The Merchant of Venice: Act 2, Scene 2
Enter the Clown [LAUNCELOT GOBBO] alone.
1Certainly my conscience will serve me to
2run from this Jew my master. The fiend is at mine
3elbow and tempts me saying to me "Gobbo,
4Launcelot Gobbo, good Launcelot," or "good Gobbo,"
5or "good Launcelot Gobbo, use your
6legs, take the start, run away." My conscience
7says "No; take heed, honest Launcelot; take heed,
8honest Gobbo," or, as aforesaid, "honest Launcelot
9. with thy heels: indignantly (with pun).
9Gobbo; do not run; scorn running with thy heels."
10. pack: be gone.
10Well, 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
13fiend, "and run." Well, my conscience, hanging
14about the neck of my heart, says very wisely to me
15"My honest friend Launcelot, being an honest
16man'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.
17indeed, my father did something smack, something
18grow to, he had a kind of taste; well, my conscience
19says "Launcelot, budge not." "Budge," says
20the fiend. "Budge not," says my conscience.
21"Conscience," say I, "you counsel well;" "Fiend,"
22say I, "you counsel well." To be ruled by my
23conscience, 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.
24who, God bless the mark, is a kind of devil; and, to
25run away from the Jew, I should be rul'd by the
26fiend, who, saving your reverence, is the devil himself.
27Certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnation;
28. in: by.
28and, in my conscience, my conscience is but a
29kind of hard conscience, to offer to counsel me to
30stay with the Jew. The fiend gives the more
31friendly counsel: I will run, fiend; my heels are at your
32commandement; I will run.
Enter Old GOBBO, with a basket.
33Master young man, you, I pray you, which is the way
34to master Jew's?
35O 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.
36who, being more than sand-blind, high-gravel blind,
37knows me not: I will try confusions
39Master young gentleman, I pray you, which is the way
40to master Jew's?
41Turn up on your right hand at the next turning, but,
42. marry: indeed (originally the name of the Virgin Mary used as an oath).
42at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at
43the very next turning, turn of no hand, but turn
44down indirectly to the Jew's house.
45. sonties: perhaps a corruption of saints or sanctities.
45By God's sonties, 'twill be a hard way to hit. Can
46you tell me whether one Launcelot,
47that dwells with him, dwell with him or no?
48Talk you of young Master Launcelot?
49. raise the waters: to stir things up or perhaps induce tears.
49Mark me now; now will I raise the waters. Talk you
50of young Master Launcelot?
51. master: the title was applied to gentlefolk only.
51No master, sir, but a poor man's son: his father,
52though 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").
53and, God be thanked, well to live.
54Well, let his father be what a' will, we talk of
55young Master Launcelot.
56. Your worship's friend and Launcelot: Another disclaimer of the title "Master" for Launcelot.
56Your worship's friend and Launcelot, sir.
57. ergo: therefore (if it means anything).
57But I pray you, ergo, old man, ergo, I beseech you,
58talk you of young Master Launcelot?
59. an: if.
59Of Launcelot, an't please your mastership.
60Ergo, 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.
61Launcelot, father; for the young gentleman,
62according to Fates and Destinies and such odd
63sayings, the Sisters Three and such branches of
64learning, is indeed deceased, or, as you would say
65in plain terms, gone to heaven.
66Marry, God forbid! the boy was the very staff of my
67age, my very prop.
68. hovel-post: post supporting a shed.
68Do I look like a cudgel or a hovel-post, a staff or
69a prop? Do you know me, father?
70Alack the day, I know you not, young gentleman:
71but, I pray you, tell me, is my boy, God rest his
72soul, alive or dead?
73Do you not know me, father?
74Alack, sir, I am sand-blind; I know you not.
75Nay, 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."
76the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his
77own child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of
78your son: give me your blessing: truth will come
79to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man's son
80may, but at the length truth will out.
81Pray you, sir, stand up: I am sure you are not
82Launcelot, my boy.
83Pray you, let's have no more fooling about it, but
84give 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").
85that was, your son that is, your child that shall
87I cannot think you are my son.
88I know not what I shall think of that: but I am
89Launcelot, the Jew's man, and I am sure Margery your
90wife is my mother.
91Her name is Margery, indeed: I'll be sworn, if thou
92be 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.
93Lord worshipped might he be! what a beard hast thou
94got! thou hast got more hair on thy chin than
95. fill-horse: cart or shaft horse.
95Dobbin 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).
96It should seem, then, that Dobbin's tail grows
97backward: I am sure he had more hair of his tail
98. of: in.
98than I have of my face when I last saw him.
99Lord, how art thou changed! How dost thou and thy
100master agree? I have brought him a present. How
101'gree you now?
102Well, well: but, for mine own part, as I
103. set up my rest: boldly resolvedfrom a term meaning "risk everything" in primero, a card game. 104. very: veritable.
103have set up my rest to run away, so I will not rest
104till I have run some ground. My master's a very
105. halter: hangman's noose.
105Jew: 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.
