Read ACT II. of Merchant of Venice, free online book, by William Shakespeare, on ReadCentral.com.

SCENE I. ­VENICE.(A) EXTERIOR OF SHYLOCK’S HOUSE.-

Enter LAUNCELOT GOBBO.

Lau.  Certainly my conscience will serve me to run from this Jew, my master:  The fiend is at mine elbow, and tempts me; saying to me, ­Gobbo, Launcelot Gobbo, good Launcelot, or good Gobbo, or good Launcelot Gobbo, use your legs, take the start, run away: ­My conscience says, ­No:  take heed, honest Launcelot; take heed, honest Gobbo:_ or (as aforesaid) honest Launcelot Gobbo; do not run:  scorn running with thy heels.  Well the most courageous fiend bids me pack. Via! says the fiend; Away! says the fiend, for the heavens; rouse up a brave mind, says the fiend, and run.  Well, my conscience, hanging about the neck of my heart, says very wisely to me, my honest friend, Launcelot, being an honest man’s son, or rather an honest woman’s son; ­for, indeed, my father did something smack, something grow to, he had a kind of taste; ­well, my conscience says, Launcelot, budge not; budge, says the fiend; budge not, says my conscience.  Conscience, say I, you counsel well; fiend, say I, you counsel well; to be ruled by my conscience I should stay with the Jew, my master, who (Heaven bless the mark!) is a kind of devil; and to run away from the Jew I should be ruled by the fiend, who, saving your reverence, is the devil himself.  Certainly, the Jew is the very devil incarnation; and in my conscience, my conscience is a kind of hard conscience, to offer to counsel me to stay with the Jew.  The fiend gives the more friendly counsel:  I will run, fiend; my heels are at your commandment, I will run.

[As he is going out in haste

Enter OLD GOBBO, with a basket.

Gob.  Master, young man, you, I pray you; which is the way to master Jew’s?

Lau. (aside.) O heavens, this is my true-begotten father! who, being more than sand-blind, high-gravel blind, knows me not:  I will try conclusions with him.

Gob.  Master young gentleman, I pray you which is the way to master Jew’s?

Lau.  Turn upon your right hand at the next turning, but, at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at the very next turning, turn of no hand, but turn down indirectly to the Jew’s house.

Gob.  ’Twill be a hard way to hit.  Can you tell me whether one Launcelot that dwells with him, dwell with him, or no?

Lau, Talk you of young master Launcelot? ­mark me, now ­(aside.) ­now will I raise the waters. Talk you of young master Launcelot?

Gob.  No master, sir:  but a poor man’s son:  his father, though I say it, is an honest exceeding poor man, and, Heaven be thanked, well to live.

Lau, Well, let his father be what he will, we talk of young master Launcelot.

Gob.  Of Launcelot, an’t please your mastership.

Lau.  Ergo, master Launcelot; talk not of master Launcelot, father; for the young gentleman (according to fates and destinies, and such odd sayings, the sisters three, and such branches of learning), is, indeed, deceased; or, as you would say is plain terms, gone to heaven.

Gob.  Marry, Heaven forbid! the boy was the very staff of my age, my very prop.

Lau.  Do I look like a cudgel, or a hovel-post, a staff, or a prop? ­Do you know me, father?

Gob.  Alack the day, I know you not, young gentleman; but, I pray you tell me, is my boy (rest his soul!) alive or dead?

Lau.  Do you not know me, father?

Gob.  Alack! sir, I am sand-blind, I know you not.

Lau.  Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes, you might fail of the knowing me:  it is a wise father that knows his own child.  Well, old man, I will tell you news of your son:  Give me your blessing:  (kneels.) Truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man’s son may; but, in the end, truth will out.

Gob.  Pray you, sir, stand up:  I am sure you are not Launcelot, my boy.

Lau.  Pray you, let’s have no more fooling about it, but give me your blessing; I am Launcelot, your boy that was, your son that is, your child that shall be,

Gob.  I cannot think you are my son.

Lau.  I know not what I shall think of that; but I am Launcelot, the Jew’s man; and I am sure Margery, your wife, is my mother.

Gob.  Her name is Margery, indeed:  I’ll be sworn if thou be Launcelot, thou art mine own flesh and blood.  What a beard hast thou got:  thou hast got more hair on thy chin than Dobbin, my phill-horse, has on his tail.

Lau.  It should seem, then, that Dobbin’s tail grows backward; I am sure he had more hair of his tail than I have of my face, when I last saw him.

