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 3, Scene 2

           Enter BASSANIO, PORTIA,
           GRATIANO, [NERISSA,]
           and all their TRAINS.

  1   I pray you, tarry: pause a day or two
2. in choosing: if you choose.
  2   Before you hazard; for, in choosing wrong,
  3   I lose your company: therefore forbear awhile.
  4   There's something tells me, but it is not love,
  5   I would not lose you; and you know yourself,
6. quality: way, manner.
  6   Hate counsels not in such a quality.
  7   But lest you should not understand me well,—
  8   And yet a maiden hath no tongue but thought,—
  9   I would detain you here some month or two
 10   Before you venture for me. I could teach you
 11   How to choose right, but I am then forsworn;
 12   So will I never be: so may you miss me;
 13   But if you do, you'll make me wish a sin,
 14   That I had been forsworn. Beshrew your eyes,
15. o'erlook'd: bewitched.
 15   They have o'erlook'd me and divided me;
 16   One half of me is yours, the other half yours,
 17   Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours,
18. naughty: worthless, wicked.
 18   And so all yours. O, these naughty times
 19   Put bars between the owners and their rights!
20. Prove it so: should it prove so.
 20   And so, though yours, not yours. Prove it so,
 21   Let fortune go to hell for it, not I.
22. peize: weigh down, retard.
 22   I speak too long; but 'tis to peize the time,
23. eche: eke out, augment.
 23   To eche it and to draw it out in length,
 24   To stay you from election.

 24                                             Let me choose
 25   For as I am, I live upon the rack.

26‑27. confess / What treason: The rack was used to extort confessions of treason.
 26   Upon the rack, Bassanio! then confess
 27   What treason there is mingled with your love.

28. mistrust: misapprehension, doubt, uncertainty.
 28   None but that ugly treason of mistrust,
29. fear: fearful about, feel apprehensive about.
 29   Which makes me fear the enjoying of my love:
 30   There may as well be amity and life
 31   'Tween snow and fire, as treason and my love.

 32   Ay, but I fear you speak upon the rack,
 33   Where men enforced do speak anything.

 34   Promise me life, and I'll confess the truth.

 35   Well then, confess and live.

 35                                               "Confess" and "love"
 36   Had been the very sum of my confession:
 37   O happy torment, when my torturer
 38   Doth teach me answers for deliverance!
39. fortune and the caskets: Presumably the curtains are drawn at this point, as in previous "casket" scenes, revealing the three caskets.
 39   But let me to my fortune and the caskets.

 40   Away, then! I am lock'd in one of them:
 41   If you do love me, you will find me out.
 42   Nerissa and the rest, stand all aloof.
 43   Let music sound while he doth make his choice;
44. swan-like end: The swan was thought to sing before dying.
 44   Then, if he lose, he makes a swan-like end,
 45   Fading in music: that the comparison
 46   May stand more proper, my eye shall be the stream
 47   And watery death-bed for him. He may win;
 48   And what is music then? Then music is
49. flourish: fanfare of trumpets.

54. presence: nobility of appearance. 54‑57 much . . . sea-monster: "Alcides" was an earlier Hercules . . . more 56. howling: lamenting. 57. stand for sacrifice: represent the sacrificial victim.
 49   Even as the flourish when true subjects bow
 50   To a new-crowned monarch: such it is
 51   As are those dulcet sounds in break of day
 52   That creep into the dreaming bridegroom's ear,
 53   And summon him to marriage. Now he goes,
 54   With no less presence, but with much more love,
 55   Than young Alcides, when he did redeem
 56   The virgin tribute paid by howling Troy
 57   To the sea-monster: I stand for sacrifice
58. Dardanian: Trojan.
 58   The rest aloof are the Dardanian wives,
59. bleared: weeping.
 59   With bleared visages, come forth to view
60. issue: outcome.
 60   The issue of the exploit. Go, Hercules!
61. Live thou: if you live.
 61   Live thou, I live: with much, much more dismay
 62   I view the fight than thou that makest the fray.

           A song, whilst Bassanio comments
           on the caskets to himself.

