ACT 1 SCENE 2—BELMONT. A ROOM IN PORTIA'S HOUSE.
Enter PORTIA and NERISSA.
Por. By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is a-weary 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 small happiness, 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. 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 curb'd 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 approbation of his own good parts that he can shoe him himself.
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 to be married to a death's head with a bone in his mouth, than to either of these. Heaven defend me from these two!
Ner. How say you by the French lord, Monsieur Le Bon?
Por. Heaven made him, and therefore let him pass for a man.
Ner. How like you 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 him.
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.
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 caskets.
Por. 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 wish them a fair departure.
Ner. Do you not remember, lady, in your father's time, a Venetian, a scholar, and a soldier, that came hither in company of the Marquis of Montferrat?
Por. Yes, yes, it was Bassanio; as I think so was he 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.—How now?—What news?
Ser. The four strangers seek you, madam, to take their leave: and there is a fore-runner come from a fifth, the prince of Morocco; who brings word the prince, his master, will be here to-night.
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 his approach.
Come, Nerissa. Sirrah, go before.
Whiles we shut the gate upon one wooer, another knocks at the door.