Gob.  Lord, how art thou changed!  How dost thou and thy master agree?  I have brought him a present.

Lau. (rises.) Give him a present! give him a halter:  I am famished in his service; you may tell every finger I have with my ribs.  Father, I am glad you are come:  give me your present to one master Bassanio, who, indeed, gives rare new liveries; if I serve not him, I will run as far as Heaven has any ground. ­O rare fortune! here comes the man; ­to him, father; for I am a Jew if I serve the Jew any longer.

Enter BASSANIO, with LEONARDO, and STEPHANO.

Bas.  See these letters deliver’d; put the liveries to making; and desire Gratiano to come anon to my lodging.

[Exit a SERVANT.

Lau.  To him, father.

Gob.  Heaven bless your worship!

Bas.  Gramercy!  Would’st thou aught with me?

Gob.  Here’s my son, sir, a poor boy ­

Lau.  Not a poor boy, sir; but the rich Jew’s man; that would, sir, as my father shall specify.

Gob.  He hath a great infection, sir, as one would say, to serve ­

Lau.  Indeed, the short and the long is, I serve the Jew, and have a desire as my father shall specify.

Gob.  His master and he (saving your worship’s reverence) are scarce cater-cousins.

Lau.  To be brief, the very truth is, that the Jew having done me wrong, doth cause me, as my father, being I hope an old man, shall frutify unto you.

Gob.  I have here a dish of doves, that I would bestow upon your worship; and my suit is ­

Lau.  In very brief, the suit is impertinent to myself, as your worship shall know by this honest old man; and, though I say it, though old man, yet poor man, my father.

Bas.  One speak for both.  What would you?

Lau.  Serve you, sir.

Gob.  That is the very defect of the matter, sir.

Bas.  I know thee well; thou hast obtain’d thy suit: 
Shylock, thy master, spoke with me this day,
And hath preferr’d thee, if it be preferment,
To leave a rich Jew’s service, to become
The follower of so poor a gentleman.

Lau.  The old proverb is very well parted between my master, Shylock, and you, sir; you have the grace of Heaven, sir, and he hath ­ enough.

Bas.  Thou speak’st it well.  Go, father, with thy son: ­ Take leave of thy old master, and inquire My lodging out: ­give him a livery. [To his Followers.  More guarded than his fellows’:  See it done.

Lau.  Father, in: ­(Exit OLD GOBBO.) I cannot get a service, no! ­I have ne’er a tongue in my head! ­Well; (looking on his palm) if any man in Italy have a fairer table; which doth offer to swear upon a book I shall have good fortune! Go to, here’s a simple line of life! here’s a small trifle of wives:  Alas, fifteen wives is nothing; eleven widows and nine maids, is a simple coming in for one man:  and then, to ’scape drowning thrice; and to be in peril of my life with the edge of a feather-bed, here are simple ’scapes!  Well, if fortune be a woman she’s a good wench for this gear. ­I’ll take my leave of the Jew in the twinkling of an eye.

[Exit LAUNCELOT.

Bas.  I pray thee, good Leonardo, think on this; These things being bought and orderly bestow’d, Return in haste, for I do feast to-night My best-esteem’d acquaintance:  hie thee, go.

Leo.  My best endeavours shall be done herein.

Enter GRATIANO.

Gra.  Where is your master?

Leo.  Yonder, sir, he walks.

[Exit LEONARDO

Gra.  Signior Bassanio, ­

Bas.  Gratiano!

Gra.  I have a suit to you.

Bas.  You have obtained it.

Gra.  You must not deny me:  I must go with you to Belmont.

Bas.  Why, then you must. ­But hear thee, Gratiano;
Thou art too wild, too rude, and bold of voice;
Parts, that become thee happily enough,
And in such eyes as ours appear not faults;
But, where they are not known, why, there they show
Something too liberal: ­pray thee take pain
To allay with some cold drops of modesty
Thy skipping spirit; lest, through thy wild behaviour,
I be misconstrued in the place I go to,
And lose my hopes.

Gra.  Signior Bassanio, hear me: 
If I do not put on a sober habit,
Talk with respect, and swear but now and then,
Wear prayer-books in my pocket, look demurely;
Nay more, while grace is saying, hood mine eyes
Thus with my hat, and sigh, and say amen;
Use all the observance of civility,
Like one well studied in a sad ostent;
To please his grandam, ­never trust me more.

Bas, Well, we shall see your bearing.

Gra.  Nay, but I bar to-night; you shall not gage me By what we do to-night.

