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



Duke.  What is Antonio here?

Ant.  Ready, so please your grace.

Duke, I am sorry for thee:  them art come to answer
A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch,
Uncapable of pity, void and empty
From any dram of mercy.

Ant.  I have heard
Your grace hath ta’en great pains to qualify
His rigorous course; but since he stands obdurate,
And that no lawful means can carry me
Out of his envy’s reach, I do oppose
My patience to his fury; and am arm’d
To suffer, with a quietness of spirit,
The very tyranny and rage of his.

Duke.  Go one, and call the Jew into the court.

Grand Capt.  He’s ready at the door:  he comes, my lord.


Duke.  Make room, and let him stand before our face. 
Shylock, the world thinks, and I think so, too,
That thou but lead’st this fashion of thy malice
To the last hour of act:  and then, ’tis thought
Thou’lt show thy mercy and remorse, more strange
Than is thy strange apparent cruelty:
And where thou now exact’st the penalty,
(Which is a pound of this poor merchant’s flesh),
Thou wilt not only lose the forfeiture,
But touch’d with human gentleness and love,
Forgive a moiety of the principal;
Glancing an eye of pity on his losses,
That have of late so huddled on his back,
Enough to press a royal merchant down, (c)
And pluck commiseration of his state
From brassy bosoms, and rough hearts of flint,
From stubborn Turks and Tartars, never train’d
To offices of tender courtesy. 
We all expect a gentle answer, Jew.

Shy.  I have possess’d your grace of what I purpose;
And by our holy Sabbath have I sworn,
To have the due and forfeit of my bond: 
If you deny it, let the danger light
Upon your charter, and your city’s freedom. 
You’ll ask me, why I rather choose to have
A weight of carrion flesh, than to receive
Three thousand ducats:  I’ll not answer that: 
But, say, it is my humour: Is it answer’d? 
What if my house be troubled with a rat,
And I be pleas’d to give ten thousand ducats
To have it ban’d?  What, are you answer’d yet? 
Some men there are love not a gaping pig;
Some, that are mad if they behold a cat;
Now for your answer. 
As there is no firm reason to be render’d
Why he cannot abide a gaping pig;
Why he a harmless necessary cat;
So can I give no reason, nor I will not,
More than a lodg’d hate, and a certain loathing,
I bear Antonio, that I follow thus
A losing suit against him.  Are you answer’d?

Bas.  This is no answer, thou unfeeling man, To excuse the current of thy cruelty.

Shy.  I am not bound to please thee with my answer.

Bas.  Do all men kill the things they do not love?

Shy.  Hates any man the thing he would not kill?

Bas.  Every offence is not a hate at first.

Shy.  What, would’st thou have a serpent sting thee twice?

Ant.  I pray you, think you question with the Jew.
You may as well go stand upon the beach,
And bid the main flood bate his usual height;
Yon may as well use question with the wolf,
Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb;
You may as well forbid the mountain pines
To wag their high tops, and to make no noise,
When they are fretted with the gusts of heaven;
You may as well do anything most hard,
As seek to soften that (than which what’s harder?)
His Jewish heart: ­Therefore, I do beseech you,
Make no more offers, use no further means,
But, with all brief and plain conveniency,
Let me have judgment, and the Jew his will.

Bas, For thy three thousand ducats here are six.

Shy.  If every ducat in six thousand ducats Were in six parts, and every part a ducat, I would not draw them, ­I would have my bond.

Duke.  How shall thou hope for mercy, rend’ring none?

Shy.  What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong? 
You have among you many a purchas’d slave,
Which, like your asses, and your dogs, and mules,
You use in abject and in slavish parts,
Because you bought them: ­Shall I say to you,
Let them be free, marry them to your heirs? 
Why sweat they under burthens? let their beds
Be made as soft as yours, and let their palates
Be season’d with such viands?  You will answer,
The slaves are ours: ­So do I answer you. 
The pound of flesh, which I demand of him. 
Is dearly bought; ’tis mine, and I will have it;
If you deny me, fie upon your law! 
There is no force in the decrees of Venice: 
I stand for judgment:  answer; shall I have it?

Duke.  Upon my power, I may dismiss this court,
Unless Bellario, a learned doctor,
Whom I have sent for to determine this,
Come here to day.

Grand Capt.  My lord, here stays without A messenger, with letters from the doctor, New come from Padua.

Duke.  Bring us the letters: ­Call the messenger.

Bas.  Good cheer, Antonio!  What, man! courage yet!  The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones, and all, Ere thou shall lose for me one drop of blood.

