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



Por. I pray you, tarry; pause a day or two,

Before you hazard; for, in choosing wrong

I lose your company; I could teach you

How to choose right, but then I am forsworn;

So will I never be: so may you miss me;

But if you do, you'll make me wish a sin,

That I had been forsworn.

Bas. Let me choose;

For, as I am, I live upon the rack.

Come, let me to my fortune and the caskets.

Por. Away then: I am lock'd in one of them;

If you do love me, you will find me out.

Let music sound, while he doth make his choice:

Then, if he lose, he makes a swan-like end,

Fading in music.—That the comparison

May stand more proper, my eye shall be the stream

And wat'ry death-bed for him.

Music, whilst BASSANIO comments on the Caskets to himself.


1. Tell me where is fancy bred.Or in the heart, or in the head?How begot, how nourishedReply, reply.

2. It is engender'd in the eyes,With gazing fed; and fancy diesIn the cradle where it lies:Let us all ring fancy's knell;I'll begin it.—Ding, dong, bell.All. Ding, dong, bell.

Exeunt all but PORTIA and BASSANIO.

Bas. So may the outward shows be least themselves;

The world is still deceiv'd with ornament.

In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,

But, being season'd with a gracious voice,

Obscures the show of evil? In religion,

What damned error, but some sober brow

Will bless it and approve it with a text,

Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?

There is no vice so simple, but assumes

Some mark of virtue on his outward parts.

Thus ornament is but the guiled shore

To a most dangerous sea; the beauteous scarf

Veiling an Indian beauty. Therefore, thou gaudy gold,

Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee:

Nor none of thee, thou pale and common drudge

'Tween man and man. But thou, thou meagre lead,

Which rather threat'nest than dost promise aught,

Thy plainness moves me more than eloquence,

And here choose I. Joy be the consequence!

Por. How all the other passions fleet to air!

O love, be moderate, allay thy ecstacy,

I feel too much thy blessing, make it less,

For fear I surfeit!

Bas. What find I here!

Opening the leaden casket.

Fair Portia's counterfeit?—Here's the scroll,

The continent and summary of my fortune.

'You that choose not by the view,Chance as felt, and choose as true!Since this fortune falls to you,Be content, and seek no new.If you be well pleas'd with this,And hold your fortune for your bliss.Turn you where your lady is,And claim her with a loving kiss.'

A gentle scroll.—Fair lady, by your leave,

I come by note, to give and to receive.

Yet doubtful whether what I see be true,

Until confirm'd, sign'd, ratified by you.

Por. You see, my lord Bassanio, where I stand,

Such as I am: though, for myself alone,

I would not be ambitious in my wish,

To wish myself much better; yet, for you,

I would be trebled twenty times myself.

But now I was the lord

Of this fair mansion, master of my servants,

Queen o'er myself; and even now, but now,

This house, these servants, and this same myself.

Are yours, my lord,—I give them with this ring;

Which, when you part from, lose, or give away,

Let it presage the ruin of your love,

And be my vantage to exclaim on you.

Bas. Madam, you have bereft me of all words;

Only my blood speaks to you in my veins:

But when this ring

Parts from this finger, then parts life from hence;

O, then be bold to say, Bassanio's dead.

Ner. My lord and lady, it is now our time,

That have stood by and seen our wishes prosper,

To cry good joy; God joy, my lord and lady!

Gra. My lord Bassanio, and my gentle lady,

I wish you all the joy that you can wish;

For I am sure you can wish none from me:

And, when your honours mean to solemnize

The bargain of your faith, I do beseech you

Even at that time I may be married too.

Bas. With all my heart, so thou canst get a wife.

Gra. I thank your lordship; you have got me one.

My eyes, my lord, can look as swift as yours:

You saw the mistress, I beheld the maid;

You lov'd, I lov'd; for intermission

No more pertains to me, my lord, than you.

Your fortune stood upon the caskets there;

And so did mine too, as the matter falls:

For wooing here, until my roof was dry

With oaths of love, at last,—if promise last,—

I got a promise of this fair one here,

To have her love, provided that your fortune

Achiev'd her mistress.

Por. Is this true, Nerissa?

Ner. Madam, it is, so you stand pleas'd withal.

Bas. And do you, Gratiano, mean good faith?

