Act II - Scene II


Enter the clown [Launcelot] alone.

Certainly, my conscience will serve me to run
from this Jew, my master. The fiend is at mine elbow, and
tempts me; saying to me,—Gobbo, Launcelot Gobbo,
good Launcelot, or good Gobbo, or good Launcelot
Gobbo, use your legs, take the start, run away.—My(5)
conscience says, no; take heed, honest Launcelot; take
heed, honest Gobbo; or, (as aforesaid) honest Launcelot
Gobbo; do not run: scorn running with thy heels: well,
the most courageous fiend bids me pack; Via! says the
fiend; away! says the fiend, for the heavens rouse up a(10)
brave mind, says the fiend, and run. Well, my conscience,
hanging about the neck of my heart, says very wisely to
me,—my honest friend Launcelot, being an honest man's
son: or rather an honest woman's son;—for, indeed, my
father did something smack, something grow to, he had a(15)
kind of taste;—well, my conscience says, Launcelot, budge
not: budge, says the fiend; budge not, says my conscience:
Conscience, say I, you counsel well; fiend, say I, you counsel
well: to be ruled by my conscience, I should stay with
the Jew my master, who, (God bless the mark!) is a kind of(20)
devil; and to run away from the Jew, I should be ruled by
the fiend, who, saving your reverence, is the devil himself.
Certainly, the Jew is the very devil incarnation: and, in my
conscience, my conscience is but a kind of hard conscience,
to offer to counsel me to stay with the Jew: the fiend gives(25)
the more friendly counsel: I will run, fiend; my heels are at
your command, I will run.

Enter old Gobbo with a Basket.

Master, young man, you; I pray you, which is the way
to master Jew's?
O heavens, this is my true-begotten father! who,(30)
being more than sand-blind, high-gravel blind, knows me
not: I will try confusions with him.
Master, young gentleman, I pray you which is the way
to master Jew's?
Turn up on your right hand at the next turning,(35)
but, at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at the very
next turning, turn of no hand, but turn down indirectly to
the Jew's house.
By God's sonties, 'twill be a hard way to hit. Can you
tell me whether one Launcelot, that dwells with him, dwell(40)
with him, or no?
Talk you of young Master Launcelot?—Mark me
now—now will I raise the waters.—Talk you of young master
No master, sir, but a poor man's son: his father, though(45)
I say it, is an honest exceeding poor man, and, God be
thanked, well to live.
Well, let his father be what a will, we talk of young
master Launcelot.
Your worship's friend and Launcelot, sir.(50)
But I pray you ergo, old man, ergo, I beseech you,
talk you of young master Launcelot.
Of Launcelot, an't please your mastership.
Ergo, master Launcelot; talk not of Master
Launcelot, father; for the young gentleman (according(55)
to fates and destinies, and such odd sayings,
the sister three, and such branches of learning) is, indeed,
deceased; or, as you would say in plain terms, gone to
Marry, God forbid! the boy was the very staff of my(60)
age, my very prop.
Do I look like a cudgel, or a hovel-post, a staff,
or a prop? Do you know me, father?
Alack the day, I know you not, young gentleman:
but, I pray you tell me, is my boy (God rest his soul!)(65)
alive or dead?
Do you not know me, father?
Alack, sir, I am sand-blind, I know you not.
Nay, indeed, if you had your eyes you might fail
of the knowing me: it is a wise father that knows his own(70)
child. Well, old man, I will tell you news of your son: give
me your blessing: truth will come to light; murder cannot
be hid long; a man's son may; but, in the end, truth
will out.
Pray you, sir, stand up; I am sure you are not(75)
Launcelot, my boy.
Pray you, let's have no more fooling about it, but
give me your blessing; I am Launcelot, your boy that was,
your son that is, your child that shall be.
I cannot think you are my son.(80)
I know not what I shall think of that: but I am
Launcelot, the Jew's man; and I am sure Margery, your
wife, is my mother.
Her name is Margery, indeed: I'll be sworn, if thou
be Launcelot, thou art mine own flesh and blood. Lord(85)
worshipped might he be! what a beard hast thou got!
thou hast got more hair on thy chin than Dobbin my
phill-horse has on his tail.
It should seem then, that Dobbin's tail grows
backward: I am sure he had more hair of his tail, than I(90)
have of my face, when I last saw him.
Lord, how art thou changed! How dost thou and thy
master agree? I have brought him a present. How 'gree
you now?
Well, well; but, for mine own part, as I have set up(95)
my rest to run away, so I will not rest till I have run some
ground. My master's a very Jew. Give him a present! give him
a halter: I am famished in his service; you may tell every finger
I have with my ribs. Father, I am glad you are come: give
me your present to one master Bassanio, who, indeed, gives(100)
rare new liveries; if I serve not him, I will run as far as God
has any ground.—O rare fortune! here comes the man;—to
him, father; for I am a Jew if I serve the Jew any longer.