Ant.  I am a tainted wether of the flock,
Meetest for death; the weakest kind of fruit
Drops earliest to the ground, and so let me: 
You cannot better be employ’d, Bassanio,
Than to live still, and write mine epitaph.

Enter NERISSA, dressed like a lawyer’s clerk.

Duke.  Came you from Padua, from Bellario?

Ner.  From both, my lord; Bellario greets your grace.

[Presents a letter.

Bas.  Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnstly?

Shy.  To cut the forfeit from that bankrupt there.

Gra.  Can no prayers pierce thee?

Shy.  No, none that thou hast wit enough to make.

Gra.  O, be thou damn’d inexorable dog! 
And for thy life let justice be accus’d. 
Thou almost makst me waver in my faith,
To hold opinion with Pythagoras,
That souls of animals infuse themselves
Into the trunks of men:  thy currish spirit
Govern’d a wolf, who, hang’d for human slaughter,
Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet,
And whilst thou lay’st in thy unhallow’d dam,
Infus’d itself in thee; for thy desires
Are wolfish, bloody, starv’d, and ravenous.

Shy.  Till thou can’st rail the seal from off my bond,
Thou but offend’st thy lungs to speak so loud: 
Repair thy wit, good youth; or it will fall
To cureless ruin. ­I stand here for law.

Duke.  This letter from Bellario doth commend A young and learned doctor tax our court: ­ Where is he?

Ner.  He attendeth here hard by, To know your answer, whether you’ll admit him.

Duke.  With all my heart: ­some three or four of you Go give him courteous conduct to this place. ­ Meantime, the court shall hear Bellario’s letter.

[Herald reads] “Your grace shall understand, that, at the receipt of your letter, I am very sick; but that in the instant that your messenger came, in loving visitation was with me a young doctor of Home; his name is Balthasar:  I acquainted him with the cause in controversy between the Jew and Antonio, the merchant:  we turned o’er many books together; he is furnished with my opinion; which, better’d with his own learning (the greatness whereof I cannot enough commend), comes with him, at my importunity, to fill up your grate’s request in my stead.  I beseech you, let his lack of years be no impediment to let him lack a reverend estimation; for I never knew so young a body with so old a head.  I leave him to your gracious acceptance, whose trial all better publish his commendation.”

Duke.  You hear the learn’d Bellario, what he writes:  And here, I take it, is the doctor come.

Enter PORTIA, dressed like a Doctor of Laws.

Give me your hand:  Came you from old Bellario?

Por.  I did, my lord.

Duke.  You are welcome:  take your place. 
Are you acquainted with the difference
That holds this present question in the court?

Por.  I am informed throughly of the cause.  Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?

Duke.  Antonio and old Shylock, both stand forth.

Por.  Is your name Shylock?

Shy.  Shylock is my name.

Por.  Of a strange nature is the suit you follow;
Yet in such rule that the Venetian law
Cannot impugn you, as you do proceed. ­You
stand within his danger, do you not?


Ant.  Ay, so he says.

Por.  So you confess the bond?

Ant.  I do.

Por.  Then must the Jew be merciful.

Shy.  On what compulsion must I?  Tell me that.

Por.  The quality of mercy is not strain’d;
It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath:  it is twice bless’d;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes;
’Tis mightiest in the mightiest:  it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.  Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this –­That
in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation:  we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.  I have spoke thus much,
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ’gainst the merchant there.

Shy., My deeds upon my head!  I crave the law, The penalty and forfeit of my bond.

Por.  Is he not able to discharge the money?

Bas.  Yes, here I tender it for him in the court;
Yea, thrice the sum:  if that will not suffice,
I will be bound to pay it ten times o’er,
On forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart: 
If this will not suffice, it must appear
That malice bears down truth. And I beseech you,
Wrest once the law to your authority: 
To do a great right to do a little wrong;
And curb this cruel devil of his will.

Por.  It must not be; there is no power in Venice
Can alter a decree established: 
’Twill be recorded for a precedent;
And many an error, by the same example,
Will rush into the state; it cannot be.

Shy.  A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel!  O wise young judge, how do I honour thee!

Por.  I pray you, let me look upon the bond.

Shy.  Here ’tis, most reverend doctor, here it is.

Por.  Shylock, there’s thrice thy money offer’d thee.

Shy.  An oath, an oath, I have an oath in heaven: 
Shall I lay perjury upon my soul? 
No, not for Venice.

Por.  Why, this bond is forfeit;
And lawfully by this the Jew may claim
A pound of flesh, to be by him cut off
Nearest the merchant’s heart: ­Be merciful;
Take thrice thy money; bid me tear the bond.