63. fancy: love, infatuation.
 63        Tell me where is fancy bred,
64. Or: Either.
 64        Or in the heart, or in the head?
 65        How begot, how nourished?
 66                   [All.] Reply, reply.
67. engend'red in the eyes: born in the eyes.
 67        It is engend'red in the eyes,
 68        With gazing fed; and fancy dies
69. In the cradle: i.e., in the eyes where it was born. —The point is that "fancy" is superficial and dies when the beautiful loved one is out of sight. That Bassanio has gotten the hint is apparent in his next line.
 69        In the cradle where it lies.
 70        Let us all ring fancy's knell
 71        I'll begin it,—Ding, dong, bell.
 72                   All. Ding, dong, bell.

73. So . . . themselves: i.e., thus what looks best on the outside . . . more 74. still: ever, continually.
 73   So may the outward shows be least themselves:
 74   The world is still deceived with ornament.
 75   In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
 76   But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,
 77   Obscures the show of evil? In religion,
 78   What damned error, but some sober brow
79. approve: prove, confirm
 79   Will bless it and approve it with a text,
 80   Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
81. simple: unadulterated, unmixed.
 81   There is no vice so simple but assumes
 82   Some mark of virtue on his outward parts:
83. all: just.
 83   How many cowards, whose hearts are all as false
84. stairs: steps.
 84   As stairs of sand, wear yet upon their chins
 85   The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars;
86. livers . . . milk: The liver was thought to be the seat of courage; a coward . . . more 87. excrement: outgrowth; i.e., external attributes . . . more 88. render them redoubted: make themselves feared.
 86   Who, inward search'd, have livers white as milk;
 87   And these assume but valour's excrement
 88   To render them redoubted! Look on beauty,
 89   And you shall see 'tis purchased by the weight;
 90   Which therein works a miracle in nature,
91. lightest: most wanton, most lascivious (with a pun on the sense least heavy). 92. crisped: curled. snaky: long and waving.
 91   Making them lightest that wear most of it:
 92   So are those crisped snaky golden locks
 93   Which make such wanton gambols with the wind,
94. supposed fairness: i.e., a supposedly beautiful and fair-haired woman. 95‑96. To be . . . sepulcher: i.e., to be a wig of hair taken from a woman now dead. dowry: possession. a second: another. 97. guiled: guileful, treacherous.
 94   Upon supposed fairness, often known
 95   To be the dowry of a second head,
 96   The skull that bred them in the sepulcher.
 97   Thus ornament is but the guiled shore
 98   To a most dangerous sea; the beauteous scarf
99. Indian: i.e., swarthy (pejorative ).
 99   Veiling an Indian beauty; in a word,
100   The seeming truth which cunning times put on
101   To entrap the wisest. Therefore, thou gaudy gold,
102. Midas: Phrygian king who turned whatever he touched to gold, including his food. 103‑104. pale and common drudge / 'Tween man and man: i.e., silver, used in commerce. common drudge: public slave.
102   Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee;
103   Nor none of thee, thou pale and common drudge
104   'Tween man and man: but thou, thou meagre lead,
105   Which rather threatenest than dost promise aught,
106. Thy paleness: —Many editors emend "paleness" to "plainness" (following the example of Theobald, an 18th-century editor), because Bassanio's entire speech has concerned the deceptiveness of ornament and outward show.
106   Thy paleness moves me more than eloquence;
107   And here choose I; joy be the consequence!

      PORTIA [Aside.]
108   How all the other passions fleet to air,
109. As: such as. doubtful: fearful.
109   As doubtful thoughts, and rash-embraced despair,
110   And shuddering fear, and green-eyed jealousy! O love,
111   Be moderate; allay thy ecstasy,
112. In measure rein thy joy: pour out your joy moderately. scant: lessen, diminish.
112   In measure rein thy joy; scant this excess.
113   I feel too much thy blessing: make it less,
114   For fear I surfeit.

114                               What find I here?

           [Opening the leaden casket.]

115. counterfeit: portrait. demi-god: i.e., the painter as creator.
115   Fair Portia's counterfeit! What demi-god
116   Hath come so near creation? Move these eyes?
117. Or whether: or.
117   Or whether, riding on the balls of mine,
118. sever'd: separated.
118   Seem they in motion? Here are sever'd lips,
119. so sweet a bar: i.e., Portia's breath.
119   Parted with sugar breath: so sweet a bar
120. sweet friends: i.e., her lips.
120   Should sunder such sweet friends. Here in her hairs
121   The painter plays the spider and hath woven
122   A golden mesh to entrap the hearts of men,
123. Faster: more firmly.
123   Faster than gnats in cobwebs; but her eyes,—
124   How could he see to do them? having made one,
125   Methinks it should have power to steal both his
126. unfurnish'd: i.e., without its mate. look how far: however far, as far as. 127. substance: i.e., verbal expression. shadow: painting, portrait. 128. underprizing it: i.e., understating its beauty. 129. the substance: the subject; i.e., Portia herself. 130. continent: container.
126   And leave itself unfurnish'd. Yet look, how far
127   The substance of my praise doth wrong this shadow
128   In underprizing it, so far this shadow
129   Doth limp behind the substance. Here's the scroll,
130   The continent and summary of my fortune.


131            "You that choose not by the view,
132. Chance as fair: hazard as fortunately.
132            Chance as fair and choose as true!
133            Since this fortune falls to you,
134            Be content and seek no new,
135            If you be well pleased with this
136            And hold your fortune for your bliss,
137            Turn you where your lady is
138            And claim her with a loving kiss."
139   A gentle scroll. Fair lady, by your leave;
140. note: authorization in writing (the scroll). give and to receive: i.e., proffer a kiss . . . more 141. prize: competition.
140   I come by note, to give and to receive.
141   Like one of two contending in a prize,
142   That thinks he hath done well in people's eyes,
143   Hearing applause and universal shout,
144   Giddy in spirit, still gazing in a doubt
145. his: for him.
145   Whether these pearls of praise be his or no;
146   So, thrice fair lady, stand I, even so;
147   As doubtful whether what I see be true,
148   Until confirm'd, sign'd, ratified by you.

149   You see me, Lord Bassanio, where I stand,
150   Such as I am: though for myself alone
151   I would not be ambitious in my wish,
152   To wish myself much better; yet, for you
153   I would be trebled twenty times myself;
154   A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich;
155. account: estimation.
155   That only to stand high in your account,
156. livings: possessions.
156   I might in virtue, beauties, livings, friends,
157. account: calculation.
157   Exceed account; but the full sum of me
158. Is sum of something: i.e., adds up to something. term in gross: state in full.
158   Is sum of something, which, to term in gross,
159   Is an unlesson'd girl, unschool'd, unpractised;
160. Happy: fortunate.
160   Happy in this, she is not yet so old
161   But she may learn; happier than this,
162   She is not bred so dull but she can learn;
163   Happiest of all is that her gentle spirit
164   Commits itself to yours to be directed,
165. from: by.
165   As from her lord, her governor, her king.
166   Myself and what is mine to you and yours
167. But now: only a short while ago, just now.
167   Is now converted: but now I was the lord
168   Of this fair mansion, master of my servants,
169   Queen o'er myself: and even now, but now,
170   This house, these servants and this same myself
171   Are yours, my lord: I give them with this ring;
172   Which when you part from, lose, or give away,
173. ruin: decay.
173   Let it presage the ruin of your love
174. vantage: opportunity. exclaim on: accuse, reproach.
174   And be my vantage to exclaim on you.

175   Madam, you have bereft me of all words,
176   Only my blood speaks to you in my veins;
177. powers: faculties.
177   And there is such confusion in my powers,
178   As after some oration fairly spoke
179   By a beloved prince, there doth appear
180   Among the buzzing pleased multitude;
181. blent: blended, confused.
181   Where every something, being blent together,
182   Turns to a wild of nothing, save of joy,
183   Express'd and not express'd. But when this ring
184   Parts from this finger, then parts life from hence:
185. be bold to say: say with confidence.
185   O, then be bold to say Bassanio's dead!

186   My lord and lady, it is now our time,
187. That: we who.
187   That have stood by and seen our wishes prosper,
188   To cry, good joy: good joy, my lord and lady!

189   My lord Bassanio and my gentle lady,
190   I wish you all the joy that you can wish;
191. you can wish none from me: i.e., you feel no need to be wished more joy by me (than you have already wished for yourselves).
191   For I am sure you can wish none from me:
192   And when your honors mean to solemnize
193   The bargain of your faith, I do beseech you,
194   Even at that time I may be married too.

195. so: provided.
195   With all my heart, so thou canst get a wife.

196   I thank your lordship, you have got me one.
197   My eyes, my lord, can look as swift as yours:
198   You saw the mistress, I beheld the maid;
199. intermission: delay (in falling in love).
199   You loved, I loved for intermission.
200   No more pertains to me, my lord, than you.
201   Your fortune stood upon the casket there,
202   And so did mine too, as the matter falls;
203. sweat again: sweated repeatedly.
203   For wooing here until I sweat again,
204. roof: i.e., roof of my mouth.
204   And sweating until my very roof was dry
205. if promise last: i.e., if Nerissa's promise should last, hold out.
205   With oaths of love, at last, if promise last,
206   I got a promise of this fair one here
207   To have her love, provided that your fortune
208   Achieved her mistress.

208                                         Is this true, Nerissa?

209. so: provided.
209   Madam, it is, so you stand pleased withal.

210   And do you, Gratiano, mean good faith?

211   Yes, faith, my lord.

212   Our feast shall be much honor'd in your marriage.

213. play: make a wager.
213   We'll play with them the first boy for a
214   thousand ducats.

215. stake down: money to cover the bet paid down in advance (but Gratiano makes a bawdy pun on the term).
215   What, and stake down?

216   No; we shall ne'er win at that sport, and
217   stake down.
218   But who comes here? Lorenzo and his infidel? What,
219   and my old Venetian friend Salerio?

           Enter LORENZO, JESSICA,
           and SALERIO, a Messenger from Venice.

220   Lorenzo and Salerio, welcome hither;
221‑222. If that the youth of my new interest here / Have power: i.e., if my place in this household, still so new, gives me the right. 223. very: true.
221   If that the youth of my new interest here
222   Have power to bid you welcome. By your leave,
223   I bid my very friends and countrymen,
224   Sweet Portia, welcome.

224                                       So do I, my lord:
225. entirely: heartily.
225   They are entirely welcome.

226   I thank your honor. For my part, my lord,
227   My purpose was not to have seen you here;
228   But meeting with Salerio by the way,
229   He did entreat me, past all saying nay,
230   To come with him along.

230                                       I did, my lord;
231   And I have reason for it. Signior Antonio
232. Commends him: desires to be remembered, sends his greetings.
232   Commends him to you.

           [Gives Bassanio a letter.]

232                                 Ere I ope his letter,
233   I pray you, tell me how my good friend doth.

234   Not sick, my lord, unless it be in mind;
235   Nor well, unless in mind: his letter there
236. estate: condition, situation.
236   Will show you his estate.

           [Bassanio] open[s] the letter.

237   Nerissa, cheer yon stranger; bid her welcome.
238   Your hand, Salerio: what's the news from Venice?
239. royal merchant: i.e., prince of merchants.
239   How doth that royal merchant, good Antonio?
240   I know he will be glad of our success;
241. Jasons, we have won the fleece: —In his first appearance in the play, Bassanio compared Portia to the Golden Fleece which Jason won. See Act 1, Scene 1
241   We are the Jasons, we have won the fleece.

242   I would you had won the fleece that he hath lost.

243. shrowd: cursed, shrewd, grievous.
243   There are some shrowd contents in yon same paper,
244   That steals the color from Bassanio's cheek:
245   Some dear friend dead; else nothing in the world
246. constitution: state of mind.
246   Could turn so much the constitution
247. constant: settled, not swayed by passion, steadfast.
247   Of any constant man. What, worse and worse!
248   With leave, Bassanio: I am half yourself,
249   And I must freely have the half of anything
250   That this same paper brings you.

