A line-by-line translation

The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice Translation Act 2, Scene 2

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Enter LAUNCELOT the clown, alone

LAUNCELOT

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. “Fia!” 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 anhonest 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 beruled by my conscience I should stay with the Jew my master, who, God bless the mark, is a kind of devil. Andto 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 inmy conscience, my conscience is but 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 command. I will run.

LAUNCELOT

Certainly part of me wants to run from my master, this Jew. The devil whispers in my ear, tempting me, saying to me, "Gobbo," "Launcelot Gobbo," "Good Launcelot," or "Good Gobbo," or "Good Launcelot Gobbo"—"use your legs, get going, run away." But my conscience says, "No. Wait here, honest Launcelot. Wait here, honest Gobbo." Or it says, "Honest Launcelot Gobbo, do not run away. Don't you dare run away." Well, the bold devil is encouraging me to get going. "Go!" says the devil. "Go away!" says the devil. "For heaven's sake, be brave and run," says the devil. But then my conscience pulls on my heart and says very wisely to me, "My honest friend Launcelot, since you are the son of an honest man"—or rather the son of an honest woman, for actually my father was somewhat dishonest and unfaithful. He had a kind of taste for it. Anyways, my conscience says, "Launcelot, don't budge!" "Budge!" says the devil. "Don't budge," says my conscience. "Conscience," I say, "you give good advice." "Devil," I say, "you give good advice, too." If I listen to my conscience, I'd stay here with my master the Jew, who is a kind of devil himself. And if I run away from the Jew I'd be listening to the devil, who is the devil himself. But then again, the Jew is certainly the very devil incarnate. And my conscience is being rather difficult in advising me to stay with the Jew. The devil is giving more friendly advice. I will run away, devil. My feet are at your command: I will run away.

Enter Old GOBBO with a basket

GOBBO

Master young man, you, I pray you, which is the way toMaster Jew’s?

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

[aside] O heavens, this is my true-begotten father, who, being more than sand-blind—high-gravel blind—knows me not. I will try confusions with him.

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

Master young gentleman, I pray you, which is the way toMaster Jew’s?

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

Turn up on your right hand at the next turning, but at the next turning of all on your left. Marry, at the verynext turning turn of no hand, but turn down indirectly to the Jew’s house.

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

By God’s sonties, ’twill be a hard way to hit. Can you tell me whether one Launcelot that dwells with him, dwell with him or no?

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

Talk you of young Master Launcelot? [aside] Mark me now. Now will I raise the waters.—Talk you of young Master Launcelot?

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

No “master,” sir, but a poor man’s son. His father, though I say ’t, is an honest exceeding poor man and, God be thanked, well to live.

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

Well, let his father be what he will, we talk of youngMaster Launcelot.

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

Your worship’s friend and Launcelot, sir.

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

But I pray you, ergo, old man, ergo, I beseech you, talk you of young Master Launcelot?

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

Of Launcelot, an ’t please your mastership.

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

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 youwould say in plain terms, gone to heaven.

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

Marry, God forbid! The boy was the very staff of my age, my very prop.

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

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

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

Alack the day, I know you not, young gentleman. But I pray you, tell me, is my boy, God rest his soul, alive or dead?

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

Do you not know me, Father?

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

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

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

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. Truth will come to light. Murder cannot be hid long—a man’s son may, but in the end truthwill out.

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

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

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

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

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

I cannot think you are my son.

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

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.

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

Her name is Margery, indeed. I’ll be sworn, if thou beLauncelot, thou art mine own flesh and blood. [feels the back of LAUNCELOT’s head] Lord worshipped might he be, what a beard hast thou got! Thou hast got more hair on thy chin than Dobbin my fill-horse has on his tail.

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

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.

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

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

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

Well, well, but for mine own part, as I have set up my rest to run away, so I will not rest till I have run some ground. My master’s a very Jew. 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 servenot him, I will run as far as God 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.

LAUNCELOT

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Enter BASSANIO with LEONARDO and another follower or two

BASSANIO

[to a follower] You may do so, but let it be so hasted that supper be ready at the farthest by five of the clock. See these letters delivered, put the liveries to making, and desire Gratiano to come anon to my lodging.

BASSANIO

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Exit follower

LAUNCELOT

To him, Father.

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

[to BASSANIO] God bless your worship!

GOBBO

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BASSANIO

Gramercy! Wouldst thou aught with me?

BASSANIO

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GOBBO

Here’s my son, sir, a poor boy—

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

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

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

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

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

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

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

His master and he, saving your worship’s reverence, are scarce cater-cousins—

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

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—

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

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

GOBBO

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LAUNCELOT

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—

LAUNCELOT

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BASSANIO

One speak for both. What would you?

BASSANIO

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LAUNCELOT

Serve you, sir.

LAUNCELOT

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GOBBO

That is the very defect of the matter, sir.

GOBBO

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BASSANIO

I know thee well. Thou hast obtained thy suit. Shylock thy master spoke with me this day, And hath preferred thee, if it be preferment To leave a rich Jew’s service, to become The follower of so poor a gentleman.

BASSANIO

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LAUNCELOT

The old proverb is very well parted between my master Shylock and you, sir—you have “the grace of God,” sir, and he hath “enough.”

LAUNCELOT

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BASSANIO

Thou speak’st it well.—Go, father, with thy son.— Take leave of thy old master and inquire My lodging out.— [to followers] Give him a livery More guarded than his fellows'. See it done.

BASSANIO

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LAUNCELOT

Father, in. I cannot get a service, no. I have ne'er a tongue in my head. [reading his own palm] Well, if any man in Italy have afairer 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.—Father, come. I’ll take my leave of the Jew in thetwinkling.

LAUNCELOT

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Exit LAUNCELOT the clown with Old GOBBO

BASSANIO

I pray thee, good Leonardo, think on this. These things being bought and orderly bestowed, Return in haste, for I do feast tonight My best esteemed acquaintance. Hie thee, go.

BASSANIO

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LEONARDO

My best endeavours shall be done herein.

LEONARDO

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Enter GRATIANO

GRATIANO

[to LEONARDO] Where is your master?

GRATIANO

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LEONARDO

Yonder, sir, he walks.

LEONARDO

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Exit LEONARDO

GRATIANO

Signor Bassanio!

GRATIANO

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BASSANIO

Gratiano!

BASSANIO

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GRATIANO

I have a suit to you.

GRATIANO

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BASSANIO

You have obtained it.

BASSANIO

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GRATIANO

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

GRATIANO

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BASSANIO

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 thou art 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 behavior I be misconst’red in the place I go to, And lose my hopes.

BASSANIO

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GRATIANO

Signor 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.

GRATIANO

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BASSANIO

Well, we shall see your bearing.

BASSANIO

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GRATIANO

Nay, but I bar tonight. You shall not gauge meBy what we do tonight.

GRATIANO

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BASSANIO

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.

BASSANIO

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GRATIANO

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

GRATIANO

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Exeunt severally

The merchant of venice
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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.