Shy.  When it is paid according to the tenour. 
It doth appear you are a worthy judge;
You know the law, your exposition
Hath been most sound:  I charge you by the law,
Whereof you are a well-deserving pillar,
Proceed to judgment:  by my soul I swear,
There is no power in the tongue of man
To alter me:  I stay here on my bond.

Ant.  Most heartily I do beseech the court To give the judgment.

Por.  Why then, thus it is:  You must prepare your bosom for his knife.

Shy.  O noble judge!  O excellent young man!

Por.  For the intent and purpose of the law
Hath full relation to the penalty,
Which here appeareth due upon the bond.

Shy.  ’Tis very true:  O wise and upright judge!  How much more elder art thou than thy looks!

Por.  Therefore, lay bare your bosom.

Shy.  Ay, his breast:  So says the bond; ­Doth it not, noble judge? ­Nearest his heart, those are the very words.

Por.  It is so.  Are there balance here to weigh The flesh?

Shy.  I have them ready.

Por.  Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge, To stop his wounds, lest he should bleed to death.

Shy.  Is it so nominated in the bond?

Por.  It is not so express’d; but what of that?  ’Twere good you do so much for charity.

Shy.  I cannot find it; ’tis not in the bond.

Por.  Come, merchant, have you anything to say?

Ant.  But little; I am arm’d and well prepar’d. ­
Give me your hand, Bassanio; fare you well! 
Grieve not that I am fallen to this for you;
For herein fortune shows herself more kind
Than is her custom:  it is still her use,
To let the wretched man outlive his wealth,
To view with hollow eye and wrinkled brow,
An age of poverty:  from which lingering penance
Of such a misery doth she cut me off. 
Commend me to your honorable wife: 
Tell her the process of Antonio’s end;
Say, how I lov’d you, speak me fair in death;
And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge
Whether Bassanio had not once a love. 
Repent not you that you shall lose your friend,
And he repents not that he pays your debt;
For, if the Jew do cut but deep enough,
I’ll pay it instantly with all my heart.

Bas.  Antonio, I am married to a wife,
Which is as dear to me as life itself;
But life itself, my wife, and all the world,
Are not with me esteem’d above thy life;
I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all
Here to this devil, to deliver you.

Gra.  I have a wife, whom I protest I love; I would she were in heaven, so she could Entreat some power to change this currish Jew.

Shy.  These be the Christian husbands:  I have a daughter; Would any of the stock of Barrabas Had been her husband, rather than a Christian! [Aside.  We trifle time; I pray thee pursue sentence.

Por.  A pound of that same merchant’s flesh is thine; The court awards it, and the law doth give it.

Shy.  Most rightful judge!

Por.  And you must cut this flesh from off his breast!  The law allows it, and the court awards it.

Shy.  Most learned judge! ­A sentence; come, prepare.

Por.  Tarry a little; ­there is something else. ­
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are a pound of flesh: 
Then take thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;
But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.

Gra.  O upright judge! ­Mark, Jew! ­O learned judge!

Shy.  Is that the law?

Por.  Thyself shall see the act; For, as thou urgest justice, be assur’d Thou shall have justice more than thou desir’st.

Gra.  O learned judge! ­Mark Jew; ­a learned judge!

Shy.  I take his offer, then, ­pay the bond thrice, And let the Christian go.

Bas.  Here is the money.

Por.  Soft.  The Jew shall have all justice; ­soft; ­no haste; ­He shall have nothing but the penalty.

Gra.  O Jew! an upright judge, a learned judge!

Por.  Therefore, prepare thee to cut off the flesh.(D)
Shed thou no blood; nor cut thou less, nor more,
But just a pound of flesh:  if thou tak’st more,
Or less, than a just pound, ­be it but so much
As makes it light or heavy in the balance,
Or the division of the twentieth part
Of one poor scruple, ­nay, if the scale do turn
But in the estimation of a hair, ­
Thou diest, and all thy goods are confiscate.

Gra.  A second Daniel, a Daniel, Jew!  Now, infidel, I have thee on the hip.

Por.  Why doth the Jew pause? take thy forfeiture.

Shy.  Give me my principal, and let me go.

Bas.  I have it ready for thee; here it is.

Por.  He hath refus’d it in the open court; He shall have merely justice, and his bond.

Gra.  A Daniel, still say I; a second Daniel! ­ thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.

Shy.  Shall I not barely have my principal?

Por.  Thou shalt have nothing but the forfeiture, To be so taken at thy peril, Jew.

Shy.  Why then the devil give him good of it!  I’ll stay no longer question.