250                                                       O sweet Portia,
251   Here are a few of the unpleasant'st words
252   That ever blotted paper! Gentle lady,
253   When I did first impart my love to you,
254   I freely told you, all the wealth I had
255   Ran in my veins, I was a gentleman;
256   And then I told you true: and yet, dear lady,
257   Rating myself at nothing, you shall see
258   How much I was a braggart. When I told you
259. state: estate, property.
259   My state was nothing, I should then have told you
260   That I was worse than nothing; for, indeed,
261   I have engaged myself to a dear friend,
262. mere: absolute.
262   Engaged my friend to his mere enemy,
263   To feed my means. Here is a letter, lady;
264. The paper as the body of my friend: i.e., the letter, like my friend's body, torn open.
264   The paper as the body of my friend,
265   And every word in it a gaping wound,
266   Issuing life-blood. But is it true, Salerio?
267. hit: successful venture.
267   Have all his ventures fail'd? What, not one hit?
268   From Tripolis, from Mexico and England,
269   From Lisbon, Barbary and India?
270   And not one vessel 'scape the dreadful touch
271. merchant-marring: destructive to merchant ships.
271   Of merchant-marring rocks?

271                                             Not one, my lord.
272   Besides, it should appear, that if he had
273. present: ready. discharge: settle his obligation to, pay off. 274. He: i.e., Shylock, the Jew.
273   The present money to discharge the Jew,
274   He would not take it. Never did I know
275   A creature, that did bear the shape of man,
276. keen: savage. confound: destroy.
276   So keen and greedy to confound a man:
277   He plies the duke at morning and at night,
278. impeach the freedom of the state: i.e., accuse Venice of failing to enforce legal contracts.
278   And doth impeach the freedom of the state,
279   If they deny him justice: twenty merchants,
280. magnificoes: grandees, chief men of Venice.
280   The duke himself, and the magnificoes
281. port: state, dignity. persuaded: argued, pleaded.
281   Of greatest port, have all persuaded with him;
282. envious: malicious.
282   But none can drive him from the envious plea
283   Of forfeiture, of justice and his bond.

284   When I was with him I have heard him swear
285   To Tubal and to Chus, his countrymen,
286   That he would rather have Antonio's flesh
287   Than twenty times the value of the sum
288   That he did owe him: and I know, my lord,
289   If law, authority and power deny not,
290   It will go hard with poor Antonio.

291   Is it your dear friend that is thus in trouble?

292   The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,
293. best-condition'd: best-natured. unwearied: i.e., most unwearied.
293   The best-condition'd and unwearied spirit
294   In doing courtesies, and one in whom
295   The ancient Roman honor more appears
296   Than any that draws breath in Italy.

297   What sum owes he the Jew?

298   For me three thousand ducats.

298                                                   What, no more?
299. deface: destroy.
299   Pay him six thousand, and deface the bond;
300   Double six thousand, and then treble that,
301   Before a friend of this description
302   Shall lose a hair through Bassanio's fault.
303   First go with me to church and call me wife,
304   And then away to Venice to your friend;
305   For never shall you lie by Portia's side
306   With an unquiet soul. You shall have gold
307   To pay the petty debt twenty times over:
308   When it is paid, bring your true friend along.
309   My maid Nerissa and myself meantime
310   Will live as maids and widows. Come, away!
311   For you shall hence upon your wedding-day:
312. cheer: countenance.
312   Bid your friends welcome, show a merry cheer:
313. dear bought: obtained at a high price.
313   Since you are dear bought, I will love you dear.
314   But let me hear the letter of your friend.

      BASSANIO [Reads.]
315   "Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all
316   miscarried, my creditors grow cruel, my estate is
317   very low, my bond to the Jew is forfeit; and since
318   in paying it, it is impossible I should live, all
319   debts are cleared between you and I, if I might but
320‑321. use your / pleasure: follow your own inclination.
320   see you at my death. Notwithstanding, use your
321   pleasure: if your love do not persuade you to come,
322   let not my letter."

323   O love, dispatch all business, and be gone!

324   Since I have your good leave to go away,
325   I will make haste: but, till I come again,
326   No bed shall e'er be guilty of my stay,
327   No rest be interposer 'twixt us twain.