Act I - Scene III


Enter Bassanio with Shylock the Jew.

Three thousand ducats,—well.
Ay, sir, for three months.
For three months,—well.
For the which, as I told you, Antonio shall be
Antonio shall become bound,—well.
May you stead me? Will you pleasure me? Shall I
know your answer?
Three thousand ducats, for three months, and Antonio
Your answer to that.
Antonio is a good man.
Have you heard any imputation to the contrary?
Ho! no, no, no, no;—my meaning in saying he is a
good man, is, to have you understand me that he is sufficient:(15)
Yet his means are in supposition: he hath an argosy
bound to Tripolis, another to the Indies; I understand moreover
upon the Rialto, he hath a third at Mexico, a fourth for
England; and other ventures he hath, squander'd abroad. But
ships are but boards, sailors but men: there be land-rats and(20)
water-rats, land-thieves and water-thieves; I mean, pirates;
and then, there is the peril of waters, winds, and rocks. The
man is, notwithstanding, sufficient;—three thousand ducats;
—I think I may take his bond.
Be assured you may.(25)
I will be assured I may; and that I may be assured, I
will bethink me. May I speak with Antonio?
If it please you to dine with us.
Yes, to smell pork; to eat of the habitation which your
prophet, the Nazarite, conjured the devil into! I will buy(30)
with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and
so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you,
nor pray with you.—What news on the Rialto?—Who is he
comes here?

Enter Antonio.

This is Signior Antonio.(35)
How like a fawning publican he looks!
I hate him for he is a Christian:
But more, for that, in low simplicity,
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.(40)
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation; and he rails,
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift,(45)
Which he calls interest. Cursed be my tribe
If I forgive him!
Shylock, do you hear?
I am debating of my present store:
And, by the near guess of my memory,(50)
I cannot instantly raise up the gross
Of full three thousand ducats. What of that?
Tubal, a wealthy Hebrew of my tribe,
Will furnish me. But soft: how many months
Do you desire?—Rest you fair, good signior:(55)
Your worship was the last man in our mouths.
Shylock, albeit I neither lend nor borrow,
By taking, nor by giving of excess,
Yet, to supply the ripe wants of my friend,
I'll break a custom:—Is he yet possess'd(60)
How much you would?
Ay, ay, three thousand ducats.
And for three months.
I had forgot;—three months. You told me so.
Well then, your bond; and, let me see. but hear you:(65)
Methought you said, you neither lend nor borrow,
Upon advantage.
I do never use it.
When Jacob graz'd his uncle Laban's sheep,
This Jacob from our holy Abram was(70)
(As his wise mother wrought in his behalf)
The third possessor; ay, he was the third.
And what of him? did he take interest?
No, not take interest; not, as you would say,
Directly interest: mark what Jacob did.(75)
When Laban and himself were compromis'd
That all the eanlings which were streak'd and pied
Should fall, as Jacob's hire; the ewes, being rank,
In the end of autumn turned to the rams:
And when the work of generation was,(80)
Between these woolly breeders, in the act,
The skilful shepherd pill'd me certain wands,
And, in the doing of the deed of kind,
He stuck them up before the fulsome ewes;
Who, then conceiving, did in eaning-time(85)
Fall party-colour'd lambs, and those were Jacob's.
This was a way to thrive, and he was blest;
And thrift is blessing, if men steal it not.
This was a venture, sir, that Jacob serv'd for;
A thing not in his power to bring to pass,(90)
But sway'd and fashion'd by the hand of Heaven.
Was this inserted to make interest good?
Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams?
I cannot tell; I make it breed as fast:
But note me, signior.(95)
Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek;
A goodly apple rotten at the heart;(100)
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
Three thousand ducats;—'tis a good round sum.
Three months from twelve, then let me see; the rate.
Well, Shylock, shall we be beholden to you?
Signior Antonio, many a time and oft,(105)
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys, and my usances:
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe:
You call me,—misbeliever, cut-throat dog,(110)
And spet upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it now appears you need my help:
Go to then: you come to me, and you say,
Shylock, we would have monies; you say so;(115)
You, that did void your rheum upon my beard,
And foot me, as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold; monies is your suit.
What should I say to you? Should I not say,
Hath a dog money? is it possible(120)
A cur can lend three thousand ducats? or
Shall I bend low, and in a bondman's key,
With 'bated breath, and whispering humbleness,
Say this,—
'Fair sir, you spat on me on Wednesday last;(125)
You spurn'd me such a day; another time
You call'd me—dog; and for these courtesies
I'll lend you thus much moneys?'
I am as like to call thee so again,
To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too.(130)
If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not
As to thy friends; (for when did friendship take
A breed for barren metal of his friend?)
But lend it rather to thine enemy;
Who, if he break, thou mayst with better face(135)
Exact the penalty.
Why, look you, how you storm!
I would be friends with you, and have your love,
Forget the shames that you have stain'd me with,
Supply your present wants, and take no doit(140)
Of usance for my monies, and you'll not hear me:
This is kind I offer.
This were kindness.
This kindness will I show:
Go with me to a notary, seal me there(145)
Your single bond; and, in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum, or sums, as are
Express'd in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound(150)
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.
Content, in faith; I'll seal to such a bond,
And say there is much kindness in the Jew.
You shall not seal to such a bond for me;(155)
I'll rather dwell in my necessity.
Why, fear not, man, I will not forfeit it;
Within these two months,—that's a month before
This bond expires,—I do expect return
Of thrice three times the value of this bond.(160)
O father Abram, what these Christians are,
Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect
The thoughts of others! Pray you, tell me this;
If he should break his day, what should I gain
By the exaction of the forfeiture?(165)
A pound of man's flesh, taken from a man,
Is not so estimable, profitable neither,
As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats. I say,
To buy his favour, I extend this friendship;
If he will take it, so; if not, adieu;(170)
And, for my love, I pray you wrong me not.
Yes, Shylock, I will seal unto this bond.
Then meet me forthwith at the notary's;
Give him direction for this merry bond,
And I will go and purse the ducats straight;(175)
See to my house, left in the fearful guard
Of an unthrifty knave; and presently
I will be with you.