Bas.  No, that were pity;
I would entreat you rather to put on
Your boldest suit of mirth, for we have friends
That purpose merriment:  But fare you well,
I have some business.

Gra.  And I must to Lorenzo and the rest; But we will visit you at supper time.

[Exeunt.

Enter JESSICA and LAUNCELOT from SHYLOCK’S house.

Jes.  I am sorry thou wilt leave my father so;
Our house is hell, and thou, a merry devil,
Didst rob it of some taste of tediousness: 
But fare thee well:  there is a ducat for thee;
And, Launcelot, soon at supper shall thou see
Lorenzo, who is thy new master’s guest: 
Give him this letter; do it secretly,
And so farewell; I would not have my father
See me in talk with thee.

Lau.  Adieu! ­Tears exhibit my tongue.  Most beautiful pagan, ­most sweet Jew!  Adieu! these foolish drops do somewhat drown my manly spirit:  adieu.

[Exit.

Jes.  Farewell, good Launcelot. 
Alack, what heinous sin is it in me,
To be asham’d to be my father’s child! 
But though I am a daughter to his blood,
I am not to his manners:  O Lorenzo,
If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife;
Become a Christian, and thy loving wife.

[Exit into house.

Enter GRATIANO, LORENZO, SALARINO, and SALANIO.

Lor.  Nay, we will slink away in supper time;
Disguise us at my lodging, and return
All in an hour.

Gra.  We have not made good preparation.

Salar.  We have not spoke us yet of torch-bearers.

Sal.  ’Tis vile, unless it may be quaintly order’d; And better, in my mind, not undertook.

Lor.  ’Tis now but four o’clock; we have two hours To furnish us. ­

Enter LAUNCELOT with a letter.

Friend Launcelot, what’s the news?

Lau.  An it shall please you to break up this, it shall seem to signify.

Lor.  I know the hand:  in faith, ’tis a fair hand;
And whiter than the paper it writ on
Is the fair hand that writ.

Gra.  Love-news, in faith.

Lau.  By your leave, sir.

Lor.  Whither goest thou?

Lau.  Marry, sir, to bid my old master the Jew to sup to-night with my new master the Christian.

Lor.  Hold here, take this: ­tell gentle Jessica, I will not fail her; ­speak it privately; go.

[Exit LAUNCELOT into house.

Gentlemen,
Will you prepare you for this masque to-night? 
I am provided of a torch-bearer.

Salar.  Ay, marry, I’ll be gone about it straight.

Sal.  And so will I.

Lor.  Meet me and Gratiano At Gratiano’s lodging some hour hence.

Salar.  ’Tis good we do so.

[Exeunt SALARINO and SALANIO.

Gra.  Was not that letter from fair Jessica?

Lor.  I must needs tell thee all:  She hath directed
How I shall take her from her father’s house;
What gold and jewels she is furnish’d with;
Come, go with me; peruse this as thou goest: 
Fair Jessica shall be my torch-bearer.

[Exeunt.

Enter SHYLOCK and LAUNCELOT from House.

Shy.  Well, thou shalt see, thy eyes shall be thy judge,
The difference of old Shylock and Bassanio: 
What, Jessica! ­thou shalt not gormandize,
As thou hast done with me; ­What, Jessica! ­
And sleep and snore, and rend apparel out; ­
Why, Jessica, I say!

Lau.  Why, Jessica!

Shy.  Who bids thee call?  I do not bid thee call,

Lau.  Your worship was wont to tell me I could do nothing without bidding.

Enter JESSICA.

Jes.  Call you?  What is your will?

Shy.  I am bid forth to supper, Jessica;
There are my keys: ­But wherefore should I go? 
I am not bid for love:  they flatter me: 
But yet I’ll go in hate, to feed upon
The prodigal Christian: ­Jessica, my girl,
Look to my house: ­I am right loath to go;
There is some ill a brewing towards my rest,
For I did dream of money-bags to night.

Lau.  I beseech you, sir, go; my young master doth expect your reproach.

Shy.  So do I his.

Lau.  And they have conspired together, ­I will not say, you shall see a masque; but if you do, then it was not for nothing that my nose fell a bleeding on Black Monday(B) last, at six o’clock i’the morning, falling out that year on Ash-Wednesday was four year in the afternoon.

