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The Merchant of Venice

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ACT I SCENE III Venice. A public place. 
SHYLOCKThree thousand ducats; well.
BASSANIOAy, sir, for three months.
SHYLOCKFor three months; well.
BASSANIOFor the which, as I told you, Antonio shall be bound.
SHYLOCKAntonio shall become bound; well.
BASSANIOMay you stead me? will you pleasure me? shall I
know your answer?
SHYLOCKThree thousand ducats for three months and Antonio bound.10
BASSANIOYour answer to that.
SHYLOCKAntonio is a good man.
BASSANIOHave you heard any imputation to the contrary?
SHYLOCKOh, no, no, no, no: my meaning in saying he is a
good man is to have you understand me that he is
sufficient. Yet his means are in supposition: he
hath an argosy bound to Tripolis, another to the
Indies; I understand moreover, upon the Rialto, he
hath a third at Mexico, a fourth for England, and20
other ventures he hath, squandered abroad. But ships
are but boards, sailors but men: there be land-rats
and water-rats, water-thieves and land-thieves, I
mean pirates, and then there is the peril of waters,
winds and rocks. The man is, notwithstanding,
sufficient. Three thousand ducats; I think I may
take his bond.
BASSANIOBe assured you may.
SHYLOCKI will be assured I may; and, that I may be assured,30
I will bethink me. May I speak with Antonio?
BASSANIOIf it please you to dine with us.
SHYLOCKYes, to smell pork; to eat of the habitation which
your prophet the Nazarite conjured the devil into. I
will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you,
walk with you, and so following, but I will not eat
with you, drink with you, nor pray with you. What
news on the Rialto? Who is he comes here?40
BASSANIOThis is Signior Antonio.
SHYLOCK[Aside] How like a fawning publican he looks!
I hate him for he is a Christian,
But more for that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation, and he rails,
Even there where merchants most do congregate,50
On me, my bargains and my well-won thrift,
Which he calls interest. Cursed be my tribe,
If I forgive him!
BASSANIOShylock, do you hear?
SHYLOCKI am debating of my present store,
And, by the near guess of my memory,
I cannot instantly raise up the gross
Of full three thousand ducats. What of that?
Tubal, a wealthy Hebrew of my tribe,
Will furnish me. But soft! how many months
Do you desire?
Rest you fair, good signior;60
Your worship was the last man in our mouths.
ANTONIOShylock, although I neither lend nor borrow
By taking nor by giving of excess,
Yet, to supply the ripe wants of my friend,