Gra. Yes, faith, my lord.

Bas. Our feast shall be much honour'd in your marriage.

Gra. But who comes here? Lorenzo, and his infidel?

What, and my old Venetian friend, Solanio.


Bas. Lorenzo, and Solanio, welcome hither;

If that the youth of my new interest here

Have power to bid you welcome:—By your leave,

I bid my very friends and countrymen,

Sweet Portia, welcome.

Por. So do I, my lord;

They are entirely welcome.

Lor. I thank your honour:—For my part, my lord,

My purpose was not to have seen you here;

But meeting with Solanio by the way,

He did entreat me, past all saying nay,

To come with him along.

Sal. I did, my lord,

And I have reason for it. Signior Antonio

Commends him to you.

Gives BASSANIO a letter.

Bas. Ere I ope this letter,

I pray you tell me how my good friend doth.

Sal. Not sick, my lord, unless it be in mind:

Nor well, unless in mind: his letter there

Will show you his estate.

Gra. Nerissa, cheer yon stranger; bid her welcome.

Your hand, Solanio. What's the news from Venice?

How doth that royal merchant, good Antonio?

I know he will be glad of our success;

We are the Jasons, we have won the fleece.

Sal. 'Would you had won the fleece that he hath lost!

Por. There are some shrewd contents in yon same paper,

That steal the colour from Bassanio's cheek;

Some dear friend dead; else nothing in the world

Could turn so much the constitution

Of any constant man. What, worse and worse?—

With leave, Bassanio; I am half yourself,

And I must freely have the half of any thing

That this same paper brings you.

Bas. O sweet Portia,

Here are a few of the unpleasant'st words

That ever blotted paper! Gentle lady,

When I did first impart my love to you,

I freely told you, all the wealth I had

Ran in my veins,—I was a gentleman:

And then I told you true: and yet, dear lady,

Rating myself at nothing, you shall see

How much I was a braggart: When I told you

My state was nothing, I should then have told you

That I was worse than nothing; for, indeed,

I have engag'd myself to a dear friend,

Engag'd my friend to his mere enemy,

To feed my means. Here is a letter, lady;

The paper as the body of my friend,

And every word in it a gaping wound,

Issuing life-blood. But is it true, Solanio?

Have all his ventures fail'd? What, not one hit?

From Tripolis, from Mexico, and England,

From Lisbon, Barbary, and India?

And not one vessel 'scape the dreadful touch

Of merchant-marring rocks?

Sal. Not one, my lord.

Besides, it should appear, that if he had

The present money to discharge the Jew,

He would not take it: Never did I know

A creature that did bear the shape of man,

So keen and greedy to confound a man.

He plies the duke at morning, and at night;

And doth impeach the freedom of the state

If they deny him justice: twenty merchants,

The duke himself, and the magnificoes

Of greatest port, have all persuaded with him;

But none can drive him from the envious plea

Of forfeiture, of justice, and his bond.

Por. Is it your dear friend that is thus in trouble?

Bas. The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,

The best condition'd and unwearied spirit

In doing courtesies, and one in whom

The ancient Roman honour more appears,

Than any that draws breath in Italy.

Por. What sum owes he the Jew?

Bas. For me, three thousand ducats.

Por. What, no more?

Pay him six thousand, and deface the bond;

Double six thousand, and then treble that,

Before a friend of this description

Shall lose a hair through Bassanio's fault.

First, go with me to church, and call me wife:

And then away to Venice to your friend!

For never shall you stay by Portia's side

With an unquiet soul. You shall have gold

To pay the petty debt twenty times over;

When it is paid, bring your true friend along:

My maid Nerissa, and myself, mean time,

Will live as maids and widows. Come, away;

For you shall hence, upon my wedding-day:

But let me hear the letter of your friend.

Bas. (reads.)

'Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all miscarried, my creditors grow cruel, my estate is very low, my bond to the Jew is forfeit; and since, in paying it, it is impossible I should live, all debts are cleared between you and me, if I might but see you at my death: notwithstanding, use your pleasure: if your love do not persuade you to come, let not my letter.'

Por. O love, despatch all business, and be gone.

Bas. Since I have your good leave to go away,

I will make haste: but, till I come again,

No bed shall e'er be guilty of my stay,

Nor rest be interposer 'twixt us twain.