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The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice Translation Act 1, Scene 1

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Enter ANTONIO, SALERIO, and SOLANIO

ANTONIO

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.

ANTONIO

To tell the truth, I don't know why I am so sad. I'm tired of being sad, and you say you're tired of it, too. But I don't know how I caught, found, or came by this sadness; what it's about; or where it came from. And since I don't know anything about this sadness, I clearly have a ways to go in understanding myself.

SALERIO

Your mind is tossing on the ocean, There, where your argosies with portly sail, Like signors and rich burghers on the flood— Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea— Do overpeer the petty traffickers That curtsy to them, do them reverence As they fly by them with their woven wings.

SALERIO

Your mind is focused on the ocean where your merchant ships are sailing like rich, important men parading on the sea. They tower over the little trade boats that they pass by, sailing along, and it's as if the little boats bow before the greatness of your ships.

SOLANIO

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.

SOLANIO

Believe me, sir, if I were involved in a trade venture like yours, most of my mental energy would be with my ships, as well. I'd be pulling up shoots of grass to use them to check the wind, and looking at maps of ports and piers and roads. And any little thing that might make me worry that something bad would happen to my ships would make me sad, without a doubt.

SALERIO

My wind cooling my broth Would blow me to an ague when I thought What harm a wind too great at sea might do. I should not see the sandy hourglass run, But I should think of shallows and of flats And see my wealthy Andrew docked in sand, Vailing her high top lower than her ribs To kiss her burial. Should I go to church And see the holy edifice of stone And not bethink me straight of dangerous rocks, Which, touching but my gentle vessel’s side, Would scatter all her spices on the stream, Enrobe the roaring waters with my silks, And, in a word, but even now worth this, And now worth nothing? Shall I have the thought To think on this, and shall I lack the thought That such a thing bechanced would make me sad? But tell not me. I know Antonio Is sad to think upon his merchandise.

SALERIO

I'd get upset blowing on my hot soup, because it would make me think of what a strong wind at sea could do to my ships. If I saw the sands run in an hourglass, I would think of flat shallows where my ship, "The Andrew," run aground with all its riches and flipped over, completely done for. If I went to church and saw its stone construction, I couldn't help but think of dangerous rocks that could break the sides of my ships and scatter valuable spices all over the water, causing my silks to fall out and drape on the waves. They are worth so much, and would all of a sudden be lost and worth nothing to me. How could I think of such things and not get sad? But you don't need to tell me. I know that Antonio is sad because he's worrying about his merchandise.

ANTONIO

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 merchandise makes me not sad.

ANTONIO

Believe me, you're wrong. Thank goodness, not all my merchandise is in one ship or any one place, and I haven't risked all my riches on this year's venture. Therefore, it's not my merchandise that is making me sad.

SOLANIO

Why then, you are in love.

SOLANIO

Well, then, you must be in love.

ANTONIO

Fie, fie!

ANTONIO

Oh please!

SOLANIO

Not in love neither? Then let us say you are sad Because you are not merry— and ’twere as easy For you to laugh and leap and say you are merry Because you are not sad. Now, by two-headed Janus, Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time. Some that will evermore peep through their eyes And laugh like parrots at a bagpiper, And other of such vinegar aspect That they’ll not show their teeth in way of smile Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.

SOLANIO

You're not in love either? Then let's just say you are sad because you are not happy. It would be just as easy for you to laugh and jump around and just say you are happy because you are not sad. I swear, by two-headed Janus, nature has made all kinds of different people. Some people are always happy and could even laugh at a funeral, while others are so sour they don't even crack a smile at anything, not even at a joke that Nestor called the funniest.

Enter BASSANIO, LORENZO, and GRATIANO

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

Here comes Bassanio, your most noble relative, along with Gratiano and Lorenzo. Goodbye. We'll leave you to these better friends.

SALERIO

I would have stayed till I had made you merryIf worthier friends had not prevented me.

