susanna, 45: "The Lord raised up the holy spirit of a young child (youth in the Authorized Version), whose name was Daniel." Daniel also detected the imposture of the priests of Bel in the Apocryphal History of Bel and the Dragon.

241. power, pronounced as two syllables.

248. Hath full relation, is fully applicable. For it is the meaning of the law that the penalty attached to each bond shall be paid as therein provided; and this applies to the present case.

251. more elder. Shakespeare frequently employs the double comparative. Compare The Tempest, i. 2. 439: "his more braver daughter."

254. 'Nearest his heart.' When Shylock suggested the forfeit he stipulated for
"an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me."
The specification 'nearest his heart' must be supposed an agreement at the signing of the bond.

255. Scan,

255. balance. This word was used both as a singular and a plural in Shakespeare's time. Confusion as to the number of words ending in a sibilant, s or c, is very frequent.

275. speak me fair in death, speak kindly of me when I am dead. Compare Henry VIII, iv. 2. 32: "Yet thus far, Griffith, give me leave to speak him."

277. love, lover, true friend.

278. Repent but you, only so much as regret that you have lost your friend, and your friend regrets not that he pays your debt.

281. with all my heart. A jest such as this heightens the pathos of the situation and is very true to life. Compare John of Gaunt's jest on his name when he is on his death-bed, Richard II, ii. 1. 73-83.

283. Which for who was common, and used at times for emphasis. Compare the Lord's Prayer.

296. Barrabas, so spelled and pronounced by Shakespeare and Marlowe. Shylock affects to be shocked at the impiety of these "Christian husbands."

305. Tarry a little. Much has been written on the law involved in this famous case. Portia's first plea, that the law allowed the pound of flesh but no drop of blood, is a pure quibble, and would have been accepted in no court of Europe. Her second plea, that the portion cut must be precisely a pound, and neither more or less, is no better, as the law cannot demand, in the performance of a contract, an utter impossibility. The third plea of Portia, that in which she invokes the law of Venice against any alien who plots against the life of a citizen, is sound and sufficient; and on this the case is properly decided.

327. a just pound, an exact pound. Compare an equal pound, above, i. 3. 150.

328. in the substance, in the weight.

334. Compare i. 3. 47.

335. pause. At this point the play hangs between tragedy and comedy. Shylock had sworn to have his bond. Might he not have kept his oath and, taking his bloody forfeit, have pulled down Antonio and himself in one common ruin? Such sympathy as we feel for Shylock is, to a large degree, the result of the more tolerant spirit of modern time. With his choice here made, - and that choice involves an abject confession that "sufferance is the badge of all our tribe," - even our respect vanishes, and we see in Shylock nothing but the malevolent and remorseless usurer, cowed in the moment of his long-sought revenge and slinking away foiled and baffled. It is plain that The Merchant of Venice could not have contained the happy story of Portia and the caskets and at the same time have ended as a tragedy.

352. party, here used in its legal sense, a party to a suit.

357. predicament. This word was originally a term in logic, meaning much the same as category. It had already reached its popular acceptance in Shakespeare's time.

362. formerly, a legal term, equivalent to the more modern aforesaid.

363. Down [on your knees], therefore.

372. Which humbleness [submission] may drive [commute] unto a fine.

373. Ay, for the state, not for Antonio. The half which comes to the state may be commuted to a fine, but not the half which comes to Antonio.

380-385. So [If it] please my lord ... To quit [release] the fine for one half of his goods [the half which the state was to have received], I am content; so [provided that] he [Shylock] will let me have The other half [which was awarded to me] in use [in trust for the benefit of Jessica], to render [return] it, Upon his [Shylock's] death, unto the gentleman That lately stole his daughter.

399. ten more [godfathers] to make up twelve, the number of a jury.

402. desire your grace of pardon. Compare A Midsummer Night's Dream, iii. 1. 185: "I shall desire you of more acquaintance."

405. serves you not, is not at your command.

412. withal is here a preposition governing ducats and equivalent to with. This preposition always follows its object. Compare Measure for Measure, iv. 3. 145: "Her cause and yours I'll perfect him withal." Elsewhere the word performs more the function of an adverb. See above, iii. 4. 72: "I could not do withal;" and below, iv. 1. 450.

418. more mercenary, mercenary beyond a desire for the gratification that comes from the doing of a good deed.

447. hold out enemy. Compare Much Ado About Nothing, i. I. 91: "I will hold friends with you."

451. commandement. Here the old spelling, which is preserved in the text, conveys the old pronunciation in four syllables and saves the metre. Compare 1 Henry VI, i. 3. 20: "From him I have express commandement." Elsewhere in Shakespeare this word is pronounced as now. See The Winter's Tale, ii. 2. 8.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co., 1903. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2011. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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