The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, chapter name ACT III SCENE I.—SALOON OF THE CASKETS IN PORTIA'S HOUSE AT BELMONT.



Ner. The prince of Arragon hath ta'en his oath,

And comes to his election presently.

Flourish of Trumpets.

Enter the PRINCE OF ARRAGON, PORTIA, and their Trains.

Por. Behold, there stand the caskets, noble 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.

Arr. 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.

Por. To these injunctions every one doth swear

That comes to hazard for my worthless self.

Arr. 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.'

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 multitude, that choose by show,

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

Tell me once more what title 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!

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?

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 assume desert:—Give me a key for this,

And instantly unlock my fortunes here.

Por. Too long a pause for that which you find there.

Arr. What's here: the portrait of a blinking idiot,

Presenting me a schedule? I will read it.

Some there be that shadows kiss;Such have but a shadow's bliss:There be fools alive, I wis,Silver'd o'er; and so was this.'

Still more fool I shall appearBy 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 wroath.

Exeunt ARRAGON and Train.

Por. 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.

Ner. The ancient saying is no heresy;—

Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.


Ser. Madam, there is alighted at your gate

A young Venetian, one that comes before

To signify the 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 ambassador of love.

Por. No more, I pray thee.

Come, come, Nerissa; for I long to see

Quick Cupid's post that comes so mannerly.

Ner. Bassanio, lord love, if thy will it be!