The Merchant of Venice: Act 2, Scene 1
Flourish: sound a fanfare. cornets: horns (not the . . . more
[Flourish of cornets.] Enter
[the PRINCE of] MOROCCO,
a tawny Moor all in white, and three
or four followers accordingly, with
PORTIA, NERISSA, and their TRAIN.
1Mislike me not for my complexion,
2. shadow'd livery of the burnish'd sun: dark distinctive dress worn by the sun's retainers; i.e., black skin. 3. near bred: closely related.
2The shadow'd livery of the burnish'd sun,
3To whom I am a neighbor and near bred.
4Bring me the fairest creature northward born,
5. Phoebus: the sun-god.
5Where Phoebus' fire scarce thaws the icicles,
6And let us make incision for your love,
7. whose blood is reddest: i.e., who is most courageous (red blood was regarded as a sign of courage). 8. aspect: visage.
7To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine.
8I tell thee, lady, this aspect of mine
9. fear'd: frightened.
9Hath fear'd the valiant: by my love I swear
10The best-regarded virgins of our clime
11Have loved it too: I would not change this hue,
12. steal your thoughts: gain possession of your thoughts (so that they would become more favorable to me).
12Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen.
13. terms: respect. soly: solely.
13In terms of choice I am not soly led
14. nice: fastidious, dainty.
14By nice direction of a maiden's eyes;
15. lott'ry of my destiny: game of chance on which my fate depends.
15Besides, the lott'ry of my destiny
16Bars me the right of voluntary choosing:
17. scanted: limited, restricted.
17But if my father had not scanted me
18. wit: wisdom.
18And hedged me by his wit, to yield myself
19His wife who wins me by that means I told you,
20Yourself, renowned prince, then stood as fair
21As any comer I have look'd on yet
22For my affection.
22Even for that I thank you:
23Therefore, I pray you, lead me to the caskets
24To try my fortune. By this scimitar
25. Sophy: Shah of Persia.
25That slew the Sophy and a Persian prince
26. fields: battles. Solyman: The Turkish sultan, Suleiman II, the Magnificent (1520‑1566). 27. o'erstare: outstare.
26That won three fields of Sultan Solyman,
27I would o'erstare the sternest eyes that look,
28Outbrave the heart most daring on the earth,
29Pluck the young sucking cubs from the she-bear,
30. 'a: he.
30Yea, mock the lion when 'a roars for prey,
31To win thee, lady. But, alas the while!
32 - 33. Lichas: the servant of Hercules (Alcides). play at dice / Which: throw dice to decide Which.
32If Hercules and Lichas play at dice
33Which is the better man, the greater throw
34May turn by fortune from the weaker hand:
35So is Alcides beaten by his page;
36And so may I, blind fortune leading me,
37Miss that which one unworthier may attain,
38And die with grieving.
38You must take your chance,
39And either not attempt to choose at all
40Or swear before you choose, if you choose wrong
41Never to speak to lady afterward
42. be advis'd: take careful thought.
42In way of marriage: therefore be advis'd.
43. Nor will not: i.e., nor indeed will I violate the condition.
43Nor will not. Come, bring me unto my chance.
44. to the temple: i.e., to take the oath.
44First, forward to the temple: after dinner
45Your hazard shall be made.
45Good fortune then!
46. blest or cursed'st: most blessed or most cursed (the superlative ending affects both adjectives).
46To make me blest or cursed'st among men.