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.

  1   Mislike 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.
  2   The shadow'd livery of the burnish'd sun,
  3   To whom I am a neighbor and near bred.
  4   Bring me the fairest creature northward born,
5. Phoebus: the sun-god.
  5   Where Phoebus' fire scarce thaws the icicles,
  6   And 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.
  7   To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine.
  8   I tell thee, lady, this aspect of mine
9. fear'd: frightened.
  9   Hath fear'd the valiant: by my love I swear
 10   The best-regarded virgins of our clime
 11   Have 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).
 12   Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen.

13. terms: respect. soly: solely.
 13   In terms of choice I am not soly led
14. nice: fastidious, dainty.
 14   By nice direction of a maiden's eyes;
15. lott'ry of my destiny: game of chance on which my fate depends.
 15   Besides, the lott'ry of my destiny
 16   Bars me the right of voluntary choosing:
17. scanted: limited, restricted.
 17   But if my father had not scanted me
18. wit: wisdom.
 18   And hedged me by his wit, to yield myself
 19   His wife who wins me by that means I told you,
 20   Yourself, renowned prince, then stood as fair
 21   As any comer I have look'd on yet
 22   For my affection.

 22                Even for that I thank you:
 23   Therefore, I pray you, lead me to the caskets
 24   To try my fortune. By this scimitar
25. Sophy: Shah of Persia.
 25   That slew the Sophy and a Persian prince
26. fields: battles. Solyman: The Turkish sultan, Suleiman II, the Magnificent (1520‑1566). 27. o'erstare: outstare.
 26   That won three fields of Sultan Solyman,
 27   I would o'erstare the sternest eyes that look,
 28   Outbrave the heart most daring on the earth,
 29   Pluck the young sucking cubs from the she-bear,
30. 'a: he.
 30   Yea, mock the lion when 'a roars for prey,
 31   To win thee, lady. But, alas the while!
32 - 33. Lichas: the servant of Hercules (Alcides). play at dice / Which: throw dice to decide Which.
 32   If Hercules and Lichas play at dice
 33   Which is the better man, the greater throw
 34   May turn by fortune from the weaker hand:
 35   So is Alcides beaten by his page;
 36   And so may I, blind fortune leading me,
 37   Miss that which one unworthier may attain,
 38   And die with grieving.

 38                                       You must take your chance,
 39   And either not attempt to choose at all
 40   Or swear before you choose, if you choose wrong
 41   Never to speak to lady afterward
42. be advis'd: take careful thought.
 42   In way of marriage: therefore be advis'd.

43. Nor will not: i.e., nor indeed will I violate the condition.
 43   Nor will not. Come, bring me unto my chance.

44. to the temple: i.e., to take the oath.
 44   First, forward to the temple: after dinner
 45   Your hazard shall be made.

 45                                         Good fortune then!
46. blest or cursed'st: most blessed or most cursed (the superlative ending affects both adjectives).
 46   To make me blest or cursed'st among men.