Act II - Scene IV


Enter Gratiano, Lorenzo, Salerio, and Solanio.

Nay, we will slink away in supper-time,
Disguise us at my lodging, and return,
All in an hour.
We have not made good preparation.
We have not spoke us yet of torchbearers.(5)
'Tis vile, unless it may be quaintly ordered,
And better, in my mind, not undertook.
'Tis now but four o'clock; we have two hours,
To furnish us.—
Friend Launcelot, what's the news?(10)

Enter Launcelot, with a letter.

An it shall please you to break up this, it shall
seem to signify.
I know the hand: in faith, 'tis a fair hand;
And whiter than the paper it writ on,
Is the fair hand that writ.(15)
Love-news, in faith.
By your leave, sir.
Whither goest thou?
Marry, sir, to bid my old master the Jew to sup
to-night with my new master the Christian.(20)
Hold here, take this.—Tell gentle Jessica,
I will not fail her.—Speak it privately.
Go. Gentlemen, will you prepare you for this masque
I am provided of a torch-bearer.(25)

Exit Clown.

Ay, marry, I'll be gone about it straight.
And so will I.
Meet me and Gratiano,
At Gratiano's lodging some hour hence.
'Tis good we do so.(30)

Exit [Salerio and Solanio]

Was not that letter from fair Jessica?
I must needs tell thee all. She hath directed
How I shall take her from her father's house;
What gold and jewels she is furnish'd with;
What page's suit she hath in readiness.(35)
If e'er the Jew her father come to heaven,
It will be for his gentle daughter's sake:
And never dare misfortune cross her foot,
Unless she do it under this excuse,—
That she is issue to a faithless Jew.(40)
Come, go with me; peruse this as thou goest:
Fair Jessica shall be my torchbearer.



  1. Remember that Shylock referenced Abraham last time he was on stage. Gratiano, Lorenzo, and Jessica can only talk about money and outward appearances. This forces the audience to question who is really faithless in this play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Gentle is a pun on gentile, the term used to refer to someone of the Christian faith. This suggests that Jessica has or will convert to Christianity.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Notice that Lorenzo and Jessica are equally concerned with money in her scheme to elope with him. The relationship between Lorenzo and Jessica reinforces the importance of money above everything, even love, in this play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. A masque was a form of courtly entertainment. It generally consisted of music, dancing, costumes, and elaborate stage machinery. Members of the audience were often allowed to participate, especially the owner of the house's children.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Notice that we do not get to hear what Jessica has written to her lover. We must take "on faith," or on appearance that the letter contained love notes. This suggests that love in this play is shallow: it is not fully developed because it is more of a pose than a feeling.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Notice that Lorenzo's love for Jessica is introduced with a description of her skin. Again, outward appearances are shown to be more important than one's inner make up in this play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff