Act I - Scene I


Enter Antonio, Salerio, and Solanio.

In sooth, I know not why I am so sad;
It wearies me; you say it wearies you;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn;(5)
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.
Your mind is tossing on the ocean;
There, where your argosies, with portly sail,—
Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood,(10)
Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea,—
Do overpeer the petty traffickers,
That curt'sy to them, do them reverence,
As they fly by them with their woven wings.
Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,(15)
The better part of my affections would
Be with my hopes abroad. I should be still
Plucking the grass, to know where sits the wind;
Peering in maps, for ports, and piers, and roads:
And every object that might make me fear(20)
Misfortune to my ventures, out of doubt
Would make me sad.
My wind, cooling my broth,
Would blow me to an ague, when I thought
What harm a wind too great might do at sea.(25)
I should not see the sandy hour-glass run,
But I should think of shallows and of flats;
And see my wealthy Andrew dock'd in sand,
Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs,
To kiss her burial. Should I go to church,(30)
And see the holy edifice of stone,
And not bethink me straight of dangerous rocks,
Which, touching but my gentle vessel's side,
Would scatter all her spices on the stream,
Enrobe the roaring waters with my silks,(35)
And, in a word, but even now worth this,
And now worth nothing? Shall I have the thought
To think on this; and shall I lack the thought
That such a thing, bechanc'd, would make me sad?
But tell not me; I know, Antonio(40)
Is sad to think upon his merchandise.
Believe me, no; I thank my fortune for it,
My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,
Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate
Upon the fortune of this present year:(45)
Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad.
Why, then you are in love.
Fie, fie!
Not in love neither? Then let us say, you are sad,
Because you are not merry: and 'twere as easy(50)
For you to laugh, and leap, and say you are merry,
Because you are not sad. Now, by two-headed Janus,
Nature hath fram'd strange fellows in her time:
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes,
And laugh, like parrots, at a bag-piper;(55)
And other of such vinegar aspect,
That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile,
Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.

Enter Bassanio, Lorenzo, and Gratiano.

Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman,
Gratiano, and Lorenzo: Fare you well;(60)
We leave you now with better company.
I would have stay'd till I had made you merry,
If worthier friends had not prevented me.
Your worth is very dear in my regard.
I take it, your own business calls on you,(65)
And you embrace the occasion to depart.
Good morrow, my good lords.
Good signiors both, when shall we laugh? say,
You grow exceeding strange: must it be so?(70)
We'll make our leisures to attend on yours.

Exeunt Salerio, and Solanio.

My Lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio,
We two will leave you; but at dinner-time,
I pray you have in mind where we must meet.
I will not fail you.(75)
You look not well, Signior Antonio;
You have too much respect upon the world:
They lose it that do buy it with much care:
Believe me, you are marvellously chang'd.
I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;(80)
A stage, where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.
Let me play the fool!
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come;
And let my liver rather heat with wine,(85)
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man whose blood is warm within
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
Sleep when he wakes? and creep into the jaundice
By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio,—(90)
I love thee, and it is my love that speaks;—
There are a sort of men, whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond;
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dress'd in an opinion(95)
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit;
As who should say, I am Sir Oracle,
And, when I ope my lips, let no dog bark!
O, my Antonio, I do know of these,
That therefore only are reputed wise,(100)
For saying nothing; who, I am very sure,
If they should speak, would almost damn those ears
Which, hearing them, would call their brothers, fools.
I'll tell thee more of this another time:
But fish not with this melancholy bait,(105)
For this fool-gudgeon, this opinion.
Come, good Lorenzo:— Fare ye well, awhile:
I'll end my exhortation after dinner.
Well, we will leave you
then till dinner-time.(110)
I must be one of these same dumb wise men,
For Gratiano never lets me speak.
Well, keep me company but two years more,
Thou shalt not know the sound of thine own tongue.
Farewell: I'll grow a talker for this gear.(115)
Thanks, i' faith; for silence is only commendable
In a neat's tongue dried, and a maid not vendible.

[Gratiano and Lorenzo exit.]

Is that any thing now?
Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more
than any man in all Venice: his reasons are as two grains(120)
of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff; you shall seek all
day ere you find them; and when you have them they are
not worth the search.
Well; tell me now, what lady is the same
To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage,(125)
That you to-day promis'd to tell me of?
'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
How much I have disabled mine estate,
By something showing a more swelling port
Than my faint means would grant continuance:(130)
Nor do I now make moan to be abridg'd
From such a noble rate; but my chief care
Is to come fairly off from the great debts
Wherein my time, something too prodigal,
Hath left me gag'd. To you, Antonio,(135)
I owe the most in money and in love;
And from your love I have a warranty
To unburthen all my plots and purposes,
How to get clear of all the debts I owe.
I pray you, good Bassanio, let me know it;(140)
And, if it stand, as you yourself still do,
Within the eye of honour, be assur'd,
My purse, my person, my extremest means,
Lie all unlock'd to your occasions.
In my schooldays, when I had lost one shaft,(145)
I shot his fellow of the self-same flight
The self-same way, with more advised watch,
To find the other forth; and by adventuring both
I oft found both: I urge this childhood proof,
Because what follows is pure innocence.(150)
I owe you much; and, like a wilful youth,
That which I owe is lost: but if you please
To shoot another arrow that self way
Which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,
As I will watch the aim, or to find both,(155)
Or bring your latter hazard back again,
And thankfully rest debtor for the first.
You know me well, and herein spend but time,
To wind about my love with circumstance;
And, out of doubt, you do me now more wrong(160)
In making question of my uttermost,
Than if you had made waste of all I have.
Then do but say to me what I should do,
That in your knowledge may by me be done,
And I am prest unto it: therefore speak.(165)
In Belmont is a lady richly left,
And she is fair, and, fairer than that word,
Of wondrous virtues. Sometimes from her eyes
I did receive fair speechless messages:
Her name is Portia; nothing undervalued(170)
To Cato's daughter, Brutus' Portia.
Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth;
For the four winds blow in from every coast
Renowned suitors, and her sunny locks
Hang on her temples like a golden fleece;(175)
Which makes her seat of Belmont, Colchos' strand,
And many Jasons come in quest of her.
O, my Antonio! had I but the means
To hold a rival place with one of them,
I have a mind presages me such thrift,(180)
That I should questionless be fortunate.
Thou know'st that all my fortunes are at sea;
Neither have I money, nor commodity
To raise a present sum: therefore go forth,
Try what my credit can in Venice do;(185)
That shall be rack'd, even to the uttermost,
To furnish thee to Belmont, to fair Portia.
Go, presently inquire, and so will I,
Where money is; and I no question make,
To have it of my trust, or for my sake.(190)