106I am famished in his service; you may tell every
107finger I have with my ribs. Father, I am glad you
108are come: give me your present to one Master
109. liveries: distinctive garb worn by a gentleman's servants.
109Bassanio, who, indeed, gives rare new liveries:
110if I serve not him, I will run as far as God has any
111ground. O rare fortune! here comes the man: to
112him, father; for I am a Jew, if I serve the Jew any
Enter BASSANIO with a follower or two,
114You may do so; but let it be so hasted that supper
115be ready at the farthest by five of the clock. See
116these letters delivered; put the liveries to making,
117and desire Gratiano to come anon to my
[Exit a Servant.]
119To him, father.
120God bless your worship!
121. Gramercy: many thanks.
121Gramercy! wouldst thou aught with me?
122Here's my son, sir, a poor boy,
123Not a poor boy, sir, but the rich Jew's man; that
124would, sir, as my father shall specify
125. infection: blunder for affection, i.e., desire.
125He hath a great infection, sir, as one would
126say, to serve
127Indeed, the short and the long is, I serve the Jew,
128and have a desire, as my father shall
130His master and he, saving your worship's reverence,
131. cater-cousins: good friends.
131are scarce cater-cousins
132To be brief, the very truth is that the Jew, having
133done me wrong, doth cause me, as my father, being, I
134. frutify: blunder for certify or perhaps notify.
134hope, an old man, shall frutify unto you
135I have here a dish of doves that I would bestow upon
136your worship, and my suit is
137. impertinent: He means the opposite.
137In very brief, the suit is impertinent to myself, as
138your worship shall know by this honest old man; and,
139though I say it, though old man, yet
140poor man, my father.
141One speak for both. What would you?
142Serve you, sir.
143. defect: blunder for effect, i.e., gist.
143That is the very defect of the matter, sir.
144. suit: (1) request; (2) livery.
144I know thee well; thou hast obtain'd thy suit:
145Shylock thy master spoke with me this day,
146. preferr'd thee: put you forward, recommended you. preferment: being put forward, i.e., a promotion.
146And hath preferr'd thee, if it be preferment
147To leave a rich Jew's service, to become
148The follower of so poor a gentleman.
149. proverb: i.e., "He that hath the grace of God hath enough." parted: divided.
149The old proverb is very well parted between my
150master Shylock and you, sir: you have the grace of
151God, sir, and he hath enough.
152Thou speak'st it well. Go, father, with thy son.
153Take leave of thy old master and inquire
154My lodging out.
[To a servant.]
154Give 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.
155More guarded than his fellows': see it done.
156Father, in. I cannot get a service, no; I have ne'er
157a 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).
158have a fairer table which doth offer to swear upon
159a book, I shall have good fortune. Go to, here's a
160simple line of life: here's a small trifle of wives:
161alas, fifteen wives is nothing! eleven widows and
162. simple coming-in: modest income (with sexual innuendo).
162nine maids is a simple coming-in for one man: and
163then to 'scape drowning thrice, and to be in peril of
164. edge of a feather-bed: i.e., some sexual escapade.
164my life with the edge of a feather-bed; here are
165. Fortune be a woman: Fortune was personified as a goddess. gear: matter, business.
165simple scapes. Well, if Fortune be a woman, she's
166a good wench for this gear. Father, come; I'll take
167my leave of the Jew in the twinkling of an eye.
Exit [Launcelot with Old Gobbo].
168I pray thee, good Leonardo, think on this:
169These things being bought and orderly bestow'd,
170Return in haste, for I do feast tonight
171My best-esteem'd acquaintance: hie thee, go.
172My best endeavours shall be done herein.
173Where is your master?
174Yonder, sir, he walks.
177I have a suit to you.
177You have obtain'd it.
178You must not deny me: I must go with you
180Why then you must. But hear thee, Gratiano;
181Thou art too wild, too rude and bold of voice;
182. Parts: Qualities.
182Parts that become thee happily enough
183And in such eyes as ours appear not faults;
184But where thou art not known, why, there they show
185. liberal: free of manner, unrestrained (often with sexual connotation).
185Something too liberal. Pray thee, take pain
186To allay with some cold drops of modesty
187Thy skipping spirit, lest through thy wild behavior
188. misconst'red: misconstrued.
188I be misconst'red in the place I go to,
189And lose my hopes.
189Signior Bassanio, hear me:
190. habit: behavior, demeanor (with play on "suit"; cf. line 201).
190If I do not put on a sober habit,
191Talk with respect and swear but now and then,
192Wear 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.
193Nay more, while grace is saying, hood mine eyes
194Thus with my hat, and sigh and say "amen,"
195Use all the observance of civility,
196. sad ostent: sober appearance.
196Like one well studied in a sad ostent
197. more: again.
197To please his grandam, never trust me more.
198Well, we shall see your bearing.
199Nay, but I bar tonight: you shall not gauge me
200By what we do tonight.
200No, that were pity:
201I would entreat you rather to put on
202Your boldest suit of mirth, for we have friends
203That purpose merriment. But fare you well:
204I have some business.
205And I must to Lorenzo and the rest:
206But we will visit you at supper-time.