Por.  Tarry, Jew;
The law hath yet another hold on you. 
It is enacted in the laws of Venice, ­If
it be proved against an alien,
That by direct or indirect attempts
He seek the life of any citizen,
The party ’gainst the which he doth contrive
Shall seize one half his goods; the other half
Comes to the privy coffer of the state;
And the offender’s life lies in the mercy
Of the duke only, ’gainst all other voice. 
In which predicament, I say, thou stand’st: 
For it appears by manifest proceeding,
That, indirectly, and directly, too,
Thou hast contriv’d against the very life
Of the defendant; and thou hast incurr’d
The danger formerly by me rehears’d. 
Down, therefore, and beg mercy of the duke.

Gra.  Beg that thou may’st have leave to hang thyself: 
And yet, thy wealth being forfeit to the state,
Thou hast not left the value of a cord;
Therefore, thou must be hang’d at the state’s charge.

Duke.  That thou shall see the difference of our spirit,
I pardon thee thy life before thou ask it: 
For half thy wealth, it is Antonio’s;
The other half comes to the general state,
Which humbleness may drive unto a fine.

Por.  Ay, for the state; not for Antonio.

Shy.  Nay, take my life and all, pardon not that: 
You take my house, when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house; you take my life,
When you do take the means whereby I live.

Por.  What mercy can you render him, Antonio?

Gra.  A halter gratis; nothing else, for Heaven’s sake.

Ant.  So please my lord the duke, and all the court,
To quit the fine for one half of his goods;
I am content, so he will let me have
The other half in use, to render it,
Upon his death, unto the gentleman
That lately stole his daughter;
Two things provided more, ­That for this favour,
He presently become a Christian;
The other, that he do record a gift,
Here in the court, of all he dies possess’d,
Unto his son Lorenzo and his daughter.

Duke.  He shall do this; or else I do recant The pardon that I late pronounced here.

Por.  Art thou contented, Jew?  What dost thou say?

Shy.  I am content.

Por.  Clerk, draw a deed of gift.

Shy.  I pray you give me leave to go from hence: 
I am not well; send the deed after me,
And I will sign it.

Duke.  Get thee gone, but do it.

Gra.  In christening; thou shalt have two godfathers; Had I been judge, thou should’st have had ten more, To bring thee to the gallows, not to the font.


Duke.  Sir, I entreat you with me home to dinner.

Por.  I humbly do desire your grace of pardon. 
I must away this night toward Padua;
And it is meet I presently set forth.

Duke.  I am sorry that your leisure serves you not: 
Antonio, gratify this gentleman;
For, in my mind, you are much bound to him.

[Exeunt DUKE, Magnificoes, and Train,

Bas.  Most worthy gentleman, I and my friend,
Have by your wisdom been this day acquitted
Of grievous penalties; in lieu whereof,
Three thousand ducats, due unto the Jew,
We freely cope your courteous pains withal.

Ant.  And stand indebted, over and above, In love and service to you evermore.

Por.  He is well paid that is well satisfied: 
And I, delivering you, am satisfied,
And therein do account myself well paid;
My mind was never yet more mercenary. 
I pray you know me, when we meet again;
I wish you well, and so I take my leave.

Bas.  Dear Sir, of force I must attempt you further;
Take some remembrance of us, as a tribute,
Not as a fee:  grant me two things, I pray you,
Not to deny me, and to pardon me.

Por.  You press me far, and therefore I will yield, Give me your gloves, I’ll wear them for your sake; And, for your love, I’ll take this ring from you: ­Do not draw back your hand; I’ll take no more; And you in love shall not deny me this.

Bas.  This ring, good Sir, ­alas, it is a trifle; I will not shame myself to give you this.

Por.  I will have nothing else but only this; And now, methinks, I have a mind to it.

Bas.  There’s more depends on this than on the value. 
The dearest ring in Venice will I give you,
And find it out by proclamation;
Only for this I pray you pardon me.

Por.  I see, Sir, you are liberal in offers:  You taught me first to beg; and now, methinks, You teach me how a beggar should be answer’d.

Bas.  Good Sir, this ring was given me by my wife; And when she put it on, she made me vow That I should neither sell, nor give, nor lose it.

Por.  That ’scuse serves many men to save their gifts. 
An if your wife be not a mad woman,
And know how well I have deserv’d this ring,
She would not hold out enemy for ever,
For giving it to me.  Well, peace be with you!


Ant.  My lord Bassanio, let him have the ring; Let his deservings, and my love withal, Be valued ’gainst your wife’s commandment.

Bas.  Go, Gratiano, run and overtake him; Give him the ring; and bring him, if thou can’st, Unto Antonio’s house; ­away, make haste.


