The Merchant of Venice: Act 2, Scene 9
Enter NERISSA and a SERVITOR.
1. straight: immediately.
1Quick, quick, I pray thee; draw the curtain straight:
2The Prince of Arragon hath ta'en his oath,
3. election: choice. presently: at once.
3And comes to his election presently.
Enter [the PRINCE of] ARRAGON,
his TRAIN, and PORTIA.
4Behold, there stand the caskets, noble prince:
5If you choose that wherein I am contain'd,
6Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemnized:
7But if you fail, without more speech, my lord,
8You must be gone from hence immediately.
9I am enjoin'd by oath to observe three things:
10First, never to unfold to any one
11Which casket 'twas I chose; next, if I fail
12Of the right casket, never in my life
13To woo a maid in way of marriage;
15If I do fail in fortune of my choice,
16Immediately to leave you and be gone.
17To these injunctions every one doth swear
18That comes to hazard for my worthless self.
19. address'd me: prepared myself.
19And so have I address'd me. Fortune now
20To my heart's hope! Gold; silver; and base lead.
21"Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath."
22You shall look fairer, ere I give or hazard.
23What says the golden chest? ha! let me see:
24"Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire."
25. meant: interpreted.
25What many men desire! that "many" may be meant
26. By: For.
26By the fool multitude, that choose by show,
27. fond: foolish.
27Not learning more than the fond eye doth teach;
28. martlet: martin. A martin is a kind of swallow which builds its nests on the sides of buildings. 29. in the weather: exposed to the elements. 30. force: power. casualty: mischance.
28Which pries not to the interior, but, like the martlet,
29Builds in the weather on the outward wall,
30Even in the force and road of casualty.
31I will not choose what many men desire,
32. jump: agree.
32Because I will not jump with common spirits
33And rank me with the barbarous multitudes.
34Why, then to thee, thou silver treasure-house;
35Tell me once more what title thou dost bear:
36"Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves."
37And well said too; for who shall go about
38. cozen: cheat.
38To cozen fortune and be honorable
39. stamp: official seal of approval (as on a document).
39Without the stamp of merit? Let none presume
40To wear an undeserved dignity.
41. estates: status. degrees: ranks.
41O, that estates, degrees and offices
42. deriv'd: inherited, gained. clear: illustrious.
42Were not deriv'd corruptly, and that clear honor
43Were purchased by the merit of the wearer!
44. cover that stand bare: wear their hats (of authority), who must now bare their heads . . . more 45. be commanded that command: become servants instead of masters. 46. gleaned: culled out, separated. 47. seed of honor: nobility.
44How many then should cover that stand bare!
45How many be commanded that command!
46How much low peasantry would then be gleaned
47From the true seed of honor! and how much honor
48. ruin: refuse.
48Pick'd from the chaff and ruin of the times
49. new-varnish'd: i.e., having the luster of their true nobility.
49To be new-varnish'd! Well, but to my choice:
50"Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves."
51. assume: claim (as my right).
51I will assume desert. Give me a key for this,
52And instantly unlock my fortunes here.
[He opens the silver casket.]
53Too long a pause for that which you find there.
54What's here? the portrait of a blinking idiot,
55. schedule: paper with writing.
55Presenting me a schedule! I will read it.
56How much unlike art thou to Portia!
57How much unlike my hopes and my deservings!
58"Who chooseth me shall have as much as he deserves."
59Did I deserve no more than a fool's head?
60Is that my prize? are my deserts no better?
61‑62. To offend, and judge, are distinct offices / And of opposed natures: I think Portia is trying to be nice to Arragon. . . . more
61To offend, and judge, are distinct offices
62And of opposed natures.
62What is here?
63. The fire seven times tried this: i.e., this is the lesson that has been many times tested and proved to be true. "Tried" means "tested," but I don't know what "seven" signifies, except for "a lot," and I interpret "fire" simply as "an extreme test."
63"The fire seven times tried this:
64Seven times tried that judgment is,
65That did never choose amiss.
66Some there be that shadows kiss;
67Such have but a shadow's bliss:
68. iwis: certainly.
68There be fools alive, iwis,
69Silver'd o'er; and so was this.
70Take what wife you will to bed,
71. I will ever be your head: i.e., you will always be a fool.
71I will ever be your head:
72. sped: done for, speeded on your way [out of here].
72So be gone: you are sped."
73‑74. Still more fool I shall appear / By the time I linger here: i.e., the longer I stay here wasting time, the greater fool I will appear to be.
73Still more fool I shall appear
74By the time I linger here
75With one fool's head I came to woo,
76But I go away with two.
77Sweet, adieu. I'll keep my oath,
78. wroth: sorrow, unhappiness, resentment.
78Patiently to bear my wroth.
[Exeunt Arragon and train.]
79Thus hath the candle singed the moth.
80. deliberate: reasoning, calculating.
80O, these deliberate fools! when they do choose,
81They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.
82The ancient saying is no heresy,
83Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.
84Come, draw the curtain, Nerissa.
85Where is my lady?
85. my lord: A jesting response to "my lady."
85Here: what would my lord?
86Madam, there is alighted at your gate
87A young Venetian, one that comes before
88To signify the approaching of his lord;
89. sensible regreets: heartfelt greeting.
89From whom he bringeth sensible regreets,
90. commends: greetings. breath: speech.
90To wit, besides commends and courteous breath,
91. Yet: heretofore, up till now.
91Gifts of rich value. Yet I have not seen
92. likely: promising.
92So likely an ambassador of love:
93A day in April never came so sweet,
94. costly: rich, lavish.
94To show how costly summer was at hand,
95As this fore-spurrer comes before his lord.
96No more, I pray thee: I am half afeard
97Thou wilt say anon he is some kin to thee,
98. high-day: holiday; i.e., appropriate for some special occasion.
98Thou spend'st such high-day wit in praising him.
99Come, come, Nerissa; for I long to see
100. post: messenger.
100Quick Cupid's post that comes so mannerly.
101Bassanio, Lord Love, if thy will it be!