I'll break a custom. Is he yet possess'd
How much ye would?
SHYLOCKAy, ay, three thousand ducats.
ANTONIOAnd for three months.
SHYLOCKI had forgot; three months; you told me so.
Well then, your bond; and let me see; but hear you;
Methought you said you neither lend nor borrow
Upon advantage.
ANTONIOI do never use it.71
SHYLOCKWhen Jacob grazed his uncle Laban's sheep--
This Jacob from our holy Abram was,
As his wise mother wrought in his behalf,
The third possessor; ay, he was the third--
ANTONIOAnd what of him? did he take interest?
SHYLOCKNo, not take interest, not, as you would say,
Directly interest: mark what Jacob did.
When Laban and himself were compromised
That all the eanlings which were streak'd and pied80
Should fall as Jacob's hire, the ewes, being rank,
In the end of autumn turned to the rams,
And, when the work of generation was
Between these woolly breeders in the act,
The skilful shepherd peel'd me certain wands,
And, in the doing of the deed of kind,
He stuck them up before the fulsome ewes,
Who then conceiving did in eaning time
Fall parti-colour'd lambs, and those were Jacob's.
This was a way to thrive, and he was blest:90
And thrift is blessing, if men steal it not.
ANTONIOThis was a venture, sir, that Jacob served for;
A thing not in his power to bring to pass,
But sway'd and fashion'd by the hand of heaven.
Was this inserted to make interest good?
Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams?
SHYLOCKI cannot tell; I make it breed as fast:
But note me, signior.
ANTONIOMark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness100
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
SHYLOCKThree thousand ducats; 'tis a good round sum.
Three months from twelve; then, let me see; the rate--
ANTONIOWell, Shylock, shall we be beholding to you?
SHYLOCKSignior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances:
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,110
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it now appears you need my help:
Go to, then; you come to me, and you say
'Shylock, we would have moneys:' you say so;
You, that did void your rheum upon my beard
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold: moneys is your suit120
What should I say to you? Should I not say
'Hath a dog money? is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?' Or
Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,
With bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this;
'Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn'd me such a day; another time
You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
I'll lend you thus much moneys'?130
ANTONIOI am as like to call thee so again,
To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too.
If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not
As to thy friends; for when did friendship take
A breed for barren metal of his friend?
But lend it rather to thine enemy,
Who, if he break, thou mayst with better face
Exact the penalty.
SHYLOCKWhy, look you, how you storm!
I would be friends with you and have your love,
Forget the shames that you have stain'd me with,140
Supply your present wants and take no doit
Of usance for my moneys, and you'll not hear me:
This is kind I offer.
BASSANIOThis were kindness.
SHYLOCKThis kindness will I show.
Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum or sums as are
Express'd in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound150
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.
ANTONIOContent, i' faith: I'll seal to such a bond
And say there is much kindness in the Jew.
BASSANIOYou shall not seal to such a bond for me:
I'll rather dwell in my necessity.
ANTONIOWhy, fear not, man; I will not forfeit it:
Within these two months, that's a month before
This bond expires, I do expect return
Of thrice three times the value of this bond.160
SHYLOCKO father Abram, what these Christians are,
Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect
The thoughts of others! Pray you, tell me this;
If he should break his day, what should I gain
By the exaction of the forfeiture?
A pound of man's flesh taken from a man
Is not so estimable, profitable neither,
As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats. I say,
To buy his favour, I extend this friendship:
If he will take it, so; if not, adieu;170
And, for my love, I pray you wrong me not.
ANTONIOYes Shylock, I will seal unto this bond.
SHYLOCKThen meet me forthwith at the notary's;
Give him direction for this merry bond,
And I will go and purse the ducats straight,
See to my house, left in the fearful guard
Of an unthrifty knave, and presently
I will be with you.
ANTONIOHie thee, gentle Jew.
[Exit Shylock]
The Hebrew will turn Christian: he grows kind.180
BASSANIOI like not fair terms and a villain's mind.
ANTONIOCome on: in this there can be no dismay;
My ships come home a month before the day.

Next: The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 3
From The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Felix E. Schelling. New York: American Book Co.

"Shylock enters with slow, shuffling gait; restless, half-closed eyes, and the fingers of his disengaged hand (one holds a staff) ever moving, as if from the constant habit of feeling and caressing the ducats that are passing through them" (Booth). The Jews of Venice were distinguished by orange-tawny and scarlet and black hats, as they were Levantine or Italian Jews. In Shakespeare's day Shylock was probably represented in the costume of the English Jews and money-lenders of that time, a more or less sombre gown or gaberdine, furred in winter, covering the customary doublet and hose, and perhaps distinguished by some such cap as that just mentioned. The addition of earrings, which were commonly worn by men in Shakespeare's day, and of finger and thumb rings would be quite in keeping. Shylock leans on a staff not because he is infirm, but because of a premature stoop, the result of much leaning over his desk and money-bags.

In this scene the bargain is struck between Shylock and Antonio, and the exposition, as it is called, - that part of a play that makes clear the circumstances on which the story is founded and the relations of the characters, - is complete. Shylock's hatred of Antonio is fully set forth, but not without Antonio's plain avowal, on the other hand, of the contempt and insult with which he had always treated the Jew. It is Antonio that is made to suggest the loan as made not to a friend, but to an enemy; but it is Shylock who after all has guided the whole transaction and who suggests the "merry sport," a forfeit of a pound "of your fair flesh." In Bassanio's words: "You shall not seal," and "I like not fair terms and a villain's mind," we have the foreboding and dramatic foreshadowing of Shylock's terrible claim to come.

1. ducats. A Venetian ducat was a gold coin varying in value, but worth roughly about an American dollar.

4. the which, the article is frequently thus employed to make clearer the reference to its antecedent, where it would not be so used in modern English. See below, iii. 4. 34, and compare the phrases, "at the least, at the length."

7. May you stead me? Are you willing to assist me?

18. in supposition, doubtful because exposed to the hazards of the sea.

18. argosy, see above, i. 1.9.

20. the Rialto, "an eminent [i.e. lofty] place in Venice," says Florio (Italian Dictionary, 1611), "where marchants commonly meete," as on the Exchange at London.

