Read ACT I of Merchant of Venice, free online book, by William Shakespeare, on


Various groups of Nobles, Citizens, Merchants, Foreigners, Water-Carriers, Flower Girls, &c., pass and repass.  Procession of the Doge, in state, across the square.

ANTONIO, SALARINO, and SALANIO come forward.

Ant.  In sooth, I know not why I am so sad;
It wearies me; you say, it wearies you;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn;
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.

Salar.  Your mind is tossing on the ocean;
There, where your argosies with portly sail,
Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood,
Do overpeer the petty traffickers,
That curt’sy to them, do them reverence,
As they fly by them with their woven wings.

Sal.  Believe me, Sir, had I such venture forth,
The better part of my affections would
Be with my hopes abroad.  I should be still
Plucking the grass, to know where sits the wind;
Peering in maps, for ports, and piers, and roads;
And every object that might make me fear
Misfortune to my ventures, out of doubt,
Would make me sad.

Salar.  My wind, cooling my broth,
Would blow me to an ague, when I thought
What harm a wind too great might do at sea. 
I should not see the sandy hour-glass run,
But I should think of shallows and of flats;
And see my wealthy Andrew dock’d in sand,
Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs,
To kiss her burial. 
Shall I have the thought
To think on this? and shall I lack the thought
That such a thing, bechanc’d, would make me sad? 
But tell not me; I know Antonio
Is sad to think upon his merchandize.

Ant.  Believe me, no:  I thank my fortune for it,
My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,
Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate
Upon the fortune of this present year: 
Therefore my merchandize makes me not sad.

Salar.  Why, then, you are in love.

Ant.  Fie, fie!

Salar.  Not in love, neither?  Then let us say you are sad,
Because you are not merry:  an ’twere as easy
For you to laugh and leap, and say you are merry,
Because you are not sad.

Sal.  Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman,
Gratiano, and Lorenzo:  Fare you well;
We leave you now with better company.

Salar.  I would have staid till I had made you merry, If worthier friends had not prevented me.

Ant.  Your worth is very dear in my regard.  I take it your own business calls on you, And you embrace the occasion to depart.


Salar.  Good morrow, my good lords.

Bas.  Good signiors, both, when shall we laugh?  Say, when?  You grow exceeding strange:  Must it be so?

Salar.  We’ll make our leisures to attend on yours.


Lor.  My lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio, We two will leave you; but at dinner-time I pray you have in mind where we must meet.

Bas.  I will not fail you.

Gra.  You look not well, Signor Antonio;
You have too much respect upon the world: 
They lose it that do buy it with much care. 
Believe me, you are marvellously chang’d.

Ant.  I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano; A stage, where every man must play a part, And mine a sad one.

Gra.  Let me play the fool:
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come;
And let my liver rather heat with wine,
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans. 
Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire, cut in alabaster? 
Sleep when he wakes? and creep into the jaundice
By being peevish?  I tell thee what, Antonio,
I love thee, and it is my love that speaks; ­
There are a sort of men, whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond: 
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dress’d in an opinion
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit;
As who should say, ’I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my lips let no dog bark!
O, my Antonio, I do know of these,
That therefore only are reputed wise
For saying nothing; when I am very sure,
If they should speak, ’twould almost damn those ears
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools. 
I’ll tell thee more of this another time: 
But fish not with this melancholy bait,
For this fool gudgeon, this opinion. 
Come, good Lorenzo: ­Fare ye well, a while;
I’ll end my exhortation after dinner.

Lor.  Well, we will leave you, then, till dinner-time:  I must be one of these same dumb wise men, For Gratiano never lets me speak.

Gra.  Well, keep me company but two years more, Thou shalt not know the sound of thine own tongue.

Ant.  Farewell:  I’ll grow a talker for this gear.

Gra.  Thanks, i’faith; for silence is only commendable In a neat’s tongue dried, and a maid not vendible.


Ant.  Is that any thing now?

Bas.  Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice.  His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff; you shall seek all day ere you find them; and when you, have them they are not worth the search.

