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



Ner.  The prince of Arragon hath ta’en his oath, And comes to his election presently.

Flourish of Trumpets.  Enter the PRINCE OF ARRAGON, PORTIA, and their Trains.

Por.  Behold, there stand the caskets, noble prince;
If you choose that wherein I am contain’d,
Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemniz’d;
But if you fail, without more speech, my lord,
You must be gone from hence immediately.

Arr.  I am enjoin’d by oath to observe three things: 
First, never to unfold to any one
Which casket ’twas I chose; next, if I fail
Of the right casket, never in my life
To woo a maid in way of marriage; lastly,
If I do fail in fortune of my choice,
Immediately to leave you and be gone.

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

Arr.  And so have I address’d me: Fortune now To my heart’s hope! ­Gold, silver, and base lead.

    ‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’

What says the golden chest? ha! let me see: 

    ‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.’

What many men desire. ­That many may be meant
By the fool multitude, that choose by show,
Why, then, to thee, thou silver treasure-house;
Tell me once more what title thou dost bear: 

    ‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves;’

And well said too.  For who shall go about
To cozen fortune, and be honourable
Without the stamp of merit! 
O, that estates, degrees, and offices,
Were not deriv’d corruptly! and that clear honour
Were purchas’d by the merit of the wearer! 
How many then should cover that stand bare? 
How many be commanded that command? 
And how much honour
Pick’d from the chaff and ruin of the times,
To be new varnish’d?  Well, but to my choice: 

    ‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves:’ 

I will assume desert: ­Give me a key for this, And instantly unlock my fortunes here.

Por.  Too long a pause for that which you find there.

Arr.  What’s here:  the portrait of a blinking idiot, Presenting me a schedule?  I will read it.

        Some there be that shadows kiss;
        Such have but a shadow’s bliss: 
        There be fools alive, I wis,
        Silver’d o’er; and so was this.’

    Still more fool I shall appear
    By the time I linger here: 
    With one fool’s head I came to woo,
    But I go away with two.

Sweet, adieu!  I’ll keep my oath,
Patiently to bear my wroath.

[Exeunt ARRAGON and Train.

Por.  Thus hath the candle sing’d the moth.  O these deliberate fools! when they do choose, They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.

Ner.  The ancient saying is no heresy; ­ Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.


Ser.  Madam, there is alighted at your gate
A young Venetian, one that comes before
To signify the approaching of his lord: 
From whom he bringeth sensible regreets;
To wit, besides commends and courteous breath,
Gifts of rich value; yet I have not seen
So likely an ambassador of love.

Por.  No more, I pray thee. 
Come, come, Nerissa; for I long to see
Quick Cupid’s post that comes so mannerly.

Ner.  Bassanio, lord love, if thy will it be!




Salar.  Why, man, I saw Bassanio under sail;
With him is Gratiano gone along;
And in their ship, I am sure, Lorenzo is not.

Sal.  The villain Jew with outcries rais’d the duke; Who went with him to search Bassanio’s ship.

Salar.  He came too late, the ship was under sail;
But there the duke was given to understand,
That in a gondola were seen together
Lorenzo and his amorous Jessica;
Besides, Antonio certified the duke,
They were not with Bassanio in his ship.

Sal.  I never heard a passion so confus’d,
So strange, outrageous, and so variable,
As the dog Jew did utter in the streets;
My daughter! ­O, my ducats! ­O, my daughter! 
Fled with a Christian! ­O, my Christian ducats! ­
Justice! the law! my ducats, and my daughter.!"

Let good Antonio look he keep his day,
Or he shall pay for this.

Salar.  Marry, well remember’d:  I reason’d with a Frenchman yesterday, who told me that Antonio hath a ship of rich lading wreck’d on the narrow seas that part the French and English, ­the Goodwins, I think they call the place ­a very dangerous flat and fatal, where the carcases of many a tall ship lie buried, as they say, if my gossip report be an honest woman of her word.