SALERIO

If it weren't for these better friends coming along, I would have stayed until I made you smile. 

ANTONIO

Your worth is very dear in my regard.I take it your own business calls on youAnd you embrace th' occasion to depart.

ANTONIO

I see you as very worthy. I gather you have business to take care of and are just taking this opportunity to leave.

SALERIO

[to BASSANIO, LORENZO, GRATIANO] Good morrow, my good lords.

SALERIO

[To BASSANIO, LORENZO, and GRATIANO] Good day, my good lords.

BASSANIO

[to SALERIO and SOLANIO] Good signors both, when shall we laugh? Say, when?You grow exceeding strange. Must it be so?

BASSANIO

[To SALERIO and SOLANIO] Both of you are good men; when are we going to have fun times together? Tell me, when? You're practically strangers now. Does it have to be that way?

SALERIO

We’ll make our leisures to attend on yours.

SALERIO

The next time we get a chance, we'll spend some time together.

Exeunt SALERIO and SOLANIO

LORENZO

My Lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio, We two will leave you. But at dinnertimeI pray you have in mind where we must meet.

LORENZO

My Lord Bassanio, since you've found Antonio, the two of us will leave you two alone. But please remember where we're meeting for dinner.

BASSANIO

I will not fail you.

BASSANIO

Don't worry.

GRATIANO

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 marvelously changed.

GRATIANO

You don't look good, Sir Antonio. You care too much about worldly things. Those who care too much about things end up losing them. Believe me, you really don't look yourself.

ANTONIO

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

ANTONIO

I value the world for what it is, Gratiano: a stage where every man must play a role. And my role is a sad one.

GRATIANO

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 ’tis my love that speaks— There are a sort of men whose visages Do cream and mantle like a standing pond, And do a willful stillness entertain With purpose to be dressed 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, would 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 awhile. I’ll end my exhortation after dinner.

GRATIANO

Well let me play the fool, then. I don't care if laughter causes wrinkles. I'd rather destroy my liver with wine than waste away with sad groans. Why should a warm-blooded man be as cold and stoic as a statue of his dead grandfather? Why should he be so inactive that he is practically asleep while awake, and start to get jaundice from being cranky so much? I tell you what, Antonio—I love you, and I'm speaking out of love—there are some people whose faces are so unmoving that they grow scum like a still pond, and they try hard to maintain a still expression so that they can seem to be wise, serious, and profound, like someone who could say, "I am Sir Oracle, and when I open my lips to speak, let no dog bark!" Oh my Antonio, these kind of men only have the reputation of wisdom because they say nothing, and I'm sure that if they should speak, everyone listening would realize they are fools. I'll tell you more about this another time. But stop trying to get people to think you're serious and wise by acting all melancholy. Come with me now, good Lorenzo. Goodbye for now, Antonio. I'll finish the rest of my encouraging speech after dinner.

LORENZO

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

LORENZO

Well, we'll leave you until dinnertime, then. I must be one of these dumb but wise-seeming men he talks about, because Gratiano never lets me speak.

GRATIANO

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

GRATIANO

Well, stick around with me for two more years and you'll forget what your voice even sounds like.

ANTONIO

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

ANTONIO

Goodbye. I'll start to talk more, now. 

GRATIANO

Thanks, i' faith, for silence is only commendableIn a neat’s tongue dried and a maid not vendible.

GRATIANO

Thanks, because in fact the only tongues that should keep quiet are beef tongues on the dinner plate, and those of uncooperative maids. 

Exeunt GRATIANO and LORENZO

ANTONIO

Is that any thing now?

ANTONIO

What do you think of all that?

BASSANIO

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 dayere you find them, and when you have them they are not worth the search.

BASSANIO

Gratiano speaks an endless stream of nonsense, more than any man in all of Venice. Trying to find the point of what he's talking about is like looking for two grains of wheat hidden in bushels of hay. You could look all day before you find them, and once you do it's not even worth the effort you put into it.

ANTONIO

Well, tell me now what lady is the same To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage,That you today promised to tell me of?

ANTONIO

Well, then tell me know who the lady is that you made an agreement with to go on a secret trip? You promised to tell me today.

BASSANIO

'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. Nor do I now make moan to be abridged From such a noble rate. But my chief care Is to come fairly off from the great debts Wherein my time something too prodigal Hath left me gaged. To you, Antonio, I owe the most in money and in love, And from your love I have a warranty To unburden all my plots and purposes How to get clear of all the debts I owe.

BASSANIO

Antonio, you know how I've been using up my wealth, living a more lavish life than I can afford. Now, I'm not complaining about having to be more frugal, but I do care about fairly paying off the debts that I incurred while I was living beyond my means. I owe the most to you, Antonio, both in money and in love. And because we are good friends, I know I can tell you all my plans and plots for paying back all the debts I owe.

ANTONIO

I pray you, good Bassanio, let me know it. And if it stand, as you yourself still do, Within the eye of honor, be assured My purse, my person, my extremest means Lie all unlocked to your occasions.

ANTONIO

Please do tell me, good Bassanio. And if your plan is as honorable as you still are, rest assured that I will help you with my money, myself, and whatever other ways I can.

BASSANIO

In my school days, when I had lost one shaft, I shot his fellow of the selfsame flight The selfsame way with more advisèd 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 willful 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.

BASSANIO

Back during my school days, I was shooting arrows once and lost one. So, I shot another arrow the same exact way and paid better attention to it so that I could follow its course, and it led me to the first arrow. With this example from my childhood in mind, listen to my plan, which is completely innocent. I owe you a lot, and like a rash young man I have lost the money I owe you. But if you shoot another arrow the same way you shot the first, by lending me money again, I have no doubt that I will bring both arrows back to you, because I'll watch the second one more carefully. Or at least I'll bring back the first, and remain in your debt for the second.

ANTONIO

You know me well, and herein spend but time To wind about my love with circumstance. And out of doubt you do me now more wrong In making question of my uttermost Than if you had made waste of all I have. Then do but say to me what I should do That in your knowledge may by me be done, And I am pressed unto it. Therefore speak.

ANTONIO

You know me well, and are wasting your time complicating my affection for you with explanation and reasoning. You do me more wrong in doubting that I love you enough to lend you more money than if you had wasted all of my money. Simply tell me what you would like me to do, and I will do it. Tell me.

BASSANIO

In Belmont is a lady richly left, And she is fair and—fairer than that word— Of wondrous 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 Renownèd suitors, and her sunny locks Hang on her temples like a golden fleece, Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos' strand, And many Jasons come in quest of her. 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!

BASSANIO

There's a lady in Belmont who has inherited some riches and is both beautiful—more beautiful than can be described—and virtuous. We've occasionally exchanged some knowing glances. Her name is Portia, and she lives up to her namesake, Cato's daughter and the wife of Brutus. Her worthiness as a wife is well-known, and suitors come to her from all four corners of the world. Her blonde hair hangs over her temples like the Golden Fleece, and it makes many a Jason want to come on a quest for her. Antonio, if I only had the means to stand as a rival with these suitors, I know without a doubt that I would be successful in wooing her!

ANTONIO

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 racked 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.

ANTONIO

You know that all my money has been put into my ships. I have neither money nor any goods to sell in order raise some funds for you. So go forth and see how far my credit will get you in Venice, all of which I will use to get you to Belmont and to beautiful Portia. Go ask around to find somewhere you can borrow some money, and so will I. I am certain that people will lend me the money, either for my own sake or for the sake of my business.

Exeunt

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Matt cosby
About the Translator: Matt Cosby
Matt Cosby graduated from Amherst College in 2011, and currently works as a writer and editor for LitCharts. He is from Florida but now lives in Portland, Oregon, where he also makes art, plays the piano, and goes to dog parks.