The Merchant of Venice: Act 2, Scene 2

1. serve: allow, encourage.
           Enter the Clown [LAUNCELOT GOBBO] alone.

  1   Certainly my conscience will serve me to
  2   run from this Jew my master. The fiend is at mine
  3   elbow and tempts me saying to me "Gobbo,
  4   Launcelot Gobbo, good Launcelot," or "good Gobbo,"
  5   or "good Launcelot Gobbo, use your
  6   legs, take the start, run away." My conscience
  7   says "No; take heed, honest Launcelot; take heed,
  8   honest Gobbo," or, as aforesaid, "honest Launcelot
9. with thy heels: indignantly (with pun).
  9   Gobbo; do not run; scorn running with thy heels."
10. pack: be gone.
 10   Well, the most courageous fiend bids me pack:
11. Fia: Away (properly Via).
 11   "Fia!" says the fiend; "away!" says the fiend;
12. for the heavens: in heaven's name (with special effect in the devil's mouth).
 12   "for the heavens, rouse up a brave mind," says the
 13   fiend, "and run." Well, my conscience, hanging
 14   about the neck of my heart, says very wisely to me
 15   "My honest friend Launcelot, being an honest
 16   man's son," or rather an honest woman's son; for,
17‑18. smack, something grow to, he had a kind of taste: i.e., his father is given to lechery.
 17   indeed, my father did something smack, something
 18   grow to, he had a kind of taste; well, my conscience
 19   says "Launcelot, budge not." "Budge," says
 20   the fiend. "Budge not," says my conscience.
 21   "Conscience," say I, "you counsel well;" "Fiend,"
 22   say I, "you counsel well." To be ruled by my
 23   conscience, I should stay with the Jew my master,
24. God bless the mark: This expression, originally used to avert ill omen, was also employed, like "saving your reverence" (line 26), as a conventional apology before an offensive expression. 27. incarnation: blunder for incarnate.
 24   who, God bless the mark, is a kind of devil; and, to
 25   run away from the Jew, I should be rul'd by the
 26   fiend, who, saving your reverence, is the devil himself.
 27   Certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnation;
28. in: by.
 28   and, in my conscience, my conscience is but a
 29   kind of hard conscience, to offer to counsel me to
 30   stay with the Jew. The fiend gives the more
 31   friendly counsel: I will run, fiend; my heels are at your
 32   commandement; I will run.

           Enter Old GOBBO, with a basket.

 33   Master young man, you, I pray you, which is the way
 34   to master Jew's?

      LAUNCELOT [Aside.]
 35   O heavens, this is my true-begotten father!
36. sand-blind: dim-sighted, partly blind. high-gravel blind: i.e., blinder than sand-blind . . . more 37. try confusions: Launcelot's adaptation of try conclusions = make experiments.
 36   who, being more than sand-blind, high-gravel blind,
 37   knows me not: I will try confusions
 38   with him.

 39   Master young gentleman, I pray you, which is the way
 40   to master Jew's?

 41   Turn up on your right hand at the next turning, but,
42. marry: indeed (originally the name of the Virgin Mary used as an oath).
 42   at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at
 43   the very next turning, turn of no hand, but turn
 44   down indirectly to the Jew's house.

45. sonties: perhaps a corruption of saints or sanctities.
 45   By God's sonties, 'twill be a hard way to hit. Can
 46   you tell me whether one Launcelot,
 47   that dwells with him, dwell with him or no?

 48   Talk you of young Master Launcelot?


49. raise the waters: to stir things up or perhaps induce tears.
 49   Mark me now; now will I raise the waters. Talk you
 50   of young Master Launcelot?

51. master: the title was applied to gentlefolk only.
 51   No master, sir, but a poor man's son: his father,
 52   though I say it, is an honest exceeding poor man
53. well to live: with a good livelihood (a contradiction of his preceding remark; perhaps Gobbo supposes that the phrase means "in good health").
 53   and, God be thanked, well to live.

 54   Well, let his father be what a' will, we talk of
 55   young Master Launcelot.

56. Your worship's friend and Launcelot: Another disclaimer of the title "Master" for Launcelot.
 56   Your worship's friend and Launcelot, sir.

57. ergo: therefore (if it means anything).
 57   But I pray you, ergo, old man, ergo, I beseech you,
 58   talk you of young Master Launcelot?

59. an: if.
 59   Of Launcelot, an't please your mastership.

 60   Ergo, Master Launcelot. Talk not of Master
61. father: common form of address to an old person; hence it does not reveal to Gobbo that Launcelot is his son.
 61   Launcelot, father; for the young gentleman,
 62   according to Fates and Destinies and such odd
63. Sisters Three: the Fates.
 63   sayings, the Sisters Three and such branches of
 64   learning, is indeed deceased, or, as you would say
 65   in plain terms, gone to heaven.

 66   Marry, God forbid! the boy was the very staff of my
 67   age, my very prop.

68. hovel-post: post supporting a shed.
 68   Do I look like a cudgel or a hovel-post, a staff or
 69   a prop? Do you know me, father?

 70   Alack the day, I know you not, young gentleman:
 71   but, I pray you, tell me, is my boy, God rest his
 72   soul, alive or dead?

 73   Do you not know me, father?

 74   Alack, sir, I am sand-blind; I know you not.

 75   Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of
76‑77. it is a wise father that knows his own child: Launcelot reverses the usual form of the proverb, "It is a wise child that knows his own father."
 76   the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his
 77   own child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of
 78   your son: give me your blessing: truth will come
 79   to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man's son
 80   may, but at the length truth will out.

 81   Pray you, sir, stand up: I am sure you are not
 82   Launcelot, my boy.

 83   Pray you, let's have no more fooling about it, but
 84   give me your blessing: I am Launcelot, your boy
85‑86. your child that shall be: Alluding to second childhood. (Echoes the Gloria from the Book of Common Prayer: "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be").
 85   that was, your son that is, your child that shall
 86   be.

 87   I cannot think you are my son.

 88   I know not what I shall think of that: but I am
 89   Launcelot, the Jew's man, and I am sure Margery your
 90   wife is my mother.

 91   Her name is Margery, indeed: I'll be sworn, if thou
 92   be Launcelot, thou art mine own flesh and blood.
93. what a beard: Gobbo mistakes Launcelot's long hair for a beard; perhaps Launcelot has bowed his head deeply.
 93   Lord worshipped might he be! what a beard hast thou
 94   got! thou hast got more hair on thy chin than
95. fill-horse: cart or shaft horse.
 95   Dobbin my fill-horse has on his tail.

96‑97. grows backward: (1) gets shorter instead of longer; (2) grows at the wrong end (referring to Gobbo's error).
 96   It should seem, then, that Dobbin's tail grows
 97   backward: I am sure he had more hair of his tail
98. of: in.
 98   than I have of my face when I last saw him.

 99   Lord, how art thou changed! How dost thou and thy
100   master agree? I have brought him a present. How
101   'gree you now?

102   Well, well: but, for mine own part, as I
103. set up my rest: boldly resolved—from a term meaning "risk everything" in primero, a card game. 104. very: veritable.
103   have set up my rest to run away, so I will not rest
104   till I have run some ground. My master's a very
105. halter: hangman's noose.
105   Jew: give him a present! give him a halter:
106‑107. tell: count. tell every finger I have with my ribs: Comically reverses the usual saying of counting one's ribs with one's fingers. 108. give me: give. (Me is . . . more.
106   I am famished in his service; you may tell every
107   finger I have with my ribs. Father, I am glad you
108   are come: give me your present to one Master
109. liveries: distinctive garb worn by a gentleman's servants.
109   Bassanio, who, indeed, gives rare new liveries:
110   if I serve not him, I will run as far as God has any
111   ground. O rare fortune! here comes the man: to
112   him, father; for I am a Jew, if I serve the Jew any
113   longer.

           Enter BASSANIO with a follower or two,
           [including LEONARDO].

114   You may do so; but let it be so hasted that supper
115   be ready at the farthest by five of the clock. See
116   these letters delivered; put the liveries to making,
117   and desire Gratiano to come anon to my
118   lodging.

           [Exit a Servant.]

119   To him, father.

120   God bless your worship!

121. Gramercy: many thanks.
121   Gramercy! wouldst thou aught with me?

122   Here's my son, sir, a poor boy,—

123   Not a poor boy, sir, but the rich Jew's man; that
124   would, sir, as my father shall specify—

125. infection: blunder for affection, i.e., desire.
125   He hath a great infection, sir, as one would
126   say, to serve—

127   Indeed, the short and the long is, I serve the Jew,
128   and have a desire, as my father shall
129   specify—

130   His master and he, saving your worship's reverence,
131. cater-cousins: good friends.
131   are scarce cater-cousins—

132   To be brief, the very truth is that the Jew, having
133   done me wrong, doth cause me, as my father, being, I
134. frutify: blunder for certify or perhaps notify.
134   hope, an old man, shall frutify unto you—

135   I have here a dish of doves that I would bestow upon
136   your worship, and my suit is—

137. impertinent: He means the opposite.
137   In very brief, the suit is impertinent to myself, as
138   your worship shall know by this honest old man; and,
139   though I say it, though old man, yet
140   poor man, my father.

141   One speak for both. What would you?

142   Serve you, sir.

143. defect: blunder for effect, i.e., gist.
143   That is the very defect of the matter, sir.

144. suit: (1) request; (2) livery.
144   I know thee well; thou hast obtain'd thy suit:
145   Shylock thy master spoke with me this day,
146. preferr'd thee: put you forward, recommended you. preferment: being put forward, i.e., a promotion.
146   And hath preferr'd thee, if it be preferment
147   To leave a rich Jew's service, to become
148   The follower of so poor a gentleman.

149. proverb: i.e., "He that hath the grace of God hath enough." parted: divided.
149   The old proverb is very well parted between my
150   master Shylock and you, sir: you have the grace of
151   God, sir, and he hath enough.

152   Thou speak'st it well. Go, father, with thy son.
153   Take leave of thy old master and inquire
154   My lodging out.

           [To a servant.]

154                        Give him a livery
155. guarded: ornamented (with braid or the like). It has been suggested that Bassanio takes Launcelot into service as his fool, who would wear a motley coat "guarded" with yellow.
155   More guarded than his fellows': see it done.

156   Father, in. I cannot get a service, no; I have ne'er
157   a tongue in my head. Well, if any man in Italy
158‑159. table: part of the palm of the hand. swear upon a book: i.e., tell the truth (about the future); with a play on placing the palm upon a Bible for oath-taking. 160. simple: plain, unremarkable (ironic).
158   have a fairer table which doth offer to swear upon
159   a book, I shall have good fortune. Go to, here's a
160   simple line of life: here's a small trifle of wives:
161   alas, fifteen wives is nothing! eleven widows and
162. simple coming-in: modest income (with sexual innuendo).
162   nine maids is a simple coming-in for one man: and
163   then to 'scape drowning thrice, and to be in peril of
164. edge of a feather-bed: i.e., some sexual escapade.
164   my life with the edge of a feather-bed; here are
165. Fortune be a woman: Fortune was personified as a goddess. gear: matter, business.
165   simple scapes. Well, if Fortune be a woman, she's
166   a good wench for this gear. Father, come; I'll take
167   my leave of the Jew in the twinkling of an eye.

           Exit [Launcelot with Old Gobbo].

168   I pray thee, good Leonardo, think on this:
169   These things being bought and orderly bestow'd,
170   Return in haste, for I do feast tonight
171   My best-esteem'd acquaintance: hie thee, go.

172   My best endeavours shall be done herein.

           Enter GRATIANO.

173   Where is your master?

174   Yonder, sir, he walks.

           Exit LEONARDO.

175   Signior Bassanio!

176   Gratiano!

177   I have a suit to you.

177                                 You have obtain'd it.

178   You must not deny me: I must go with you
179   to Belmont.

180   Why then you must. But hear thee, Gratiano;
181   Thou art too wild, too rude and bold of voice;
182. Parts: Qualities.
182   Parts that become thee happily enough
183   And in such eyes as ours appear not faults;
184   But where thou art not known, why, there they show
185. liberal: free of manner, unrestrained (often with sexual connotation).
185   Something too liberal. Pray thee, take pain
186   To allay with some cold drops of modesty
187   Thy skipping spirit, lest through thy wild behavior
188. misconst'red: misconstrued.
188   I be misconst'red in the place I go to,
189   And lose my hopes.

189                Signior Bassanio, hear me:
190. habit: behavior, demeanor (with play on "suit"; cf. line 201).
190   If I do not put on a sober habit,
191   Talk with respect and swear but now and then,
192   Wear prayer-books in my pocket, look demurely,
193‑94. hood mine eyes / Thus with my hat: Hats were worn during meals but removed during grace.
193   Nay more, while grace is saying, hood mine eyes
194   Thus with my hat, and sigh and say "amen,"
195   Use all the observance of civility,
196. sad ostent: sober appearance.
196   Like one well studied in a sad ostent
197. more: again.
197   To please his grandam, never trust me more.

198   Well, we shall see your bearing.

199   Nay, but I bar tonight: you shall not gauge me
200   By what we do tonight.

200                                     No, that were pity:
201   I would entreat you rather to put on
202   Your boldest suit of mirth, for we have friends
203   That purpose merriment. But fare you well:
204   I have some business.

205   And I must to Lorenzo and the rest:
206   But we will visit you at supper-time.