Sal.  I would she were as lying a gossip in that, as ever knapp’d ginger, or made her neighbours believe she wept for the death of a third husband:  But it is true, that the good Antonio, the honest Antonio, ­O, that I had a title good enough to keep his name company! ­

Salar.  Come, the full stop.

Sal.  Why, the end is, he hath lost a ship.

Salar.  I would it might prove the end of his losses!

Sal.  Let me say amen betimes, lest the devil cross my prayer; for here he comes in the likeness of a Jew.


Salar.  How now, Shylock? what news among the merchants?

Shy.  You knew, none so well, none so well as you, of my daughter’s flight?

Sal.  That’s certain.  I, for my part, knew the tailor that made the wings she flew withal.

Salar.  And Shylock, for his own part, knew the bird was fledg’d; and then it is the complexion of them all to leave the dam.

Shy.  She is damn’d for it.

Sal.  That’s certain, if the devil may be her judge.

Shy.  My own flesh and blood to rebel!

Salar.  But tell us, do you hear whether Antonio have had any loss at sea or no?

Shy.  There I have another bad match:  a bankrupt, a prodigal, who dare scarce show his head on the Rialto; a beggar, that used to come so smug upon the mart. ­Let him look to his bond:  he was wont to call me usurer; ­let him look to his bond:  he was wont to lend money for a Christian courtesy; ­let him look to his bond.

Sal.  Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take his flesh?  What’s that good for?

Shy.  To bait fish withal:  if it will feed nothing else it will feed my revenge.  He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies:  and what’s his reason?  I am a Jew.  Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is?  If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?  If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.  If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? revenge:  If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? why, revenge.  The villany you teach me I will execute:  and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

Salar.  Here comes another of the tribe; a third cannot be matched, unless the devil himself turn Jew.

[Exeunt SALANIO, SALARINO, and Servant.

Enter TUBAL.

Shy.  How now, Tubal, what news from Genoa? hast thou found my daughter?

Tub.  I often came where I did hear of her, but cannot find her.

Shy.  Why, there, there, there, there! a diamond gone, cost me two thousand ducats in Frankfort!  The curse never fell upon our nation till now; I never felt it till now: ­two thousand ducats in that; and other precious, precious jewels. ­I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear! ’would she were hears’d at my foot, and the ducats in her coffin!  No news of them? ­Why, so: ­and I know not what’s spent in the search:  Why, thou loss upon loss! the thief gone with so much, and so much to find the thief; and no satisfaction, no revenge:  nor no ill luck stirring but what lights o’ my shoulders; no sighs but o’ my breathing; no tears but o’ my shedding.

Tub.  Yes, other men have ill luck, too.  Antonio, as I heard in Genoa, ­

Shy.  What, what, what? ill luck, ill luck?

Tub.  Hath an argosy cast away, coming from Tripolis.

Shy.  I thank God, I thank God: ­Is it true? is it true?

Tub.  I spoke with some of the sailors that escaped the wreck.

Shy.  I thank thee, good Tubal; ­Good news, good news:  ha! ha! ­Where? in Genoa?

Tub.  Your daughter spent in Genoa, as I heard, one night, fourscore ducats!

Shy.  Thou stick’st a dagger in me: ­I shall never see my gold again:  Fourscore ducats at a sitting! fourscore ducats!

Tub.  There came divers of Antonio’s creditors in my company to Venice, that swear he cannot choose but break.

Shy.  I am very glad of it:  I’ll plague him; I’ll torture him; I am glad of it.

Tub.  One of them showed me a ring, that he had of your daughter for a monkey.

Shy.  Out upon her!  Thou torturest me, Tubal:  it was my turquoise; I had it of Leah, when I was a bachelor:  I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.

Tub.  But Antonio is certainly undone.

Shy.  Nay, that’s true, that’s very true:  Go, Tubal, fee me an officer, bespeak him a fortnight before:  I will have the heart of him, if he forfeit; for were he out of Venice, I can make what merchandize I will.  Go, Tubal, and meet me at our synagogue:  go, good Tubal; at our synagogue, Tubal.




