Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.


The Merchant of Venice: Act 2, Scene 9


           Enter NERISSA and a SERVITOR.

      NERISSA
1. straight: immediately.
  1   Quick, quick, I pray thee; draw the curtain straight:
  2   The Prince of Arragon hath ta'en his oath,
3. election: choice. presently: at once.
  3   And comes to his election presently.

           Enter [the PRINCE of] ARRAGON,
           his TRAIN, and PORTIA.

      PORTIA
  4   Behold, there stand the caskets, noble prince:
  5   If you choose that wherein I am contain'd,
  6   Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemnized:
  7   But if you fail, without more speech, my lord,
  8   You must be gone from hence immediately.

      ARRAGON
  9   I am enjoin'd by oath to observe three things:
 10   First, never to unfold to any one
 11   Which casket 'twas I chose; next, if I fail
 12   Of the right casket, never in my life
 13   To woo a maid in way of marriage;
 14   Lastly,
 15   If I do fail in fortune of my choice,
 16   Immediately to leave you and be gone.

      PORTIA
 17   To these injunctions every one doth swear
 18   That comes to hazard for my worthless self.

      ARRAGON
19. address'd me: prepared myself.
 19   And so have I address'd me. Fortune now
 20   To my heart's hope! Gold; silver; and base lead.
 21   "Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath."
 22   You shall look fairer, ere I give or hazard.
 23   What says the golden chest? ha! let me see:
 24   "Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire."
25. meant: interpreted.
 25   What many men desire! that "many" may be meant
26. By: For.
 26   By the fool multitude, that choose by show,
27. fond: foolish.
 27   Not 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.
 28   Which pries not to the interior, but, like the martlet,
 29   Builds in the weather on the outward wall,
 30   Even in the force and road of casualty.
 31   I will not choose what many men desire,
32. jump: agree.
 32   Because I will not jump with common spirits
 33   And rank me with the barbarous multitudes.
 34   Why, then to thee, thou silver treasure-house;
 35   Tell me once more what title thou dost bear:
 36   "Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves."
 37   And well said too; for who shall go about
38. cozen: cheat.
 38   To cozen fortune and be honorable
39. stamp: official seal of approval (as on a document).
 39   Without the stamp of merit? Let none presume
 40   To wear an undeserved dignity.
41. estates: status. degrees: ranks.
 41   O, that estates, degrees and offices
42. deriv'd: inherited, gained. clear: illustrious.
 42   Were not deriv'd corruptly, and that clear honor
 43   Were 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.
 44   How many then should cover that stand bare!
 45   How many be commanded that command!
 46   How much low peasantry would then be gleaned
 47   From the true seed of honor! and how much honor
48. ruin: refuse.
 48   Pick'd from the chaff and ruin of the times
49. new-varnish'd: i.e., having the luster of their true nobility.
 49   To 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).
 51   I will assume desert. Give me a key for this,
 52   And instantly unlock my fortunes here.

           [He opens the silver casket.]

      PORTIA
 53   Too long a pause for that which you find there.

      ARRAGON
 54   What's here? the portrait of a blinking idiot,
55. schedule: paper with writing.
 55   Presenting me a schedule! I will read it.
 56   How much unlike art thou to Portia!
 57   How much unlike my hopes and my deservings!
 58   "Who chooseth me shall have as much as he deserves."
 59   Did I deserve no more than a fool's head?
 60   Is that my prize? are my deserts no better?

      PORTIA
61‑62. To offend, and judge, are distinct offices / And of opposed natures: —I think Portia is trying to be nice to Arragon. . . . more
 61   To offend, and judge, are distinct offices
 62   And of opposed natures.

      ARRAGON
 62                                         What is here?

           [Reads.]

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:
 64         Seven times tried that judgment is,
 65         That did never choose amiss.
 66         Some there be that shadows kiss;
 67         Such have but a shadow's bliss:
68. iwis: certainly.
 68         There be fools alive, iwis,
 69         Silver'd o'er; and so was this.
 70         Take what wife you will to bed,
71. I will ever be your head: i.e., you will always be a fool.
 71         I will ever be your head:
72. sped: done for, speeded on your way [out of here].
 72         So 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.
 73   Still more fool I shall appear
 74   By the time I linger here
 75   With one fool's head I came to woo,
 76   But I go away with two.
 77   Sweet, adieu. I'll keep my oath,
78. wroth: sorrow, unhappiness, resentment.
 78   Patiently to bear my wroth.

           [Exeunt Arragon and train.]

      PORTIA
 79   Thus hath the candle singed the moth.
80. deliberate: reasoning, calculating.
 80   O, these deliberate fools! when they do choose,
 81   They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.

      NERISSA
 82   The ancient saying is no heresy,
 83   Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.

      PORTIA
 84   Come, draw the curtain, Nerissa.

           Enter MESSENGER.

      Servant
 85   Where is my lady?

      PORTIA
85. my lord: A jesting response to "my lady."
 85                Here: what would my lord?

      Servant
 86   Madam, there is alighted at your gate
 87   A young Venetian, one that comes before
 88   To signify the approaching of his lord;
89. sensible regreets: heartfelt greeting.
 89   From whom he bringeth sensible regreets,
90. commends: greetings. breath: speech.
 90   To wit, besides commends and courteous breath,
91. Yet: heretofore, up till now.
 91   Gifts of rich value. Yet I have not seen
92. likely: promising.
 92   So likely an ambassador of love:
 93   A day in April never came so sweet,
94. costly: rich, lavish.
 94   To show how costly summer was at hand,
 95   As this fore-spurrer comes before his lord.

      PORTIA
 96   No more, I pray thee: I am half afeard
 97   Thou wilt say anon he is some kin to thee,
98. high-day: holiday; i.e., appropriate for some special occasion.
 98   Thou spend'st such high-day wit in praising him.
 99   Come, come, Nerissa; for I long to see
100. post: messenger.
100   Quick Cupid's post that comes so mannerly.

      NERISSA
101   Bassanio, Lord Love, if thy will it be!

           Exeunt.