Document:  All > Shakespeare > Comedies > The Merchant of Venice > Act I, scene II


PORTIA: By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of
	this great world.

NERISSA: You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in
	the same abundance as your good fortunes are: and
	yet, for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit
	with too much as they that starve with nothing. It
	is no mean happiness therefore, to be seated in the
	mean: superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but
	competency lives longer.

PORTIA: Good sentences and well pronounced.

NERISSA: They would be better, if well followed.

PORTIA: If to do were as easy as to know what were good to
	do, chapels had been churches and poor men's
	cottages princes' palaces. It is a good divine that
	follows his own instructions: I can easier teach
	twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the
	twenty to follow mine own teaching. The brain may
	devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps
	o'er a cold decree: such a hare is madness the
	youth, to skip o'er the meshes of good counsel the
	cripple. But this reasoning is not in the fashion to
	choose me a husband. O me, the word 'choose!' I may
	neither choose whom I would nor refuse whom I
	dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed
	by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard,
	Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor refuse none?

NERISSA: Your father was ever virtuous; and holy men at their
	death have good inspirations: therefore the lottery,
	that he hath devised in these three chests of gold,
	silver and lead, whereof who chooses his meaning
	chooses you, will, no doubt, never be chosen by any
	rightly but one who shall rightly love. But what
	warmth is there in your affection towards any of
	these princely suitors that are already come?

PORTIA: I pray thee, over-name them; and as thou namest
	them, I will describe them; and, according to my
	description, level at my affection.

NERISSA: First, there is the Neapolitan prince.

PORTIA: Ay, that's a colt indeed, for he doth nothing but
	talk of his horse; and he makes it a great
	appropriation to his own good parts, that he can
	shoe him himself. I am much afeard my lady his
	mother played false with a smith.

NERISSA: Then there is the County Palatine.

PORTIA: He doth nothing but frown, as who should say 'If you
	will not have me, choose:' he hears merry tales and
	smiles not: I fear he will prove the weeping
	philosopher when he grows old, being so full of
	unmannerly sadness in his youth. I had rather be
	married to a death's-head with a bone in his mouth
	than to either of these. God defend me from these

NERISSA: How say you by the French lord, Monsieur Le Bon?

PORTIA: God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man.
	In truth, I know it is a sin to be a mocker: but,
	he! why, he hath a horse better than the
	Neapolitan's, a better bad habit of frowning than
	the Count Palatine; he is every man in no man; if a
	throstle sing, he falls straight a capering: he will
	fence with his own shadow: if I should marry him, I
	should marry twenty husbands. If he would despise me
	I would forgive him, for if he love me to madness, I
	shall never requite him.

NERISSA: What say you, then, to Falconbridge, the young baron
	of England?

PORTIA: You know I say nothing to him, for he understands
	not me, nor I him: he hath neither Latin, French,
	nor Italian, and you will come into the court and
	swear that I have a poor pennyworth in the English.
	He is a proper man's picture, but, alas, who can
	converse with a dumb-show? How oddly he is suited!
	I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round
	hose in France, his bonnet in Germany and his
	behavior every where.

NERISSA: What think you of the Scottish lord, his neighbour?

PORTIA: That he hath a neighbourly charity in him, for he
	borrowed a box of the ear of the Englishman and
	swore he would pay him again when he was able: I
	think the Frenchman became his surety and sealed
	under for another.

NERISSA: How like you the young German, the Duke of Saxony's nephew?

PORTIA: Very vilely in the morning, when he is sober, and
	most vilely in the afternoon, when he is drunk: when
	he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and
	when he is worst, he is little better than a beast:
	and the worst fall that ever fell, I hope I shall
	make shift to go without him.

NERISSA: If he should offer to choose, and choose the right
	casket, you should refuse to perform your father's
	will, if you should refuse to accept him.

PORTIA: Therefore, for fear of the worst, I pray thee, set a
	deep glass of rhenish wine on the contrary casket,
	for if the devil be within and that temptation
	without, I know he will choose it. I will do any
	thing, Nerissa, ere I'll be married to a sponge.

NERISSA: You need not fear, lady, the having any of these
	lords: they have acquainted me with their
	determinations; which is, indeed, to return to their
	home and to trouble you with no more suit, unless
	you may be won by some other sort than your father's
	imposition depending on the caskets.

PORTIA: If I live to be as old as Sibylla, I will die as
	chaste as Diana, unless I be obtained by the manner
	of my father's will. I am glad this parcel of wooers
	are so reasonable, for there is not one among them
	but I dote on his very absence, and I pray God grant
	them a fair departure.

NERISSA: Do you not remember, lady, in your father's time, a
	Venetian, a scholar and a soldier, that came hither
	in company of the Marquis of Montferrat?

PORTIA: Yes, yes, it was Bassanio; as I think, he was so called.

NERISSA: True, madam: he, of all the men that ever my foolish
	eyes looked upon, was the best deserving a fair lady.

PORTIA: I remember him well, and I remember him worthy of
	thy praise.

	[Enter a Serving-man]

	How now! what news?

Servant: The four strangers seek for you, madam, to take
	their leave: and there is a forerunner come from a
	fifth, the Prince of Morocco, who brings word the
	prince his master will be here to-night.

PORTIA: If I could bid the fifth welcome with so good a
	heart as I can bid the other four farewell, I should
	be glad of his approach: if he have the condition
	of a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had
	rather he should shrive me than wive me. Come,
	Nerissa. Sirrah, go before.
	Whiles we shut the gates
	upon one wooer, another knocks at the door.



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