Ant.  Well; tell me now, what lady is the same
To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage,
That you to-day promis’d to tell me of?

Bas.  ’Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
How much I have disabled mine estate,
By something showing a more swelling port
Than my faint means would grant continuance. 
To you, Antonio, I owe the most in money and in love;
And from your love I have a warranty
To unburthen all my plots and purposes,
How to get clear of all the debts I owe.

Ant.  I pray you, good Bassanio, let me know it;
And, if it stand, as you yourself still do,
Within the eye of honour, be assur’d
My purse, my person, my extremest means,
Lie all unlock’d to your occasions.

Bas.  In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft
I shot his fellow of the self-same flight
The self-same way, with more advised watch
To find the other forth; and by adventuring both
I oft found both.  I urge this childhood proof,
Because what follows is pure innocence. 
I owe you much; and, like a wasteful youth,
That which I owe is lost:  but if you please
To shoot another arrow that self way
Which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,
As I will watch the aim, or to find both,
Or bring your latter hazard back again,
And thankfully rest debtor for the first

Ant.  You know me well; and herein spend but time,
To wind about my love with circumstance;
Then do but say to me what I should do,
That in your knowledge may by me be done,
And I am prest unto it: therefore speak.

Bas.  In Belmont is a lady richly left,
And she is fair, and, fairer than that word,
Of wond’rous virtues.  Sometimes from her eyes
I did receive fair speechless messages: 
Her name is Portia; nothing undervalued
To Cato’s daughter, Brutus’ Portia. 
Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth;
For the four winds blow in from every coast
Renowned suitors. 
O, my Antonio! had I but the means
To hold a rival place with one of them,
I have a mind presages me such thrift. 
That I should questionless be fortunate.

Ant.  Thou know’st that all my fortunes are at sea;
Neither have I money, nor commodity
To raise a present sum:  therefore go forth,
Try what my credit can in Venice do;
That shall be rack’d, even to the uttermost,
To furnish thee to Belmont, to fair Portia. 
Go, presently inquire, and so will I,
Where money is; and I no question make,
To have it of my trust, or for my sake.




Por.  By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is a-weary of this great world.

Ner.  You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes are.  And yet, for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing.  It is no small happiness, therefore, to be seated in the mean; superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.

Por.  Good sentences, and well pronounced.

Ner.  They would be better, if well followed.

Por.  If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces.  It is a good divine that follows his own instructions:  I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.  But this reasoning is not in the fashion to choose me a husband: ­O me, the word choose!  I may neither choose whom I would, nor refuse whom I dislike, so is the will of a living daughter curb’d by the will of a dead father: ­Is it not hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one, nor refuse none?

Ner.  Your father was ever virtuous; and holy men at their death have good inspirations; therefore, the lottery that he hath devised in these three chests, of gold, silver, and lead (whereof who chooses his meaning chooses you), will, no doubt, never be chosen by any rightly, but one who you shall rightly love.  But what warmth is there in your affection towards any of these princely suitors that are already come?

Por.  I pray thee, over-name them; and as thou namest them I will describe them; and according to my description level at my affection.

Ner.  First, there is the Neapolitan prince.

Por.  Ay, that’s a colt, indeed, for he doth nothing but talk of his horse, and he makes it a great approbation of his own good parts that he can shoe him himself.

Ner.  Then, is there the county Palatine.

Por.  He doth nothing but frown; as who should say, ’An you will not have me, choose;’ he hears merry tales, and smiles not:  I fear he will prove the weeping philosopher when he grows old, being so full of unmannerly sadness in his youth.  I had rather to be married to a death’s head with a bone in his mouth, than to either of these.  Heaven defend me from these two!

Ner.  How say you by the French lord, Monsieur Le Bon?

Por.  Heaven made him, and therefore let him pass for a man.

Ner.  How like you the young German, the Duke of Saxony’s nephew?

Por.  Very vilely in the morning, when he is sober; and most vilely in the afternoon, when he is drunk:  when he is best he is a little worse than a man; and when he is worst he is little better than a beast:  an the worst fall that ever fell, I hope I shall make shift to go without him.

