William Shakespeare: Merchant of Venice, Act IV
Enter the Duke, the Magnificoes, Antonio, Bassanio, Gratiano, Salerio, and others
I am sorry for thee: thou art come to answer A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch Uncapable of pity, void and empty From any dram of mercy.
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.
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 loose 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, Enow to press a royal merchant down 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.
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 pleased to give ten thousand ducats To have it baned? What, are you answer'd yet? Some men there are love not a gaping pig; Some, that are mad if they behold a cat; And others, when the bagpipe sings i' the nose, Cannot contain their urine: for affection, Mistress of passion, sways it to the mood Of what it likes or loathes. 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; Why he, a woollen bagpipe; but of force Must yield to such inevitable shame As to offend, himself being offended; So can I give no reason, nor I will not, More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing I bear Antonio, that I follow thus A losing suit against him. Are you answer'd?
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; You 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 fretten 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 farther means, But with all brief and plain conveniency Let me have judgment and the Jew his will.
What judgment shall I dread, doing Were in six parts and every part a ducat, I would not draw them; I would have my bond.
What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong? You have among you many a purchased 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?
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.
Good cheer, Antonio! What, man, courage yet! The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones and all, Ere thou shalt lose for me one drop of blood.
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
Presenting a letter
Not on thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew, Thou makest thy knife keen; but no metal can, No, not the hangman's axe, bear half the keenness Of thy sharp envy. Can no prayers pierce thee?
O, be thou damn'd, inexecrable dog! And for thy life let justice be accused. Thou almost makest 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, Infused itself in thee; for thy desires Are wolvish, bloody, starved and ravenous.
Till thou canst 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.
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.
Your grace shall understand that at the receipt of your letter I am very sick: but in the instant that your messenger came, in loving visitation was with me a young doctor of Rome; 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, bettered with his own learning, the greatness whereof I cannot enough commend, comes with him, at my importunity, to fill up your grace'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 shall better publish his commendation.
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. Come you from old Bellario?
You are welcome: take your place. Are you acquainted with the difference That holds this present question in the court?
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?
The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; 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.
Yes, here I tender it for him in the court; Yea, twice 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, do a little wrong, And curb this cruel devil of his will.
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.
An oath, an oath, I have an oath in heaven: Shall I lay perjury upon my soul? No, not for Venice.
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.
When it is paid according to the tenor. 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.
For the intent and purpose of the law Hath full relation to the penalty, Which here appeareth due upon the bond.
Ay, his breast: So says the bond: doth it not, noble judge? 'Nearest his heart:' those are the very words.
But little: I am arm'd and well prepared. 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 misery doth she cut me off. Commend me to your honourable wife: Tell her the process of Antonio's end; Say how I loved you, speak me fair in death; And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge Whether Bassanio had not once a love. Repent but 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 presently with all my heart.
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.
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.
These be the Christian husbands. I have a daughter; Would any of the stock of Barrabas Had been her husband rather than a Christian!
We trifle time: I pray thee, pursue sentence.
A pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine: The court awards it, and the law doth give it.
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:' Take then 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.
Thyself shalt see the act: For, as thou urgest justice, be assured Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desirest.
Therefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh. Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more But just a pound of flesh: if thou cut'st more Or less than a just pound, be it but so much As makes it light or heavy in the substance, 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.
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 contrived against the very life Of the defendant; and thou hast incurr'd The danger formerly by me rehearsed. Down therefore and beg mercy of the duke.
Beg that thou mayst 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.
That thou shalt see the difference of our spirits, 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.
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.
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.
I pray you, give me leave to go from hence; I am not well: send the deed after me, And I will sign it.
In christening shalt thou have two god-fathers: Had I been judge, thou shouldst have had ten more, To bring thee to the gallows, not the font.
I humbly do desire your grace of pardon: I must away this night toward Padua, And it is meet I presently set forth.
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 and his train
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That 'scuse serves many men to save their gifts. An if your wife be not a mad-woman, And know how well I have deserved the ring, She would not hold out enemy for ever, For giving it to me. Well, peace be with you!
Exeunt Portia and Nerissa
My Lord Bassanio, let him have the ring: Let his deservings and my love withal Be valued against your wife's commandment.
Go, Gratiano, run and overtake him; Give him the ring, and bring him, if thou canst, 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.