Come, you and I will thither presently;
And in the morning early will we both
Fly toward Belmont:  Come, Antonio.


But, say, it is my humour; The Jew being asked a question which the law does not require him to answer, stands upon his right, and refuses; but afterwards gratifies his own malignity by such answers as he knows will aggravate the pain of the enquirer.  I will not answer, says he, as to a legal or serious question, but, since you want an answer, will this serve you? ­JOHNSON.]

“And they stand gaping like a roasted pig.”

A passage in one of Nashe’s pamphlets (which perhaps furnished our author with his instance), may serve to confirm the observation:  “The causes conducting unto wrath are as diverse as the actions of a man’s life.  Some will take on like a madman, if they see a pig come to the table.  Sotericus, the surgeon, was cholerick at the sight of sturgeon,” &c. Pierce Pennylesse his Supplication to the Devil, 1592. ­MALONE.]



Por.  Inquire the Jew’s house out, give him this deed, And let him sign it; we’ll away to-night, And be a day before our husbands home:  This deed will be well welcome to Lorenzo.


Gra.  Fair Sir, you are well overtaken:  My lord Bassanio, upon more advice, Hath sent you here this ring; and doth entreat Your company at dinner.

Por.  That cannot be:  This ring I do accept most thankfully, And so, I pray you, tell him:  Furthermore, I pray you, show my youth old Shylock’s house.

Gra.  That will I do.

Ner.  Sir, I would speak with you: ­I’ll see if I can get my husband’s ring,


Which I did make him swear to keep for ever.

Por.  Thou may’st, I warrant.  We shall have old swearing, That they did give the rings away to men; But we’ll outface them, and outswear them, too.  Away, make haste; thou know’st where I will tarry.

Ner.  Come, good Sir, will you show me to this house?




(A) This scene represents the Sala dei Pregádi, or Hall of the Senators.  In Venice the tribunal for criminal cases was composed of forty judges, ordinarily presided over by one of three selected from the Council of the Doge, and draughted for the most part, if not wholly, from the members of the Senate.  The Doge, who on all occasions was attended by his particular officers, had the right of sitting in the councils, or on the tribunal.  The authority for the six senators in red (in this scene) is taken from the picture at Hampton Court Palace, where the Doge of Venice, in state, is receiving Sir Henry Wootton, ambassador from James the First.  The picture is by Odoardo Fialletti, better known as an engraver than as a painter, and who was living at Venice when Sir Henry Wootton was ambassador there.

(B) The first Doge, or Duke of Venice, was Paolo Luca Anafesto, elected A.D. 697, and the last was Luigi Manini, who yielded the city, which had just completed the eleventh century of its sway, to the victorious arms of Buonaparte, in 1797.

(C) We are not to imagine the word royal to be only a ranting, sounding epithet.  It is used with great propriety, and shows the poet well acquainted with the history of the people whom he here brings upon the stage.  For when the French and Venetians, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, had won Constantinople, the French, under the.  Emperor Henry, endeavoured to extend their conquests into the provinces of the Grecian Empire on the Terra firma; while the Veuetiaas, who were masters of the sea, gave liberty to any subjects of the republic, who would fit out vessels, to make themselves masters of the isles of the Archipelago, and other maritime places; and to enjoy their conquests in sovereignty:  only doing homage to the republic for their several principalities By virtue of this licence, the Sanudi, the Justinianii, the Grimaldi, the Summaripi, and others, all Venetian merchants, erected principalities in several places of the Archipelago (which their descendants enjoyed for many generations), and thereby became truly and properly royal merchants, which, indeed was the title generally given them all over Europe.  Hence, the most eminent of our own merchants (while publick spirit resided amongst them, and before it was aped by faction), were called royal merchants. ­Warburton.

This epithet was in our poet’s time more striking and better understood, because Gresham was then commonly dignified with the title of the royal merchant. ­Johnson.

(D) This judgment is related by Gracian, the celebrated Spanish Jesuit, in his Hero, with a reflection at the conclusion of it; ­

“The vivacity of that great Turke enters into competition with that of Solomon:  a Jew pretended to cut an ounce of the flesh of a Christian upon a penalty of usury; he urged it to the Prince, with as much obstinacy, as perfidiousness towards God.  The great Judge commanded a pair of scales to be brought, threatening the Jew with death if he cut either more or less:  And this was to give a sharp decision to a malicious process, and to the world a miracle of subtilty.” ­The Hero, , &c.

Gregorio Leti, in his Life of Sixtus V., has a similar story.  The papacy of Sixtus began in 1583.  He died Au, 1590. ­Steevens