Ner.  If he should offer to choose, and choose the right casket, you should refuse to perform your father’s will if you should refuse to accept him.

Por.  Therefore, for fear of the worst, I pray thee set a deep glass of Rhenish wine on the contrary casket; for, if the devil be within, and that temptation without, I know he will choose it.

Ner.  You need not fear, lady, the having any of these lords; they have acquainted me with their determinations:  which is, indeed, to return to their home and to trouble you with no more suit; unless you may be won by some other sort than your father’s imposition, depending on the caskets.

Por.  I am glad this parcel of wooers are so reasonable; for there is not one among them hut I dote on his very absence, and I wish them a fair departure.

Ner.  Do you not remember, lady, in your father’s time, a Venetian, a scholar, and a soldier, that came hither in company of the Marquis of Montferrat?

Por.  Yes, yes, it was Bassanio; as I think so was he called.

Ner.  True, madam; he, of all the men that ever my foolish eyes looked upon was the best deserving a fair lady.

Por.  I remember him well; and I remember him worthy of thy praise. ­How now? ­What news?


Ser.  The four strangers seek you, madam, to take their leave:  and there is a fore-runner come from a fifth, the prince of Morocco; who brings word the prince, his master, will be here to-night.

Por.  If I could bid the fifth welcome with so good heart as I can bid the other four farewell, I should be glad of his approach.

Come, Nerissa.  Sirrah, go before.

Whiles we shut the gate upon one wooer, another knocks at the door.


County and Count in old language, were synonymous.  The Count Albertus Alasco was in London in 1583.]



Shy.  Three thousand ducats, ­well,

Bas.  Ay, sir, for three months.

Shy.  For three months, ­well.

Bas.  For the which, as I told you, Antonio shall be bound.

Shy.  Antonio shall become bound, ­well.

Bas.  May you stead me?  Will you pleasure me?  Shall I know your answer?

Shy.  Three thousand ducats, for three months, and Antonio bound.

Bas.  Your answer to that.

Shy.  Antonio is a good man.

Bas.  Have you heard any imputation to the contrary?

Shy.  Oh no, no, no, no; ­my meaning in saying he is a good man is, to have you understand me that he is sufficient; yet his means are in supposition:  he hath an argosy bound to Tripolis, another-to the Indies; I understand, moreover, upon the Rialto, he hath a third at Mexico, a fourth for England; and other ventures he hath, squander’d abroad. But ships are but boards, sailors but men:  there be land rats and water rats, land thieves and water thieves; I mean, pirates; and then, there is the peril of waters, winds, and rocks:  The man is, notwithstanding, sufficient; ­three thousand ducats; ­I think I may take his bond.

Bas.  Be assured you may.

Shy.  I will be assured I may; and that I may be assured I will bethink me:  May I speak with Antonio?

Bas.  If it please you to dine with us.

Shy.  Yes, to smell pork; to eat of the habitation which your prophet, the Nazarite, conjured the devil into! I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you. ­What news on the Rialto? ­Who is he comes here?

Bas.  This is signior Antonio.


Shy. (aside.) How like a fawning publican he looks? 
I hate him, for he is a Christian: 
But more, for that, in low simplicity,
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice. (E)
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him. 
He hates our sacred nation:  and he rails
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift. 
Which he calls interest:  Cursed be my tribe
If I forgive him!


Bas.  Shylock, do you hear?

Shy.  I am debating of my present store;
And, by the near guess of my memory,
I cannot instantly raise up the gross
Of full three thousand ducats:  What of that? 
Tubal, a wealthy Hebrew of my tribe,
Will furnish me:  But soft:  How many months
Do you desire? ­Rest you fair, good signior: 


Your worship was the last man in our mouths.

Ant.  Shylock, albeit, I neither lend nor borrow,
By taking, nor by giving of excess. 
Yet, to supply the ripe wants of my friend,
I’ll break a custom: –­Is he yet possess’d
How much you would?