Por.  I pray you, tarry; pause a day or two,
Before you hazard; for, in choosing wrong
I lose your company; I could teach you
How to choose right, but then I am forsworn;
So will I never be:  so may you miss me;
But if you do, you’ll make me wish a sin,
That I had been forsworn.

Bas.  Let me choose;
For, as I am, I live upon the rack. 
Come, let me to my fortune and the caskets.

Por.  Away then:  I am lock’d in one of them;
If you do love me, you will find me out. 
Let music sound, while he doth make his choice: 
Then, if he lose, he makes a swan-like end,
Fading in music.(B) ­That the comparison
May stand more proper, my eye shall be the stream
And wat’ry death-bed for him.

[Music, whilst BASSANIO comments on the Caskets to himself.


1.  Tell me where is fancy bred. 
Or in the heart, or in the head? 
How begot, how nourished
Reply, reply.

2.  It is engender’d in the eyes,
With gazing fed; and fancy dies
In the cradle where it lies: 
Let us all ring fancy’s knell;
I’ll begin it. ­Ding, dong, bell.
All.  Ding, dong, bell.

[Exeunt all but PORTIA and BASSANIO.

Bas.  So may the outward shows be least themselves;
The world is still deceiv’d with ornament. 
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
But, being season’d with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil?  In religion,
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with lair ornament? 
There is no vice so simple, but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts. 
Thus ornament is but the guiled shore
To a most dangerous sea; the beauteous scarf
Veiling an Indian beauty.  Therefore, thou gaudy gold,
Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee: 
Nor none of thee, thou pale and common drudge
’Tween man and man.  But thou, thou meagre lead,
Which rather threat’nest than dost promise aught,
Thy plainness moves me more than eloquence,
And here choose I. Joy be the consequence!

Por.  How all the other passions fleet to air! 
O love, be moderate, allay thy ecstacy,
I feel too much thy blessing, make it less,
For fear I surfeit!

Bas.  What find I here!

[Opening the leaden casket.

Fair Portia’s counterfeit? ­Here’s the scroll,
The continent and summary of my fortune.

    ’You that choose not by the view,
    Chance as felt, and choose as true! 
    Since this fortune falls to you,
    Be content, and seek no new. 
    If you be well pleas’d with this,
    And hold your fortune for your bliss. 
    Turn you where your lady is,
    And claim her with a loving kiss.’

A gentle scroll. ­Fair lady, by your leave,
I come by note, to give and to receive. 
Yet doubtful whether what I see be true,
Until confirm’d, sign’d, ratified by you.

Por.  You see, my lord Bassanio, where I stand,
Such as I am:  though, for myself alone,
I would not be ambitious in my wish,
To wish myself much better; yet, for you,
I would be trebled twenty times myself. 
But now I was the lord
Of this fair mansion, master of my servants,
Queen o’er myself; and even now, but now,
This house, these servants, and this same myself. 
Are yours, my lord, ­I give them with this ring;
Which, when you part from, lose, or give away,
Let it presage the ruin of your love,
And be my vantage to exclaim on you.

Bas.  Madam, you have bereft me of all words;
Only my blood speaks to you in my veins: 
But when this ring
Parts from this finger, then parts life from hence;
O, then be bold to say, Bassanio’s dead.

Ner.  My lord and lady, it is now our time, That have stood by and seen our wishes prosper, To cry good joy; God joy, my lord and lady!

Gra.  My lord Bassanio, and my gentle lady,
I wish you all the joy that you can wish;
For I am sure you can wish none from me: 
And, when your honours mean to solemnize
The bargain of your faith, I do beseech you
Even at that time I may be married too.

Bas.  With all my heart, so thou canst get a wife.