Shy.  What! are there masques?  Hear you me, Jessica: 
Lock up my doors; and when you hear the drum,
And the vile squeaking of the wry-neck’d fife,
Clamber not you up to the casements then,
Nor thrust your head into the public street,
To gaze on Christian fools with varnish’d faces: 
But stop my house’s ears, I mean my casements;
Let not the sound of shallow foppery enter
My sober house. ­By Jacob’s staff I swear,
I have no mind of feasting forth to-night: 
But I will go. ­Go you before me, sirrah;
Say, I will come.

Lau.  I will go before, Sir. ­
Mistress, look out at window, for all this;
     There will come a Christian by,
     Will be worth a Jewess’ eye.

[Exit LAUNCELOT.

Shy.  What says that fool of Hagar’s offspring, ha?

Jes.  His words were, Farewell, mistress; nothing else.

Shy.  The patch is kind enough; but a huge feeder,
Snail-slow in profit, and he sleeps by day
More than the wild cat:  drones hive not with me,
Therefore I part with him; and part with him
To one that I would have him help to waste
His borrow’d purse. ­Well, Jessica, go in;
Perhaps, I will return immediately;
Do as I bid you,
Shut doors after you:  Fast bind, fast find;
A proverb never stale in thrifty mind.

[Exit.

Jes.  Farewell; and if my fortune be not crost, I have a father, you a daughter, lost.

[Exit into house.

Enter GRATIANO and SALARINO, masqued.

Gra.  This is the pent-house, under which Lorenzo Desir’d us to make stand.

Sal.  His hour is almost past.

Gra.  And it is marvel he out-dwells his hour, For lovers ever run before the clock.

Sal.  O, ten times faster Venus’ pigeons fly To seal love’s bonds new made, than they are wont To keep obliged faith unforfeited!

Gra.  That ever holds:  who riseth from a feast,
With that keen appetite that he sits down? 
Where is the horse that doth untread again
His tedious measures with the unbated fire
That he did pace them first?  All things that are,
Are with more spirit chased than enjoy’d.

Enter LORENZO.

Sal.  Here comes Lorenzo.

Lor.  Sweet friends, your patience for my long abode: 
Not I, but my affairs, have made you wait: 
When you shall please to play the thieves for wives,
I’ll watch as long for you then. ­
Here dwells my father Jew: ­

GLEE.

            O happy fair! 
        Your eyes are lode-stars, and your tongue sweet air! 
        More tuneable than lark to shepherd’s ear
        When wheat is green, when hawthorn buds appear!

Ho! who’s within?

Enter JESSICA, above.

Jes.  Who are you?  Tell me, for more certainty, Albeit I’ll swear that I do know your tongue.

Lor.  Lorenzo, and thy love.

Jes.  Lorenzo, certain; and my love, indeed; For who love I so much?  And now who knows But you, Lorenzo, whether I am yours?

Lor.  Heaven, and thy thoughts, are witness that thou art.

Jes.  Here, catch this casket; it is worth the pains.

Lor.  Come, come at once; For the close night doth play the run-away, And we are staid for at Bassanio’s feast.

Jes.  I will make fast the doors, and gild myself With some more ducats, and be with you straight.

[Exit from above.

Gra.  Now, by my hood, a Gentile and no Jew.

Lor.  Beshrew me, but I love her heartily: 
For she is wise, if I can judge of her;
And fair she is, if that mine eyes be true;
And true she is, as she hath prov’d herself;
And therefore, like herself, wise, fair, and true,
Shall she be placed in my constant soul.

Enter JESSICA, below.

What, art thou come? ­On, gentlemen, away;
Our masquing mates by this time for us stay.

[Exeunt

Enter various parties of Maskers, Revellers, &c.

END OF SECOND ACT-

HISTORICAL NOTES TO ACT SECOND-

(A) Venice occupies 72 islands.  There are 306 canals, traversed by innumerable gondolas.  The gondolas introduced in this scene are copied from paintings of the same date as when the action of the play is supposed to occur, and are, consequently, rather varied in shape from those now seen in Venice.  Besides the great squares of St. Mark, and the adjoining Piazetta before the Doge’s Palace, the city has numerous narrow streets, or rather lanes, with small open spaces in front of the churches, or formed by the termination of several alleys, leading to a bridge.  It is one of these spaces that is represented in the second act.

(B) “Black Monday” is Easter Monday, and was so called on this occasion.  In the 34th of Edward III. (1360), the 14th April, and the morrow after Easter Day, King Edward, with his host, lay before the City of Paris, which day was full dark of mist and hail, and so bitter cold that many men died on their horse’s backs with the cold. ­Stowe.