Shy.  Ay, ay, three thousand ducats.

Ant.  And for three months.

Shy.  I had forgot, ­three months, you told me so
Well then, your bond; and, let me see.  But hear you: 
Methought you said, you neither lend nor borrow,
Upon advantage.

Ant.  I do never use it.

Shy.  When Jacob graz’d his uncle Laban’s sheep,
This Jacob from our holy Abraham was
(As his wise mother wrought in his behalf)
The third possessor; ay, he was the third.

Ant.  And what of him? did he take interest?

Shy.  No, not take interest; not, as you would say,
Directly interest:  mark what Jacob did. 
When Laban and himself were compromis’d
That all the eanlings which were streak’d and pied
Should fall, as Jacob’s hire;
The skilful shepherd peel’d me certain wands,
And, in the doing of the deed of kind,
He stuck them up before the fulsome ewes;
Who, then conceiving, did in eaning-time
Fall party-coloured lambs, and those were Jacob’s.
This was a way to thrive, and he was blest;
And thrift is blessing, if men steal it not.

Ant.  This was a venture, Sir, that Jacob serv’d for;
A thing not in his power to bring to pass,
But sway’d and fashion’d by the hand of Heaven. 
Was this inserted to make interest good? 
Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams?

Shy.  I cannot tell; I make it breed as fast.

Ant.  Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek;
A goodly apple rotten at the heart;
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

Shy.  Three thousand ducats, ­’tis a good round sum.  Three months from twelve, then let me see the rate.

Ant.  Well, Shylock, shall we be beholden to you?

Shy.  Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my monies, and my usances:
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug;
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe: 
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spet upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own. 
Well, then, it now appears you need my help: 
Go to, then; you come to me, and you say,
Shylock, we would have monies;’ You say so;
You, that did void your rheum upon my beard,
And foot me, as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshhold; monies is your suit,
What should I say to you?  Should I not say
Hath a dog money? is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?
’ or
Shall I bend low, and in a bondman’s key,
With ’bated breath, and whispering humbleness,
Say this, ­
Fair Sir, you spet on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn’d me such a day; another time
You call’d me dog; and for these courtesies
I’ll lend you thus much monies?

Ant.  I am as like to call thee so again,
To spet on thee again, to spurn thee too. 
If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not
As to thy friends; (for when did friendship take
A breed of barren metal of his friend?)
But lend it rather to thine enemy;
Who, if he break, thou may’st with better face
Exact the penalties.

Shy.  Why, look you, how you storm! 
I would be friends with you, and have your love;
Forget the shames that you have stain’d me with;
Supply your present wants, and take no doit
Of usance for my monies, and you’ll not hear me: 
This is kind I offer.

Ant.  This were kindness.

Shy.  This kindness will I show: 
Go with me to a notary:  seal me there
Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum, or sums, as are
Express’d in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.

Ant.  Content, in faith; I’ll seal to such a bond, And say, there is much kindness in the Jew.

Bas.  You shall not seal to such a bond for me I’ll rather dwell in my necessity.

Ant.  Why, fear not, man; I will not forfeit it;
Within these two months, that’s a month before
This bond expires, I do expect return
Of thrice three times the value of this bond.

Shy.  O father Abraham, what these Christians are. 
Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect
The thoughts of others!  Pray you, tell me this
If he should break his day, what should I gain
By the exaction of the forfeiture? 
A pound of man’s flesh, taken from a man,
Is not so estimable, profitable neither,
As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats.  I say,
To buy his favour I extend this friendship;
If he will take it, so; if not, adieu;
And, for my love, I pray you wrong me not.

Ant.  Yes, Shylock, I will seal unto this bond.

Shy.  Then meet me forthwith at the notary’s;
Give him direction for this merry bond,
And I will go and purse the ducats straight;
See to my house, left in the fearful guard
Of an unthrifty knave; and presently
I will be with you.


Ant.  Hie thee, gentle Jew.  This Hebrew will turn Christian; he grows kind.

Bas.  I like not fair terms and a villain’s mind.

Ant.  Come, on; in this there can be no dismay, My ships come home a month before the day.



Flourish of Cornets.  Enter the PRINCE OF MOROCCO, and his Train; PORTIA, NERISSA, and other of her Attendants.

Mor.  Mislike me not for my complexion,
The shadow’d livery of the burning sun,
To whom I am a neighbour, and near bred. 
Bring me the fairest creature northward born,
Where Phoebus’ fire scarce thaws the icicles,
And let us make incision for your love,
To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine.
By love, I swear, I would not change this hue,
Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen. 
I’ll try my fortune;
E’en though I may (blind fortune leading me)
Miss that which one unworthier may attain,
And die with grieving.

Por.  You must take your chance;
And either not attempt to choose at all,
Or swear, before you choose, ­if you choose wrong,
Never to speak to lady afterward
In way of marriage; therefore be advis’d.

Mor.  Nor will not; come, bring me unto my chance.  How shall I know if I do choose the right?

Por.  The one of them contains my picture, prince; If you choose that, then I am yours withal.

Mor.  Some god direct my judgment!  Let me see.  The first, of gold, who this inscription bears: 

    “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.”

The second, silver, which this promise carries: 

    “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.”

The third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt:

    “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.”

One of these three contains her heavenly picture. 
Is’t like that lead contains her?  ’Twere perdition
To think so base a thought;
Or shall I think in silver she’s immur’d,
Being ten times undervalued to tried gold? 
O sinful thought.  Never so rich a gem
Was set in worse than gold. 
Deliver me the key;
Here do I choose, and thrive I as I may!

Por.  There, take it prince, and if my form lie there, Then I am yours.

[He unlocks the golden casket.

Mor.  What have we here?  A carrion death, within whose empty eye There is a written scroll.  I’ll read the writing.

    “All that glitters is not gold,
    Often have you heard that told: 

    “Had you been as wise as bold,
    Young in limbs, in judgment old,
    Your answer had not been inscrol’d: 
    Fare you well; your suit is cold.”

Cold, indeed; and labour lost: 
Then, farewell, heat; and welcome frost ­Portia,
adieu!  I have too griev’d a heart
To take a tedious leave:  thus losers part.


Por.  A gentle riddance: ­go: ­ Let all of his complexion choose me so.



(A) The foundation of Venice is attributed to the inhabitants of the surrounding districts, who fled from the cruelty of Attila, King of the Huns, and took refuge among the islets at the mouth of the Brenta.  Here, about the middle of the fifth century, they founded two small towns, called Rivoalto and Malmocco, and, being in a manner shut out from all other modes of employment, naturally devoted themselves to commerce.  In this way they soon became prosperous, and their numbers increased so rapidly, that in the year 697 they made application to the Emperor to be elected into a body politic, and obtained authority to elect a chief, to whom they gave the name of Duke or Doge.  The town, continuing to increase, gradually extended its buildings to the adjacent islands, and, at the same time, acquired considerable tracts of territory on the mainland, then inhabited by the Veneti, from whence the rising city is supposed to have borrowed its name of Venetia or Venice.

(B) This is the heart of Venice, and is one of the most imposing architectural objects in Europe.  Three of the sides are occupied by ranges of lofty buildings, which are connected by a succession of covered walk; or arcades.  The church of St Mark, founded in the year 828, closes up the square on the east.  The lofty Campanile, or Bell-tower, over 300 feet in height, was begun A.D. 902, and finished in 1155.

In the reign of Justiniani Participazio, A.D., 827, the son and Successor of Angelo, undistinguished by events of more important character, the Venetians became possessed of the relics of that saint to whom they ever afterwards appealed as the great patron of their state and city.  These remains were obtained from Alexandria by a pious stratagem, at a time when the church wherein they were originally deposited was about to be destroyed, in order that its rich marbles might be applied to the decoration of a palace.  At that fortunate season, some Venetian ships (it is said no less than ten, a fact proving the prosperous extent of their early commerce) happened to be trading in that port; and their captains, though not without much difficulty, succeeded in obtaining from the priests, who had the custody of the holy treasure, its deliverance into their hands, in order that it might escape profanation.  It was necessary, however, that this transfer should be made in secrecy; for we are assured by Sabellico, who relates the occurrence minutely, that the miracles which had been daily wrought at the saint’s shrine had strongly attached the populace to his memory.  The priests carefully opened the cerements in which the body was enveloped; and considering, doubtless, that one dead saint possessed no less intrinsic virtue and value than another, they very adroitly substituted the corpse of a female, Sta.  Claudia, in the folds which had been occupied by that of St. Mark.  But they had widely erred in their graduation of the scale of beatitude.  So great was the odour of superior sanctity, that a rich perfume diffused itself through the church at the moment at which the grave-clothes of the evangelist were disturbed; and the holy robbery was well nigh betrayed to the eager crowd of worshippers, who, attracted by the sweet smell, thronged to inspect the relics, and to ascertain their safety.  After examination, they retired, satisfied that their favourite saint was inviolate; for the slit which the priests had made in his cerements was behind and out of sight.  But the Venetians still had to protect the embarkation of their prize.  For this purpose, effectually to prevent all chance of search, they placed the body in a large basket stuffed with herbs and covered with joints of pork.  The porters who bore it were instructed to cry loudly ’Khanzri Khanzir! and every true Mussulman whom they met, carefully avoided the uncleanness with which he was threatened by contact with this forbidden flesh.  Even when once on board, the body was not yet quite safe; for accident might reveal the contents of the basket; it was therefore wrapt in one of the sails, and hoisted to a yard-arm of the main-mast, till the moment of departure.  Nor was this precaution unnecessary; for the unbelievers instituted a strict search for contraband goods before the vessel sailed.  During the voyage, the ship was in danger from a violent storm; and but for the timely appearance of the saint, who warned the captain to furl his sails, she would inevitably have been lost.  The joy of the Venetians, on the arrival of this precious cargo, was manifested by feasting, music, processions, and prayers.  An ancient tradition was called to mind, that St. Mark, in his travels, had visited Aquileia; and having touched also at the Hundred Isles, at that time uninhabited, had been informed, in a prophetic vision, that his bones should one day repose upon their shores.  Venice was solemnly consigned to his protection.  The saint himself, or his lion, was blazoned on her standards and impressed on her coinage; and the shout of the populace, whether on occasions of sedition or of joy, and the gathering cry of the armies of the republic in battle was, henceforward, ’Viva San Marco!’ ­Sketches of Venetian History.

(C) This ancient Exchange “where merchants most do congregate,” is situated on the Rialto Island, its name being derived from “riva alta,” “high shore.”  It is a square in the immediate vicinity of the Rialto Bridge, and contains the Church of San Jacopo, the first sacred edifice built in Venice.  The original church was erected in the year 421, and the present building in 1194, and was restored in 1531.  This island, being the largest and most elevated, became the first inhabited, and is, therefore, the most ancient part of Venice.  The Exchange was held under the arcades, facing the church, and was daily crowded with those connected with trade and commerce.  It is now occupied as a vegetable market.

(D) Vecellio informs us that the Jews of Venice differed in nothing, as far as regarded dress, from Venetians of the same occupation, with the exception of a yellow, or orange tawney coloured bonnet, which they were compelled to wear by order of government.

The women were distinguished from the Christian ladies by Wearing yellow veils.

Shakespeare is supposed to have taken the name of his Jew from an old pamphlet, entitled “Caleb Shillocke, his prophesie; or the Jewes Prediction.”

    “He lends out money gratis, and brings down
     The rate of usance here with us in Venice.”

About the time that Shakespeare lived, Venice had commercial dealings with all the civilized nations of the world; and Cyprus, Candia, and the Morea were subject to her government.  Merchants from all countries congregated in Venice, and received every possible encouragement from the authorities.

The Jews, under the sanction of government, were the money lenders, and were, consequently, much disliked, as well as feared, by their mercantile creditors.  They indulged in usury to an enormous extent, and were immensely rich.