Gra.  I thank your lordship; you have got me one. 
My eyes, my lord, can look as swift as yours: 
You saw the mistress, I beheld the maid;
You lov’d, I lov’d; for intermission
No more pertains to me, my lord, than you. 
Your fortune stood upon the caskets there;
And so did mine too, as the matter falls: 
For wooing here, until my roof was dry
With oaths of love, at last, ­if promise last, ­
I got a promise of this fair one here,
To have her love, provided that your fortune
Achiev’d her mistress.

Por.  Is this true, Nerissa?

Ner.  Madam, it is, so you stand pleas’d withal.

Bas.  And do you, Gratiano, mean good faith?

Gra.  Yes, faith, my lord.

Bas.  Our feast shall be much honour’d in your marriage.

Gra.  But who comes here?  Lorenzo, and his infidel?  What, and my old Venetian friend, Solanio.


Bas.  Lorenzo, and Solanio, welcome hither;
If that the youth of my new interest here
Have power to bid you welcome: ­By your leave,
I bid my very friends and countrymen,
Sweet Portia, welcome.

Por.  So do I, my lord; They are entirely welcome.

Lor.  I thank your honour: ­For my part, my lord,
My purpose was not to have seen you here;
But meeting with Solanio by the way,
He did entreat me, past all saying nay,
To come with him along.

Sal.  I did, my lord, And I have reason for it.  Signior Antonio Commends him to you.

[Gives BASSANIO a letter.

Bas.  Ere I ope this letter, I pray you tell me how my good friend doth.

Sal.  Not sick, my lord, unless it be in mind:  Nor well, unless in mind:  his letter there Will show you his estate.

Gra.  Nerissa, cheer yon stranger; bid her welcome. 
Your hand, Solanio.  What’s the news from Venice? 
How doth that royal merchant, good Antonio? 
I know he will be glad of our success;
We are the Jasons, we have won the fleece.

Sal.  ’Would you had won the fleece that he hath lost!

Por.  There are some shrewd contents in yon same paper,
That steal the colour from Bassanio’s cheek;
Some dear friend dead; else nothing in the world
Could turn so much the constitution
Of any constant man. What, worse and worse? ­
With leave, Bassanio; I am half yourself,
And I must freely have the half of any thing
That this same paper brings you.

Bas.  O sweet Portia,
Here are a few of the unpleasant’st words
That ever blotted paper!  Gentle lady,
When I did first impart my love to you,
I freely told you, all the wealth I had
Ran in my veins, ­I was a gentleman: 
And then I told you true:  and yet, dear lady,
Rating myself at nothing, you shall see
How much I was a braggart:  When I told you
My state was nothing, I should then have told you
That I was worse than nothing; for, indeed,
I have engag’d myself to a dear friend,
Engag’d my friend to his mere enemy,
To feed my means.  Here is a letter, lady;
The paper as the body of my friend,
And every word in it a gaping wound,
Issuing life-blood.  But is it true, Solanio? 
Have all his ventures fail’d?  What, not one hit? 
From Tripolis, from Mexico, and England,
From Lisbon, Barbary, and India? 
And not one vessel ’scape the dreadful touch
Of merchant-marring rocks?

Sal.  Not one, my lord. 
Besides, it should appear, that if he had
The present money to discharge the Jew,
He would not take it:  Never did I know
A creature that did bear the shape of man,
So keen and greedy to confound a man
He plies the duke at morning, and at night;
And doth impeach the freedom of the state
If they deny him justice:  twenty merchants,
The duke himself, and the magnificoes
Of greatest port, have all persuaded with him;
But none can drive him from the envious plea
Of forfeiture, of justice, and his bond.

Por.  Is it your dear friend that is thus in trouble?

Bas.  The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,
The best condition’d and unwearied spirit
In doing courtesies, and one in whom
The ancient Roman honour more appears,
Than any that draws breath in Italy.

Por.  What sum owes he the Jew?

Bas.  For me, three thousand ducats.

Por.  What, no more? 
Pay him six thousand, and deface the bond;
Double six thousand, and then treble that,
Before a friend of this description
Shall lose a hair through Bassanio’s fault. 
First, go with me to church, and call me wife: 
And then away to Venice to your friend! 
For never shall you stay by Portia’s side
With an unquiet soul.  You shall have gold
To pay the petty debt twenty times over;
When it is paid, bring your true friend along: 
My maid Nerissa, and myself, mean time,
Will live as maids and widows.  Come, away;
For you shall hence, upon my wedding-day: 
But let me hear the letter of your friend.

Bas. (reads.)

’Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all miscarried, my creditors grow cruel, my estate is very low, my bond to the Jew is forfeit; and since, in paying it, it is impossible I should live, all debts are cleared between you and me, if I might but see you at my death:  notwithstanding, use your pleasure:  if your love do not persuade you to come, let not my letter.’

Por.  O love, despatch all business, and be gone.

Bas.  Since I have your good leave to go away,
I will make haste:  but, till I come again,
No bed shall e’er be guilty of my stay,
Nor rest be interposer ’twixt us twain.




Shy, Gaoler, look to him.  Tell not me of mercy; ­ This is the fool that lends out money gratis; ­ Gaoler, look to him.

Ant.  Hear me yet, good Shylock.

Shy.  I’ll have my bond; speak not against my bond;
I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond: 
Thou call’dst me dog, before thou had’st a cause: 
But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs: 
The duke shall grant me justice. ­I do wonder,
Thou naughty gaoler, that thou art so fond
To come abroad with him at his request.

Ant.  I pray thee, hear me speak.

Shy.  I’ll have my bond; I will not hear thee speak: 
I’ll have my bond; and therefore speak no more. 
I’ll not be made a soft and dull-ey’d fool,
To shake the head, relent, and sigh, and yield
To Christian intercessors.  Follow not;
I’ll have no speaking; I will have my bond.


Salar.  It is the most impenetrable cur That ever kept with men.

Ant.  Let him alone; I’ll follow him no more with bootless prayers.  He seeks my life.

Salar.  I am sure the duke Will never grant this forfeiture to hold.

Ant.  The duke cannot deny the course of law,
For the commodity that strangers have
With us in Venice, if it be denied,
’Twill much impeach the justice of the state;
Since that the trade and profit of the city
Consisteth of all nations. 
Well, gaoler, on: ­Pray heaven, Bassanio come
To see me pay his debt, and then I care not.




Lor.  Madam, although I speak it in your presence,
You have a noble and a true conceit
Of god-like amity; which appears most strongly
In bearing thus the absence of your lord. 
But, if you knew to whom you show this honour,
How true a gentleman you send relief,
How dear a lover of my lord your husband,
I know you would be prouder of the work,
Than customary bounty can enforce you.

Por.  I never did repent for doing good,
Nor shall not now. 
This comes too near the praising of myself;
Therefore, no more of it:  hear other things.
Lorenzo, I commit into your hands
The husbandry and manage of my house,
Until my lord’s return:  for mine own part,
I have toward heaven breath’d a secret vow,
To live in prayer and contemplation,
Only attended by Nerissa here;
There is a monastery two miles off,
And there we will abide.  I do desire you
Not to deny this imposition;
To which my love, and some necessity,
Now lays upon you.

Lor.  Madam, with all my heart, I shall obey you in all fair commands.

Por.  My people do already know my mind,
And will acknowledge you and Jessica
In place of lord Bassanio and myself. 
So fare you well, till we shall meet again.

Lor.  Fair thoughts and happy hours attend on you!

Jes.  I wish your ladyship all heart’s content.

Por.  I thank you for your wish, and am well pleas’d To wish it back on you:  fare you well, Jessica!


Now, Balthazar,
As I have ever found thee honest, true,
So let me find thee still:  Take this same letter;
See thou render this
Into my cousin’s hand, doctor Bellario;
And, look, what notes and garments he doth give thee
Bring them, I pray thee, with imagin’d speed
Unto the tranect, to the common ferry
Which trades to Venice: ­waste no time in words,
But get thee gone; I shall be there before thee.

Bal.  Madam, I go with all convenient speed.


Por.  Come on, Nerissa; I have work in hand, That you yet know not of:  we’ll see our husbands, Before they think of us.

Ner.  Shall they see us?

Por.  They shall, Nerissa: 
But come, I’ll tell thee all my whole device
When I am in my coach, which stays for us
At the park gate; and therefore haste away,
For we must measure twenty miles to-day.




(A) The present stone structure superseded an older one of wood.  This celebrated edifice was commenced in 1588.

(B) That the swan uttered musical sounds at the approach of death was credited by Plato, Chrysippus, Aristotle, Euripides, Philostratus, Cicero, Seneca, and Martial.  Pliny, Aelian, and Athenaeus, among the ancients, and Sir Thomas More among the moderns, treat this opinion as a vulgar error.  Luther believed in it.  See his Colloquia, pa, , edi, 8vo.  Our countryman, Bartholomew Glanville, thus mentions the singing of the swan:  “And whan she shal dye and that a fether is pyght in the brayn, then she syngeth, as Ambrose sayth,” De propr. rer. 1. xii., .  Monsieur Morin has written a dissertation on this subject in vol. v. of the Mem. de l’acad. det inscript.  There are likewise some curious remarks on it in Weston’s Specimens of the conformity of the European languages with the Oriental, ; in Seelen Miscellanea, to. 298; and in Pinkertoa’s Recollections of Paris, i. ­Douce’s illustrations.

(C) These two magnificent granite columns, which, adorn the Piazzetta of St. Mark, on the Molo or Quay, near the Doge’s Palace, were among the trophies brought by Dominico Michieli on his victorious return from Palestine in 1125; and it is believed that they were plundered from some island in the Archipelago.  A third pillar, which accompanied them, was sunk while landing.  It was long before any engineer could be found sufficiently enterprising to attempt to rear them, and they were left neglected on the quay for more than fifty years.  In 1180, however, Nicolo Barattiero, a Lombard, undertook the task, and succeeded.  Of the process which he employed, we are uninformed; for Sabellico records no more than that he took especial pains to keep the ropes continually wetted, while they were strained by the weight of the huge marbles.  The Government, more in the lavish spirit of Oriental bounty, than in accordance with the calculating sobriety of European patronage, had promised to reward the architect by granting whatever boon, consistent with its honour, he might ask.

It may be doubted whether he quite strictly adhered to the requisite condition, when he demanded that games of chance, hitherto forbidden throughout the capital, might be played in the space between the columns:  perhaps with a reservation to himself of any profits accruing from them.  His request was granted, and the disgraceful monopoly became established; but afterward, in order to render the spot infamous, and to deter the population from frequenting it, it was made the scene of capital executions; and the bodies of countless malefactors were thus gibbeted under the very windows of the palace of the chief magistrate.  A winged lion in bronze, the emblem of St. Mark, was raised on the summit of one of these columns; and the other was crowned with a statue of St. Theodore, a yet earlier patron of the city, armed with a lance and shield, and trampling on a serpent.  A blunder, made by the statuary in this group, has given occasion for a sarcastic comment from Amelot de la Houssaye.  The saint is sculptured with the shield in his right hand, the lance in his left; a clear proof, says the French writer, of the unacquaintance of the Venetians with the use of arms; and symbolical that their great council never undertakes a war of its own accord, nor for any other object than to obtain a good and secure peace.  The satirist has unintentionally given the republic the highest praise which could flow from his pen.  Happy, indeed, would it have been for mankind, if Governments had never been actuated by any other policy.  De la Houssaye informs us also that the Venetians exchanged the patronage of St. Theodore for that of St. Mark, from like pacific motives; because the first was a soldier and resembled St. George, the tutelary idol of Genoa. ­Sketches of Venetian History.