25. pirates, a very real peril of the sea, especially of the Mediterranean, in Shakespeare's day.

35. See Matthew, viii. 32: "And when they [the devils] were come out, they went into the herd of swine."

42. fawning publican. The thought in Shakespeare's mind here is evidently the contrast in Luke, xviii. 10-14, between the publican and the pharisee, Shylock showing the contempt of the latter for the publican's attitude of humility.

46. usance, interest. "It is almost incredible what gain the Venetians receive by the usury of the Jews, both privately and in common. For in every city the Jews keep open shops of usury, taking gages of ordinary for fifteen in the hundred by the year [i.e. charging interest at the rate of fifteen per cent]." Thomas's History of of Italye, 1561. See also Bacon's Essay on Usurie, in which such popular sayings as "the usurer is a drone," that "it is against nature for money to beget money," and that "usurers should have orange-tawny bonnets because they do judaize," are quoted with the sensible comment: "For since there must be borrowing and lending, and men are so hard of heart as [that] they will not lend freely [without interest], usury must be permitted."

47. catch ... upon the hip, a wrestlers' phrase for "to have at a disadvantage." See below, iv. 1. 334.

52. interest, a word conveying insult, like others concerning the trade of money-lending.

54. of, concerning.

60. Rest you fair, good signior. Shylock, turning from his words addressed to Bassanio, affects surprise and addresses Antonio obsequiously but with a tone of irony in his voice.

63. excess, the amount above the actual sum loaned, the interest.

65. possess'd, informed.

72. When Jacob, etc. See Genesis, xxx.

74. As [For so] his wise mother. See Genesis, xxvii.

79. were compromised, had come to a mutual agreement.

80. eanlings, lambs just born.

95. inserted, i.e. in the Scriptures.

97. I make it [i.e. money] breed. Compare the words quoted from Bacon above line 46.

98-103. Mark you this, etc. Antonio speaks aside to Bassanio while Shylock pretends to be considering their proposition.

99. The devil can cite Scripture. See Matthew, iv. 4, 6, where Psalm, xci. is so quoted.

106. beholding, beholden.

107. many a time and oft, many, many times.

108. Rialto. See above, i. 3, 20.

109. my moneys and my usances, my practice of lending money at interest.

110. Still, always.

112. call [are in the habit of calling] me ... dog.

113. Jewish gaberdine. It does not appear that the gaberdine was distinctively a mark of Jewish costume. It means here doubtless no more than Shylock's outer garment or cloak.

118. void your rheum, expectorate - [Cough or spit out phlegm from the throat or lungs].

119. foot, kick.

131. In a ruder age such acts as these, self-confessed by Antonio, would be regarded as natural if not meritorious as against a despised and hated race. None the less in these two lines Shakespeare has contrived at once to give the reason for Shylock's later implacability and to stir in every kindly heart a certain amount of sympathy for the Jew's outrageous wrongs.

135. A breed of barren metal, i.e. interest derived from money, a thing which, according to Antonio's ideas, should not be made to breed. The phrase alludes to Shylock's illustration of usury from the Bible, and is an additional insult to the Jew. Notice that the notion of lending "to thine enemy" is first put into words by Antonio.

137. Who, if he break. The use of the relative with no verb to follow as here was not infrequent. See Bacon, Advancement of Learning: " Which though it be not true, yet I forbear to note any deficiencies."

138. Why, look you, etc. Shylock controls himself lest he lose the loan, and with it the opportunity of revenge.

141. doit, a trifling coin worth about half a farthing, or the fourth of an American cent.

146. single bond, literally a bond to which no condition is attached. "Give me your bond without any condition, - at least, none worthy of the name or to be legally enforced, - though for the joke of the thing we will say that I am to have a pound of your flesh if you fail to pay up at the appointed time" (Rolfe).

153. I'll seal. Addressed to Bassanio.

162. dealings teaches. It is not uncommon to find thus apparently the singular verb used with a plural subject. The form of the verb in many of these cases is really an old northern plural in es.

162. teaches them [to] suspect. The omission of to before the infinitive is very common. See below, ii. 7. 43: "To come view fair Portia."

164. break his day, fail to pay on the appointed day.

168. muttons, beefs. Both of these plurals are elsewhere used by Shakespeare.

171. for my love, in consideration of the kindness I now show you, do not impute any wrong motives to me.

176. fearful guard, a guard about whose trustworthiness fear is to be entertained.

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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