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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

Excuse me, young man, where is the Jew's house?

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

[To himself] Oh God, this is my father. He is as blind as a bat and doesn't recognize me. I'll play some tricks on him.

GOBBO

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

GOBBO

Young man, please, where is the Jew's house?

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

At the next intersection, take a right, and then at the next take a left. And then at the next intersection keep going straight and you'll be at the Jew's house.

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

By God, it will be hard to find my way there. Do you know if someone named Launcelot, who lives with him, is there with him or not?

LAUNCELOT

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

LAUNCELOT

Are you talking about young Master Launcelot?

[To himself]
 Watch this. Now I'll raise the stakes.

[To GOBBO]
 Are you talking about the young Master Launcelot?

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

Not a "master," sir, but a poor man's son. His father, though, is an honest, if very poor, man and—thank God—in good health.

LAUNCELOT

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

LAUNCELOT

Well, whatever his father is like, we are talking about young Master Launcelot.

GOBBO

Your worship’s friend and Launcelot, sir.

GOBBO

Yes, but just Launcelot, not "master," sir.

LAUNCELOT

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

LAUNCELOT

But I ask you, ergo, old man, I beg you: are you talking about young Master Launcelot?

GOBBO

Of Launcelot, an ’t please your mastership.

GOBBO

Master, I am speaking of someone simply called  Launcelot.

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

Ergo, Master Launcelot. Don't talk about Master Launcelot, father. That young gentleman, according to his fate and destiny and so forth, the Three Sisters and so on, is deceased. Or, to say it plainly, he has gone to heaven.

GOBBO

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

GOBBO

God forbid! In my old age I relied on that boy, like a crutch!

LAUNCELOT

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

LAUNCELOT

Do I look like a crutch or a prop? Do you recognize me, father?

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

I swear, I don't know who you are, young gentleman. But please tell me: is my son—God rest his soul—alive or dead?

LAUNCELOT

Do you not know me, Father?

LAUNCELOT

Do you not know who I am, father? 

GOBBO

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

GOBBO

Alas, sir, I am completely blind. I don't know you. 

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

Even if you could see, you might not recognize me. It takes a wise father to recognize his own child. Well, old man, I will give you news regarding your son. Give me your blessing. The truth will come to light. Murder can't be hidden for long. A man's son can be hidden, but not the truth.

GOBBO

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

GOBBO

Please sir, stand up. I am sure you aren't my son Launcelot.

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

Please, enough fooling around. Give me your blessing. I am Launcelot, who was, is, and will continue to be your son.

GOBBO

I cannot think you are my son.

GOBBO

I can't believe that you are my son.

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

I don't know what to think of that. But I really am Launcelot, the Jew's servant, and I am sure your wife Margery is my mother. 

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

My wife's name is Margery, indeed. If you're Launcelot, I'll swear you are my own flesh and blood.

[He feels the back of LAUNCELOT's head]
 Good lord, what a beard you have! You have more hair on your chin than my horse Dobbin has on his tail.

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

It would seem that Dobbin's tail is shrinking, then. I am sure that he had more hair on his tail the last time I saw him than I have on my face.

GOBBO

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

GOBBO

Lord, you have changed! How are you and your master getting along? I have bought him a present. Are you getting along with him? 

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

Pretty well, but I've decided to run away from him, so I won't rest until I've run some distance. My master is very much a Jew. Go ahead and give him a present; give him a noose. I work as his servant and he hardly feeds me. You can count my ribs, they protrude so much. I'm glad you've come, father. Give me the present so I can give it to Master Bassanio, who gives his servants fancy new outfits. If I don't end up as his servant, I will run as far away as is possible. Oh, just my luck! Here he comes. Let's go talk to him, father, for if I serve the Jew any longer, I'll be a Jew myself.

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

[To an attendant] You may do that, but do it quick so that supper is ready by five o'clock at the latest. Make sure these letters are delivered, get the outfits made, and tell Gratiano to come soon to my house.

Exit follower

LAUNCELOT

To him, Father.

LAUNCELOT

Go talk to him, father.

GOBBO

[to BASSANIO] God bless your worship!

GOBBO

[To BASSANIO] God bless you!

BASSANIO

Gramercy! Wouldst thou aught with me?

BASSANIO

Thanks! Do you want something?

GOBBO

Here’s my son, sir, a poor boy—

GOBBO

This here is my son, a poor boy—

LAUNCELOT

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

LAUNCELOT

Not a poor boy, sir, but a servant of the rich Jew. And I would like, sir, as my father will tell you—

GOBBO

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

GOBBO

He has a great desire, sir, as they say, to serve—

LAUNCELOT

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

LAUNCELOT

Yes, to make a long story short, I currently serve under the Jew and, as my father will tell you, I have a desire—

GOBBO

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

GOBBO

He and his master, your reverence, are not the closest of friends—

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

To be brief, the truth is that the Jew, having wronged me, now makes it so that I, as my father, being an old man, will provide you with—

GOBBO

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

GOBBO

I have a gift of a plate of doves here that I would give to you, and all I ask is—

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

In short, the request is about me, and you will learn from this honest old man—and even though I'm his son, I tell you, even though he's old and poor, my father—

BASSANIO

One speak for both. What would you?

BASSANIO

One of you speak for both of you. What do you want?

LAUNCELOT

Serve you, sir.

LAUNCELOT

To be your servant, sir.

GOBBO

That is the very defect of the matter, sir.

GOBBO

That is the heart of the matter, sir.

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

I know you well. You will get what you ask for. Your master Shylock spoke with me today and spoke well of you, if you really want to leave the service of a rich Jew to become a servant of such a poor gentleman.

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

The old proverb says, "the grace of God is enough." It could be split up between you and my master Shylock, sir. You have the grace of God, and he has enough.

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

Well said. Go along with your son, father. Go leave your old master and come inquire at my house.

[To his attendants]
 Give him a outfit more frilled than his fellow servants. Make sure this is done.

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

Father, go. I can't get a job, no. I'm not very good at talking.

[Reading his own palm]
 Well, I have as good a palm as any man in Italy to swear upon a Bible with. I will have good luck. Look, here's the life line. It predicts several wives. Fifteen wives is nothing! Eleven widows and nine young women is good for one man. It looks like I will escape drowning three times and nearly lose my life in a feather-bed. Simple escapes. If Fortune is a lady, she's a good one for all this. Come with me, father. I'll leave the Jew in the blink of an eye.

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

[Handing LEONARDO a list] Please, Leonardo, pay attention to this. Buy and arrange these things and then come back to me quickly, for I'm having my most respected acquaintance over for dinner tonight. Get going now.

LEONARDO

My best endeavours shall be done herein.

LEONARDO

I'll give it my best effort.

Enter GRATIANO

GRATIANO

[to LEONARDO] Where is your master?

GRATIANO

[To LEONARDO] Where is your master?

LEONARDO

Yonder, sir, he walks.

LEONARDO

Over there, sir, walking about.

Exit LEONARDO

GRATIANO

Signor Bassanio!

GRATIANO

Sir Bassanio!

BASSANIO

Gratiano!

BASSANIO

Gratiano!

GRATIANO

I have a suit to you.

GRATIANO

I have a favor to ask of you.

BASSANIO

You have obtained it.

BASSANIO

Your wish is my command.

GRATIANO

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

GRATIANO

Please don't deny my favor. I must go with you to Belmont.

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

Well then, you will. But listen, Gratiano. You are too wild and too rude, and you speak too boldly. These qualities suit you well and I don't mind them. But in a place where people don't know you, these qualities might seem excessive. Please, take care to moderate your hot-headed spirit with some cold drops of modesty, so that your wild behavior doesn't reflect poorly on me in Belmont, and ruin my own hopes there.

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

Sir Bassanio, listen to me. I give you permission to never trust me again if I do not behave in a sober fashion, talk respectfully and not swear too much, carry prayer books around with me, look modestly—even more, if during grace I do not pull my hat down over my eyes, sigh, and say "Amen"—if I don't follow every guideline of good manners like someone who's studied hard to please his grandmother.

BASSANIO

Well, we shall see your bearing.

BASSANIO

Well, we will see how you behave.

GRATIANO

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

GRATIANO

But tonight is an exception. Don't gauge me based on what I do tonight.

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

No, it would be a pity to judge you based on tonight. Rather, I encourage you to to put on your boldest display of merriment, for we are entertaining two friends whom I want to entertain. But I must say goodbye, because I have some business to take care of.

GRATIANO

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

GRATIANO

And I must go to Lorenzo and the others. We will see you at dinner time.

Exeunt severally

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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.