Enter Bassanio with a follower or two [one of them Leonardo.]

You may do so:—but let it be so hasted, that supper
be ready at the farthest by five of the clock. See these letters(105)
delivered; put the liveries to making; and desire Gratiano to
come anon to my lodging.
To him, father.
God bless your worship!
Gramercy! wouldst thou aught with me?(110)
Here's my son, sir, a poor boy,—
Not a poor boy, sir, but the rich Jew's man; that
would, sir, as my father shall specify,—
He hath a great infection, sir, as one would say, to
Indeed, the short and the long is, I serve the Jew,
and have a desire, as my father shall specify,—
His master and he (saving your worship's reverence) are
scarce cater-cousins:—
To be brief, the very truth is, that the Jew having(120)
done me wrong, doth cause me, as my father, being I hope
an old man, shall frutify unto you, —
I have here a dish of doves, that I would bestow upon
your worship; and my suit is,—
In very brief, the suit is impertinent to myself,(125)
as your worship shall know by this honest old man; and,
though I say it, though old man, yet, poor man, my father.
One speak for both:—what would you?
Serve you, sir.
That is the very defect of the matter, sir.(130)
I know thee well; thou hast obtain'd thy suit:
Shylock, thy master, spoke with me this day,
And hath preferr'd thee, if it be preferment
To leave a rich Jew's service, to become
The follower of so poor a gentleman.(135)
The old proverb is very well parted between
my master Shylock and you, sir; you have the grace of
God, sir, and he hath enough.
Thou speak'st it well. Go, father, with thy son:—
Take leave of thy old master, and inquire(140)
My lodging out:—Give him a livery
More guarded than his fellows: see it done.
Father, in:—I cannot get a service, no!—I have
ne'er a tongue in my head!—well! If any man in Italy
have a fairer table, which doth offer to swear upon a(145)
book, I shall have good fortune! Go to, here's a simple
line of life! here's a small trifle of wives: alas, fifteen wives
is nothing; aleven widows and nine maids, is a simple
coming-in for one man: and then, to 'scape drowning
thrice; and to be in peril of my life with the edge of a(150)
feather bed; here are simple 'scapes! Well, if fortune be a
woman, she's a good wench for this gear.—Father, come.
I'll take my leave of the Jew in the twinkling of an eye.

Exit Clown.

I pray thee, good Leonardo, think on this.
These things being bought, and orderly bestow'd,(155)
Return in haste, for I do feast to-night
My best-esteem'd acquaintance: hie thee Go.
My best endeavours shall be done herein.

Exit Leonardo.

Enter Gratiano.

Where's your master?
Yonder, sir, he walks.(160)
Signior Bassanio,—
I have a suit to you.
You have obtain'd it.
You must not deny me. I must go with you to(165)
Why, then you must.—But hear thee, Gratiano;
Thou art too wild, too rude and bold of voice;
Parts, that become thee happily enough,
And in such eyes as ours appear not faults;(170)
But where thou art not known, why, there they show
Something too liberal: pray thee, take pain
To allay with some cold drops of modesty,
Thy skipping spirit; lest, through thy wild behavior,
I be misconster'd in the place I go to,(175)
And lose my hopes.
Signior Bassanio, hear me:
If I do not put on a sober habit,
Talk with respect, and swear but now and then,
Wear prayer-books in my pocket, look demurely;(180)
Nay more, while grace is saying, hood mine eyes
Thus with my hat, and sigh, and say Amen;
Use all the observance of civility,
Like one well studied in a sad ostent
To please his grandam,—never trust me more.(185)
Well, we shall see your bearing.
Nay, but I bar to-night; you shall not gage me
By what we do to-night.
No, that were pity;
I would entreat you rather to put on(190)
Your boldest suit of mirth, for we have friends
That purpose merriment. But fare you well,
I have some business.
And I must to Lorenzo and the rest;
But we will visit you at supper-time.(195)