  1. In claiming that the world is a stage, Antonio highlights the affected nature of his sadness. He is playing the role of melancholy rather than actually feeling melancholic. Gratiano picks up on this hole in Antonio's metaphor and exploits it to insinuate that Antonio is only sad so that he can appear more profound to others. This exchange introduces the theme of playing and perception early on in the play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Contrary to what he told Salerio and Solanio, all of Antonio's money is bound up in a ship abroad. To pay for Benvolio's trip, Antonio suggests that they take out a loan on his credit.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. "Means" in this context refers to money. Bassanio does not look to charm, honor, or any other skill to woo Portia. Rather, he seeks to win her over by showing off wealth that he does not have. Bassanio's pursuit of Portia seems to be more about another gamble with Antonio's money than a genuine love for the woman.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Notice that all of the descriptions of Portia do not reveal anything about the woman in particular. Bassanio vaguely gestures at her physical appearance, but he spends more time comparing her to figures from mythology than describing her personality or "wondrous virtues." This suggests that Bassanio doesn't really know anything about Portia and is mostly interested in her wealth.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Jason was the son of Aeson and rightful king of Iolcos in Greek mythology. He leads the Argonauts, a band of heroes, in search of the golden fleece, a symbol of authority and kingly rights. Jason finds the fleece with the help of his wife Medea. In this metaphor, Bassanio compares Portia to the golden fleece, a prize pursued by many Jasons.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. The four winds, or Anemoi in Greek mythology, were gods associated with the four cardinal directions and thought to bring the seasons and weather conditions. Boreas was the north wind that brought winter; Zephyrus was the west wind that brought spring and summer; Notos was the south wind that brought late summer and autumn and was responsible for storms; Eurus was the east wind thought to bring rain and unluckiness. Bassanio uses this reference to show how widely known Portia is.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Porcia was the daughter of Roman statesman Cato the Elder and the second wife to Brutus, one of the treacherous statesmen who killed Julius Caesar. Portia was an extremely loyal wife. When Brutus did not tell her about the plot to kill Caesar, for fear that she would reveal the truth if tortured, she inflicted a wound on her leg and endured the pain for a day to prove to her husband that she could keep a secret. Brutus then shared everything with her. She eventually committed suicide when she believed that Brutus had been killed in battle.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Notice that the first thing that we hear about Portia, Bassanio's love interest, is how much money she has inherited. This suggests that unlike Antonio, Bassanio prizes money over love.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. By this Antonio means that Bassanio is wasting time with metaphors because he assumes that there is a limit to Antonio's love for him. This suggests that there is no limit to Antonio's love, a proposition that will be tested throughout this play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Again, Antonio puts his love for Bassanio above all of his money. Many have suggested that Antonio's die hard dedication to Bassanio suggests either a romantic love for or a paternal dedication to his friend.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Bassanio gives a story from childhood about archery. When he would lose and arrow, he would fire a second in the same direction to watch where it landed so that he could recover both arrows. He uses this example to ask Antonio for another loan, even though he already owes Antonio a lot of money. This request demonstrates that Bassanio is a gambler who believes he can recover any loss. He does not seem to acknowledge the possibility that this scheme could fail.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Notice that Antonio is the first person in the play to place his love for Bassanio above his money. While the other characters seem to exist in a world in which money is the most important value, Antonio demonstrates here that he believes love is more important than money.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. "Unburthen" means to unburden or reveal. Shakespeare uses this literary device to both tell the audience what Bassanio's plan is and show the intimate relationship between Antonio and Bassanio.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Bassanio uses this metaphor to say that he lives a more lavish lifestyle than he can afford so that he can appear wealthier than he is. Here Bassanio reveals himself to be a spendthrift.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. This is a colloquial way of asking, "has Gratiano ever said anything worthwhile?" Antonio speaks this line as soon as all of his friends have left the stage. This suggests that Antonio does not think much of the men who have just left but is particularly good friends with Bassanio.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. "Gear" in this context means chatter. Antonio promises to become a talker after hearing Gratiano's diatribe about silent men posing as wise men. However, Antonio's scathing line after Gratiano exits the stage suggests that this line is said sarcastically.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. A "maid not vendible" is a metaphor for an unmarried woman. With this metaphor, Gratiano turns women into commodities that can be bought and sold. Notice that most of the metaphors up to this point have been concerned with money.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. In this metaphor, Gratiano pokes fun of men who intentionally remain silent and melancholic so that others believe they are profoundly wise. He teases Antonio by making fun of "Sir Oracle," a sage so wise that even dogs listen when he speaks. Notice that none of Antonio's friends seem to take his sadness seriously.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. Notice that like Salerio and Salanio, Gratiano interprets Antonio's sadness as coming from a preoccupation with his wealth and fortune. This highlights the extreme value of money among Antonio's friends.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. "Strange" here means distant. Notice again that Salerio and Salanio place their business ventures above their friends in order of importance. This underscores the importance of money within the play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. "Kinsman" in this context means close friend instead of family member.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. "Vinegar aspect" here refers to someone with a sour disposition. Salanio breaks the world into two types of people: fools who laugh at anything, and dour people who laugh at nothing.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. Janus is a Roman god with two faces who commanded entrances. One face looks forward while the other looks backwards. Here he functions as a symbol of beginnings and endings.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  24. Antonio dismisses the claim that he might be in love instantly. Notice that their first proposal, that Antonio is sad about his investments, is explained over multiple lines while Antonio immediately cuts off the possibility that his sadness could be caused by feelings. While in most comedies love is more important than money or social rank, here money seems more important than love.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  25. Spices and silks from Asia became important commodities in the Medieval and Renaissance eras. Coming into Europe primarily via the silk road, spices and silks stimulated economic growth in major port cities such as Venice. Salerio mentions spices and silks to tell the audience what Antonio's ships are carrying and characterize him as someone who profits off of trade with Asia.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  26. Notice that the ship is called a "her" and given the action of "kissing" the ground. This personification shows how important the ship is to these men; it is almost human.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  27. Here Salerio describes a ship wreck. The ship is "docked in sand" meaning it has run onto the shore and its "high top," or tall mast, has fallen lower than its "ribs", or its side.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  28. By "wind", Salerio means his breath used to blow cool air onto hot soup. He compares his breath to wind at sea which might cause a storm and destroy his boat. Notice that Salerio equates his breath, that which sustains his life, with his investments. Salerio and Solanio's understanding of Antonio's melancholy demonstrate the extreme importance of money to these principal characters.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  29. Here, Salerio implies as classed system in which Antonio's stately ships are better than all of the poor merchants's ships. He compares the natural bobbing of ships in the sea to peasants "curtsying" to their lord to show reverence. In this metaphor, the poor merchants's ships curtsy to Antonio's ship because Antonio is a richer, higher class merchant. This imagination of Antonio's ships classifies him and his friends as members of the upper class.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  30. "Portly" is an adjective used to describe people which means both plump and dignified. Salerio uses this adjective to show that the sails are full of wind. But the adjective also personifies the sails to equate them with a fat, rich, distinguished man.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  31. Solanio highlights the importance of money at the beginning of this play. He believes that Antonio's sadness comes from his preoccupation with wealth and believes that one's "ventures," monetary investments, are directly connected to one's emotions.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  32. This means that he would be tossing grass pieces into the air to see which direction the wind is blowing. This also metaphorically references fortune or luck. "Wind" can represent some one's fortune, good or bad, depending on which way it blows.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  33. Antonio is a wealthy merchant which means that his money is in the products aboard ships out on the ocean. Because ships were prone to sinking, Antonio would have reason to worry about his investments. Salerio tells Antonio that his sadness comes from being preoccupied with material items; he equates emotions with money.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff