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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 5


           Enter Clown [LAUNCELOT] and JESSICA.

      LAUNCELOT
  1   Yes, truly; for, look you, the sins of the father
  2   are to be laid upon the children: therefore, I
3. fear you: fear for you.
  3   promise ye, I fear you. I was always plain with
4. agitation: blunder for cogitation.
  4   you, and so now I speak my agitation of the matter:
  5   therefore be of good cheer, for truly I think you
  6   are damned. There is but one hope in it that can do
  7   you any good; and that is but a kind of bastard
8. neither: i.e., to be sure. Emphasizing the negative implication of what precedes (= that isn't much of a hope either).
  8   hope neither.

      JESSICA
  9   And what hope is that, I pray thee?

      LAUNCELOT
10. got: begot.
 10   Marry, you may partly hope that your father got you
 11   not, that you are not the Jew's
 12   daughter.

      JESSICA
 13   That were a kind of bastard hope, indeed: so the
 14   sins of my mother should be visited upon me.

      LAUNCELOT
 15   Truly then I fear you are damned both by father and
16‑17. Scylla, your father, I / fall into Charybdis: Scylla was a sea-monster and Charybdis a whirlpool in the strait between Italy and Sicily in The Odyssey, xii.255. . . . more 18. gone: done for, lost.
 16   mother: thus when I shun Scylla, your father, I
 17   fall into Charybdis, your mother: well, you are
 18   gone both ways.

      JESSICA
 19   I shall be saved by my husband; he hath made me a
 20   Christian.

      LAUNCELOT
21‑23. we were Christians / enow before; e'en as many as could well live, one by / another: i.e., (before you were converted to Christianity,) there were enough of us Christians, just about as many as could get along together.
 21   Truly, the more to blame he: we were Christians
 22   enow before; e'en as many as could well live, one by
 23   another. This making Christians will raise the
 24   price of hogs: if we grow all to be pork-eaters, we
25. rasher: slice of bacon.
 25   shall not shortly have a rasher on the coals
26. for money: even for ready money, at any price.
 26   for money.

           Enter LORENZO.

      JESSICA
 27   I'll tell my husband, Launcelot, what you say:
 28   here he comes.

      LORENZO
 29   I shall grow jealous of you shortly, Launcelot, if
 30   you thus get my wife into corners.

      JESSICA
 31   Nay, you need not fear us, Lorenzo: Launcelot and I
32. out: at odds.
 32   are out. He tells me flatly, there is no mercy for
 33   me in heaven, because I am a Jew's daughter: and he
 34   says, you are no good member of the commonwealth,
 35   for in converting Jews to Christians, you raise the
 36   price of pork.

      LORENZO
 37   I shall answer that better to the commonwealth than
 38   you can the getting up of the negro's belly: the
 39   Moor is with child by you, Launcelot.

      LAUNCELOT
40. more than reason: larger than is reasonable. —Launcelot is having fun . . . more 41. honest: chaste.
 40   It is much that the Moor should be more than reason:
 41   but if she be less than an honest woman, she is
 42   indeed more than I took her for.

      LORENZO
 43   How every fool can play upon the word! I think the
44. best grace: highest quality, excellence.
 44   best grace of wit will shortly turn into silence,
 45   and discourse grow commendable in none only but
 46   parrots. Go in, sirrah; bid them
 47   prepare for dinner.

      LAUNCELOT
48. stomachs: appetites.
 48   That is done, sir; they have all stomachs.

      LORENZO
 49   Goodly Lord, what a wit-snapper are you! then bid
 50   them prepare dinner.

      LAUNCELOT
51. cover: lay the table.
 51   That is done too, sir; only "cover" is the
 52   word.

      LORENZO
 53   Will you cover then, sir?

      LAUNCELOT
54. I know my duty:  Being witty, Launcelot now takes cover in the sense "put on your hat," and says that he knows better than to put on his hat in the presence of his social superiors.
 54   Not so, sir, neither; I know my duty.

      LORENZO
55. quarrelling with occasion: taking issue at every opportunity; i.e., quibbling at every word.
 55   Yet more quarrelling with occasion! Wilt thou show
 56   the whole wealth of thy wit in an instant? I pray
 57   thee, understand a plain man in his plain meaning:
 58   go to thy fellows; bid them cover the table, serve
59. meat: food.
 59   in the meat, and we will come in to
 60   dinner.

      LAUNCELOT
61. table: Here used in the sense "food," as is shown by served in. 62. cover'd: i.e., served in covered dishes.
 61   For the table, sir, it shall be served in; for the
 62   meat, sir, it shall be cover'd; for your coming in
63‑64. as humors and conceits shall govern: as your whims and notions shall determine.
 63   to dinner, sir, why, let it be as humors and
 64   conceits shall govern.

           Exit Clown.

      LORENZO
65. discretion: discrimination; i.e., ability to play with various meanings of words. suited: i.e., suited to Launcelot's character. —Lorenzo's point is that Launcelot is a fool and talks like a fool. 68. A many: many. better place: higher social rank. 69‑70. Garnish'd: furnished (with words). that for a tricksy word / Defy the matter: who for . . . more 70.  How cheer'st thou, Jessica?: How are you feeling, Jessica? —I think that Lorenzo wants to know if Launcelot has amused her.
 65   O dear discretion, how his words are suited!
 66   The fool hath planted in his memory
 67   An army of good words; and I do know
 68   A many fools, that stand in better place,
 69   Garnish'd like him, that for a tricksy word
 70   Defy the matter. How cheer'st thou, Jessica?
 71   And now, good sweet, say thy opinion,
 72   How dost thou like the Lord Bassanio's wife?

      JESSICA
 73   Past all expressing. It is very meet
 74   The Lord Bassanio live an upright life;
 75   For, having such a blessing in his lady,
 76   He finds the joys of heaven here on earth;
 77   And if on earth he do not mean it, then
 78   In reason he should never come to heaven
 79   Why, if two gods should play some heavenly match
80. lay: stake.
 80   And on the wager lay two earthly women,
81. else: more.
 81   And Portia one, there must be something else
82. Pawn'd: staked, wagered.
 82   Pawn'd with the other, for the poor rude world
83. fellow: equal.
 83   Hath not her fellow.

      LORENZO
 83                                   Even such a husband
 84   Hast thou of me as she is for a wife.

      JESSICA
 85   Nay, but ask my opinion too of that.

      LORENZO
 86   I will anon: first, let us go to dinner.

      JESSICA
87. stomach: (1) appetite; (2) inclination.
 87   Nay, let me praise you while I have a stomach.

      LORENZO
 88   No, pray thee, let it serve for table-talk;
89. howsome'er: howsoever.
 89   Then, howsome'er thou speak'st, 'mong other things
90. set you forth: (1) serve you up, as at a feast; (2) praise you highly.
 90   I shall digest it.

      JESSICA
 90                Well, I'll set you forth.

           Exeunt.