Hie thee, gentle Jew.
This Hebrew will turn Christian; he grows kind.(180)
I like not fair terms and a villain's mind.
Come on; in this there can be no dismay,
My ships come home a month before the day.



  1. A major theme of this play is the racial enmity between Jews and Christians. The hatred between Antonio and Shylock can be read as a portrait that reflects larger patterns of racial hatred. Notice that Shakespeare's play offers a more complex understanding of how racial tensions play out in these characters's interactions beyond racial hatred. Shylock does not simply hate Antonio because he is a Christian, but because Antonio's Christian ethics threaten Shylock's livelihood.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Here "bated breath" means holding one's tongue or meekly waiting for something to happen. Shylock uses this term to point out the Christian's hypocrisy in expecting him to loan them 3,000 ducats while believing that he should be subservient to them.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Though the Christians have characterized Shylock as a greedy man because he earns money off of interest, Shylock's use of this bond shows that profit is not the most important thing to him. It suggests that the Christians have mischaracterized Shylock, and that he is actually one of the only characters with principals in the play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Here Shylock prays to Abraham to excuse himself for making a bond to take another man's flesh. He justifies his bond in saying that a pound of man's flesh has no monetary value and that he will not profit from it. This suggests that Shylock has higher aims than money in making this bond: perhaps punishing Antonio for his abuse of the Jews, or perhaps demonstrating the Christians's love of money above all else.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Antonio believes that his ships will return safely and he will have no problem paying off his bond. However, this certainty is in direct conflict with everything the audience has heard so far about Antonio's ships and investments. Antonio is over confident about the security of his investments; this foreshadows that this cockiness will end badly for him.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Shylock equalizes the body with money here when he asks Antonio to promise to give a pound of his flesh for each pound he does not pay back. While this has been read as a sign of Shylock's savagery, some critics see this as Shylock pointing out the hypocrisy of the Christians: any Christian who believed his body was a sacred gift from God would not make this bond. However, because money is more important to Antonio than God, he does agree to take this bond.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Shylock claims that he chooses to take this bond as a sign of peace between himself and Antonio. It is unclear whether or not these lines are meant to be sincere or sarcastic, or whether or not they are intended to make Shylock seem endearing or seem like a villain.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. In this metaphor, Antonio argues that money making money is unnatural. Coins are barren, or infertile, and thus should not be able to breed more coins. In other words, more money should not be made from interest.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Notice that Antonio confirms his abusive behavior. While the audience could believe that Shylock is over exaggerating or slandering Antonio, Antonio's affirmation here shows that Shylock was not lying.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. This is a colloquial term that means to spit phlegm onto. Shylock here points to the irony that Antonio now comes to him for the very thing for which he so violently hated Shylock. This speech makes Antonio's character hypocritical and unlikable.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Shylock catalogues particularly despicable behavior on Antonio's part. He not only calls him names, he spits on him in the street. It is unclear whether or not Shakespeare intended this to be funny or heart wrenching to his audience; whether this speech was supposed to endear them to Shylock or to Antonio. However, it is worth noting that other plays of this time, including Shakespeare's source text, did not give Jewish characters the chance to speak against their treatment in this manner.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Here Shylock directly addresses what the audience may have inferred from Antonio and Shylock's exchange: Antonio does not only lend money without interest, he publicly shames and bullies Shylock because he does.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. Again Antonio interrupts Shylock before he is able to tell Antonio what to mark. There are no stage directions here to suggest that the following speech is an aside to Bassanio that reveals genuine fear of Shylock. Instead, Antonio seems to say this in front of Shylock as if he weren't there, demonstrating an arrogant disregard for the man who is supposed to lend them money.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Notice how Antonio dismisses Shylock's story and publicly mocks him. This type of dismissal demonstrates Antonio's lack of respect for Shylock and suggests that he holds money lenders in contempt.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. While Antonio seems to see interest as taking advantage of someone else, Shylock tells a story in which someone leverages their skills in order to succeed; Jacob achieves his money through ingenuity. This could also be a dig at Antonio and Bassanio who are not attempting to acquire money through their intellect or skills but through an extravagant loan. It could also suggest that Shylock and Jacob are similar in that both must rely on their intelligence to survive in an unfriendly system.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. This interruption demonstrates Antonio's lack of respect for Shylock and his business practices. Antonio is obviously contemptuous of the interest Shylock collects on his loans.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. Jacob was Isaac's son. With the help of his mother Rebecca, he was abel to trick his father into giving him his brother's inheritance and becoming Isaac's third heir.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. In Genesis 30 of the Old Testament, Jacob makes a deal with Laban, the father of Rachel, the woman he wants to marry. Laban tells him that he can keep any of the multicolored sheep in the herd, so Jacob places a spotted plant in front of the breeding sheep. This causes many of the sheep to become spotted like the plant and increases Jacob's wealth. Jacob essentially rigs the deal so that he gains more than Laban.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. Notice how Antonio and Shylock differ here. Shylock is defined by his beliefs while Antonio quickly breaks his principals for his friend's vain desire.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. By this Shylock means that he and other Jewish lenders were just talking about Antonio, presumably because Antonio's interest free loans have spoiled their business. Notice again that Shylock is associated with consumption and eating.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. Catholics were explicitly prohibited from lending money and collecting interest by Catholic Church law in this time. Because Jews were essentially universally hated across medieval and Early Modern Europe, moneylending became one of few positions open to them. Even though the practice of loaning money was essential to Venice's merchant economy, collecting debts led to more Christian resentment towards the Jewish community.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. Metaphors of consumption and devouring reoccur throughout this play, especially in relation to Shylock. One explanation could be the wide-held Early Modern belief in "blood-libel," the anti-semitic belief that Jews used Christian blood to prepare their Passover bread. Another explanation is that Shylock "feeds" or "consumes" in a different way than the Christians. While the Christians consume material items and obsess over money, Shylock "feeds" his beliefs, feelings, and internal motivations.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. While many other plays at this time, including Shakespeare's source text The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe, gave audiences a one dimensional Jewish villain, Shakespeare gives Shylock more of a motive to hate Antonio. Antonio offers loans without interest and debases the entire money lending market through which Shylock makes his living.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  24. Rialto is a Venetian island that served as the mercantile quarter in medieval Venice. In 1591, the Rialto Bridge was completed and connected Rialto to the San Marco Islands.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  25. Unlike Antonio's friends who seem to have few beliefs, except for the belief in the power and importance of money, Shylock believes in his religion over money. He will not sacrifice his religion in order to make this business deal. In this sense, a sharp distinction is made between the Christians and Shylock: Shylock is the more principled of the two.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  26. The "Nazarite" is a reference to Jesus Christ. Christians at this time speculated that Jews did not eat pork because they believed Jesus had banished a demon into a herd of swine, tainting the meat. However, Jews do not eat pork because it is not kosher. That Shylock makes this claim, reminds us that he is a Jewish character written by a Christian author who does not understand Jewish customs.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  27. The Merchant of Venice is controversial because of its anti-semitic treatment of Shylock, the Jewish character in the play. After King Edward's Edict of Expulsion in 1290, anyone practicing the Jewish faith in England had to do so secretly or face persecution. When Shakespeare wrote this play in 1605, his audience would have only known about Jewish people from stories and stereotypes associated with them. Thus, Shylock can be read (and probably was intended) as a comedic caricature of Jewish stereotypes. Many modern scholars have chosen to read Shylock sympathetically, as a victim of his circumstances rather than a straightforward villain.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  28. Shylock's desire to take the bond despite the large chance that Antonio will not have the money to cover the bond suggests that he has ulterior motives for loaning Antonio the money. The audience once again gets the sense that Shylock does not like Antonio or that Shylock is seeking revenge for some unknown injury. Notice that Shakespeare does not offer the audience motivation for Shylock's actions.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  29. Shylock highlights the uncertainty of Antonio's wealth. Sailing at the time was extremely hazardous because of natural disasters, poorly made vessels, and human frailty. This list of potential disasters foreshadows the main conflict in the play and shows Antonio's imprudence in taking this bond before he knows how his ships will fair.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  30. Though Bassanio claims that Antonio is a good man with his rhetorical question, Shylock corrects him to say that Antonio is not "good" in a moral sense but rather that he is "good" for the money. This suggests that Shylock and Antonio do not like each other.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  31. In this context, Bassanio means "will you give me the answer I want?" Bassanio is eagerly waiting for Shylock to agree to grant Antonio the loan.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  32. A ducat was currency of the Venetian Republic from 1284 through the Renaissance. They were small, valuable gold coins. Three thousand ducats was an extremely large amount of money; it roughly equals about 500,000 dollars by today's standards.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff