A line-by-line translation

The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice Translation Act 2, Scene 9

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Enter NERISSA and a servitor

NERISSA

Quick, quick, I pray thee. Draw the curtain straight.The Prince of Arragon hath ta'en his oathAnd comes to his election presently.

NERISSA

Hurry, hurry, please. Close up the curtain right now. The Prince of Aragon has sworn his oath and now comes to make his selection.

Flourish cornets Enter the Prince of ARRAGON, his train, and PORTIA

PORTIA

Behold, there stand the caskets, noble Prince. If you choose that wherein I am contained, Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemnized. But if you fail, without more speech, my lord, You must be gone from hence immediately.

PORTIA

Behold, there are the caskets, noble Prince. If you choose the one that contains a picture of me, we will get married right away. But if you make the wrong choice, you must leave here immediately, my lord, without saying another word.

ARRAGON

I am enjoined 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.

ARRAGON

I am bound by oath to do the following three things: first, I can never tell anyone which casket it was that I chose. Second, if I fail to choose the right casket, I will never again court a woman in marriage. And third, if I fail to make the right choice, I must immediately be gone and leave you.

PORTIA

To these injunctions every one doth swearThat comes to hazard for my worthless self.

PORTIA

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ARRAGON

And so have I addressed me. Fortune now To my heart’s hope! Gold, silver, and base lead. “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” You shall look fairer ere I give or hazard. 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, Not learning more than the fond eye doth teach; Which pries not to th' interior, but like the martlet Builds in the weather on the outward wall, Even in the force and road of casualty. I will not choose what many men desire Because I will not jump with common spirits And rank me with the barbarous multitudes. 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 honorable Without the stamp of merit? Let none presume To wear an undeservèd dignity. Oh, that estates, degrees and offices Were not derived corruptly, and that clear honor Were purchased by the merit of the wearer! How many then should cover that stand bare! How many be commanded that command! How much low peasantry would then be gleaned From the true seed of honor! And how much honor Picked from the chaff and ruin of the times To be new varnished! 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.

ARRAGON

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ARRAGON opens the silver casket

PORTIA

Too long a pause for that which you find there.

PORTIA

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ARRAGON

What’s here? The portrait of a blinking idiot Presenting me a schedule! I will read it.— How much unlike art thou to Portia! How much unlike my hopes and my deservings! “Who chooseth me shall have as much as he deserves”! Did I deserve no more than a fool’s head? Is that my prize? Are my deserts no better?

ARRAGON

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PORTIA

To offend and judge are distinct officesAnd of opposèd natures.

PORTIA

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ARRAGON

What is here? [reads] “The fire seven times tried this, Seven times tried that judgment is, That did never choose amiss. Some there be that shadows kiss. Such have but a shadow’s bliss. There be fools alive, iwis, Silvered o'er—and so was this. Take what wife you will to bed, I will ever be your head. So be gone. You are sped. 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 wroth.”

ARRAGON

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Exeunt ARRAGON and his train

PORTIA

Thus hath the candle singed the moth.O these deliberate fools! When they do choose, They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.

PORTIA

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NERISSA

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

NERISSA

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PORTIA

Come, draw the curtain, Nerissa.

PORTIA

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Enter MESSENGER

Messenger

Where is my lady?

Messenger

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PORTIA

Here. What would my lord?

PORTIA

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MESSENGER

Madam, there is alighted at your gate A young Venetian, one that comes before To signify th' 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. A day in April never came so sweet To show how costly summer was at hand, As this forespurrer comes before his lord.

MESSENGER

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PORTIA

No more, I pray thee. I am half afeard Thou wilt say anon he is some kin to thee, Thou spend’st such high-day wit in praising him.— Come, come, Nerissa, for I long to see Quick Cupid’s post that comes so mannerly.

PORTIA

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NERISSA

Bassanio, Lord Love, if thy will it be!

NERISSA

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Exeunt

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.