  1. A "boldest suit of mirth" are elaborate or ornamented party clothes. Unlike the "sober habit" that Gratiano proposes he wear, Bassanio ask him to dress extravagantly, to show off their wealth. Notice how religion and imagery of money are mixed within this scene.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. The proverb to which Launcelot refers says, "the grace of God is possession enough." Launcelot references the Bible, but he uses it to flatter his lord instead of using it to worship God. Notice the implicit parallel drawn between Shylock and the Christians: Shylock seems to be a true man of his faith, while the Christians use faith for their own ends.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. "Defect" means falling short of or lacking. Gobbo means "effect." Notice that there is an element of truth to these malapropisms that the characters did not intend.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. "Impertinent" means irrelevant. This is another malapropism since Launcelot actually means pertinent.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Notice that both Gobbo and Launcelot do not give each other room to speak. Gobbo is long winded and attempts to fill his speech with flowery language and metaphors. Launcelot cuts him off to get to the point. In other words, Launcelot believes he can do it better than his father. This picks up the themes present in Portia's storyline in a comedic and low space: like Launcelot, Portia is subject to her father's intervention in her affairs. Like Launcelot, Portia believes that she could do better than her father.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Like his son, Gobbo uses malapropisms that twist the meaning of his lines. Instead of "infection," Gobbo means "affection."

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. This line can be interpreted either as a sign that Gobbo is senile, or that Gobbo cannot believe that someone who acts like Launcelot could be his son.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Launcelot mistakes Gobbo's meaning in his previous line and takes the opportunity to tease his father about being cuckolded. In other words, you may not be my father but your wife is certainly my mother. Launcelot defies filial duty to his parent and shows himself to be a dishonorable character.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Launcelot takes his father's comment literally and becomes angry at being called a staff. Notice that Launcelot faults his father for not being able to "look" at him, though Launcelot himself has already acknowledged that his father is blind.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Here, Gobbo uses a metaphor that compares his son to a "staff." By this metaphor, Gobbo means that Launcelot supports him in his old age, and laments the loss of this support.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Launcelot refers to the three fates from Greek and Roman mythology called the Moirai. The Moirai were incarnations of destiny that metaphorically controlled the thread of each life on earth. Clotho spun the thread, Lachesis measured the thread, and Atropos cut the thread to end someone's life.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. "Try confusions" is a malapropism for "try conclusions," which means to experiment. However, "confusions" ends up being a more apt description of Launcelot's game because his jokes make little sense. Unlike other clowns, who mock the high born characters by cleverly twisting their logic and rhetoric, Launcelot is a bad clown who makes the audience laugh with his dim witted attempt to be clever.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. "Ergo" was a fancy way to say "therefore." Though he has showed himself to be dim witted, Launcelot uses this word to sound different, or more educated than he is.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. Launcelot's father Gobbo is blind and does not immediately recognize his son. Launcelot decides to play a prank on him. While Shakespeare's audience might have found this scene funny, we can also read Launcelot as a despicable character for his lack of honor. This undermines his characterization of Shylock as a "devil" and lends sympathy to the persecuted Jewish characters.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. Notice that serious negative descriptions of Shylock are put into the mouths of unreliable characters, such as Launcelot the low comedic clown.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. This is a malapropism, mistaking a word for another word that sounds like it. Launcelot mistakes the phrase "the devil incarnate," literally the devil embodied in the flesh, for "the devil incarnation," which at this time referred to the birth of Jesus. The malapropism throughout Launcelot's speech demonstrates his lack of eduction and position as a comedic low character.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. Here, Launcelot performs a parody of a psychomachia, a conflict of the soul generally shown by a devil and an angel sitting on opposite shoulders and fighting it out for the subject's soul. Launcelot cannot decide whether or not to stay with his master. But unlike most psychomachia monologues, this one does not reach below surface level; Launcelot does not offer any real reasons to run or to stay.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff