Act III - Scene II


Enter Bassanio, Portia, Gratiano, and all their train.

I pray you, tarry; pause a day or two,
Before you hazard; for, in choosing wrong,
I lose your company; therefore, forbear awhile:
There's something tells me, (but it is not love,)
I would not lose you; and you know yourself,(5)
Hate counsels not in such a quality:
But lest you should not understand me well,
(And yet a maiden hath no tongue but thought,)
I would detain you here some month or two,
Before you venture for me. I could teach you(10)
How to choose right, but then I am forsworn;
So will I never be: so may you miss me;
But if you do, you'll make me wish a sin,
That I had been forsworn. Beshrew your eyes,
They have o'erlook'd me, and divided me;(15)
One half of me is yours, the other half yours,—
Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours,
And so, all yours: O! these naughty times
Put bars between the owners and their rights;
And so, though yours, not yours.—Prove it so,(20)
Let fortune go to hell for it,—not I.
I speak too long; but 'tis to peize the time;
To eke it, and to draw it out in length,
To stay you from election.
Let me choose;(25)
For, as I am, I live upon the rack.
Upon the rack, Bassanio? then confess
What treason there is mingled with your love.
None, but that ugly treason of mistrust,
Which makes me fear the enjoying of my love:(30)
There may as well be amity and life
'Tween snow and fire, as treason and my love.
Ay, but I fear you speak upon the rack,
Where men enforced do speak anything.
Promise me life, and I'll confess the truth.(35)
Well, then, confess, and live.
Confess, and love,
Had been the very sum of my confession:
O happy torment, when my torturer
Doth teach me answers for deliverance!(40)
But let me to my fortune and the caskets.
Away then: I am lock'd in one of them;
If you do love me, you will find me out.
Nerissa, and the rest, stand all aloof.
Let music sound, while he doth make his choice;(45)
Then, if he lose, he makes a swan-like end,
Fading in music: that the comparison
May stand more proper, my eye shall be the stream,
And watery death-bed for him. He may win;
And what is music then? Then music is(50)
Even as the flourish, when true subjects bow
To a new-crowned monarch: such it is,
As are those dulcet sounds in break of day,
That creep into the dreaming bridegroom's ear,
And summon him to marriage. Now he goes,(55)
With no less presence, but with much more love,
Than young Alcides, when he did redeem
The virgin tribute paid by howling Troy
To the sea-monster: I stand for sacrifice,
The rest aloof are the Dardanian wives,(60)
With bleared visages, come forth to view
The issue of the exploit. Go, Hercules!
Live thou, I live:—with much-much more dismay
I view the fight, than thou that mak'st the fray.

Here music. A song whilst Bassanio comments on the caskets to himself.

Tell me where is fancy bred,(65)
Or in the heart, or in the head?
How begot, how nourished?

Reply, Reply.

It is engender'd in the eyes,
With gazing fed; and fancy dies(70)
In the cradle where it lies;
Let us all ring fancy's knell;
I'll begin it,—
Ding, dong, bell.
Ding, dong, bell.(75)
So may the outward shows be least themselves;
The world is still deceiv'd with ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
But, being season'd with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil? In religion,(80)
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it, and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
There is no vice so simple, but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts.(85)
How many cowards, whose hearts are all as false
As stairs of sand, wear yet upon their chins
The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars,
Who, inward search'd, have livers white as milk;
And these assume but valour's excrement(90)
To render them redoubted! Look on beauty,
And you shall see 'tis purchas'd by the weight;
Which therein works a miracle in nature,
Making them lightest that wear most of it:
So are those crisped snaky golden locks,(95)
Which make such wanton gambols with the wind,
Upon supposed fairness, often known
To be the dowry of a second head,
The skull, that bred them, in the sepulchre.
Thus ornament is but the guiled shore(100)
To a most dangerous sea; the beauteous scarf
Veiling an Indian beauty; in a word,
The seeming truth which cunning times put on
To entrap the wisest. Therefore, thou gaudy gold,
Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee:(105)
Nor none of thee, thou pale and common drudge
'Tween man and man. But thou, thou meagre lead,
Which rather threat'nest than dost promise aught,
Thy plainness moves me more than eloquence,
And here choose I. Joy be the consequence!(110)
How all the other passions fleet to air,
As, doubtful thoughts, and rash-embrac'd despair,
And shudd'ring fear, and green-eyed jealousy.
O Love, be moderate. Allay thy ecstasy.
In measure rein thy joy, scant this excess;(115)
I feel too much thy blessing, make it less,
For fear I surfeit!
What find I here?
Fair Portia's counterfeit? What demi-god
Hath come so near creation? Move these eyes?(120)
Or whether, riding on the balls of mine,
Seem they in motion? Here are sever'd lips,
Parted with sugar breath; so sweet a bar
Should sunder such sweet friends. Here in her hairs,
The painter plays the spider; and hath woven(125)
A golden mesh to entrap the hearts of men,
Faster than gnats in cobwebs: but her eyes,—
How could he see to do them? having made one,
Methinks it should have power to steal both his,
And leave itself unfurnish'd. Yet look, how far,(130)
The substance of my praise doth wrong this shadow
In underprizing it, so far this shadow
Doth limp behind the substance.—Here's the scroll,
The continent and summary of my fortune.
You that choose not by the view,(135)
Chance as fair, and choose as true!
Since this fortune falls to you,
Be content, and seek no new.
If you be well pleas'd with this,
And hold your fortune for your bliss,(140)
Turn you where your lady is,
And claim her with a loving kiss.
A gentle scroll.—Fair lady, by your leave:
I come by note, to give and to receive.
Like one of two contending in a prize,(145)
That thinks he hath done well in people's eyes,
Hearing applause and universal shout,
Giddy in spirit, still gazing in a doubt
Whether those peals of praise be his or no;
So, thrice fair lady, stand I, even so;(150)
As doubtful whether what I see be true,
Until confirm'd, sign'd, ratified by you.
You see me, Lord Bassanio, where I stand,
Such as I am: though, for myself alone,
I would not be ambitious in my wish,(155)
To wish myself much better; yet, for you,
I would be trebled twenty times myself:
A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times
More rich that only to stand high in your account,
I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends,(160)
Exceed account: but the full sum of me
Is sum of nothing; which, to term in gross,
Is, an unlesson'd girl, unschool'd, unpractis'd:
Happy in this, she is not yet so old
But she may learn; happier than this,(165)
She is not bred so dull but she can learn;
Happiest of all, is, that her gentle spirit
Commits itself to yours to be directed,
As from her lord, her governor, her king.
Myself and what is mine, to you and yours(170)
Is now converted: but now, I was the lord
Of this fair mansion, master of my servants,
Queen o'er myself; and even now, but now,
This house, these servants, and this same myself,
Are yours, my lord,—I give them with this ring;(175)
Which when you part from, lose, or give away,
Let it presage the ruin of your love,
And be my vantage to exclaim on you.
Madam, you have bereft me of all words;
Only my blood speaks to you in my veins,(180)
And there is such confusion in my powers,
As, after some oration fairly spoke
By a beloved prince, there doth appear
Among the buzzing pleased multitude;
Where every something, being blent together,(185)
Turns to a wild of nothing, save of joy,
Express'd and not express'd. But when this ring
Parts from this finger, then parts life from hence;
O, then be bold to say, Bassanio's dead.
My lord and lady, it is now our time,(190)
That have stood by, and seen our wishes prosper,
To cry, good joy; Good joy, my lord and lady!
My lord Bassanio, and my gentle lady,
I wish you all the joy that you can wish;
For I am sure you can wish none from me:(195)
And, when your honours mean to solemnize
The bargain of your faith, I do beseech you,
Even at that time I may be married too.
With all my heart, so thou canst get a wife.
I thank your lordship, you have got me one.(200)
My eyes, my lord, can look as swift as yours:
You saw the mistress, I beheld the maid;
You lov'd, I lov'd for intermission.
No more pertains to me, my lord, than you.
Your fortune stood upon the caskets there,(205)
And so did mine too, as the matter falls:
For wooing here, until I sweat again,
And swearing until my very roof was dry
With oaths of love, at last,—if promise last,—
I got a promise of this fair one here,(210)
To have her love, provided that your fortune
Achiev'd her mistress.
Is this true, Nerissa?
Madam, it is, so you stand pleas'd withal.
And do you, Gratiano, mean good faith?(215)
Yes faith, my lord.
Our feast shall be much honour'd in your marriage.
We'll play with them, the first boy for a thousand
What, and stake down?(220)
No; we shall ne'er win at that sport, and stake down.
But who comes here? Lorenzo and his infidel? What, and my
old Venetian friend, Salerio?

Enter Lorenzo, Jessica, and Salerio.

Lorenzo and Salerio, welcome hither;
If that the youth of my new interest here(225)
Have power to bid you welcome:—By your leave,
I bid my very friends and countrymen,
Sweet Portia, welcome.
So do I, my lord. They are entirely welcome.
I thank your honour.—For my part, my lord,(230)
My purpose was not to have seen you here;
But meeting with Salerio by the way,
He did entreat me, past all saying nay,
To come with him along.
I did, my lord,(235)
And I have reason for it. Signior Antonio
Commends him to you.
Ere I ope his letter,
I pray you tell me how my good friend doth.
Not sick, my lord, unless it be in mind;(240)
Nor well, unless in mind: his letter there
Will show you his estate.

Opens the letter.

Nerissa, cheer yon stranger; bid her welcome.
Your hand, Salerio. What's the news from Venice?
How doth that royal merchant, good Antonio?(245)
I know he will be glad of our success;
We are the Jasons, we have won the fleece.
I would you had won the fleece that he hath lost!
There are some shrewd contents in yon same paper,
That steals the colour from Bassanio's cheek;(250)
Some dear friend dead; else nothing in the world
Could turn so much the constitution
Of any constant man. What, worse and worse?—
With leave, Bassanio; I am half yourself,
And I must freely have the half of anything(255)
That this same paper brings you.
O sweet Portia,
Here are a few of the unpleasant'st words
That ever blotted paper! Gentle lady,
When I did first impart my love to you,(260)
I freely told you, all the wealth I had
Ran in my veins,—I was a gentleman;
And then I told you true: and yet, dear lady,
Rating myself at nothing, you shall see,
How much I was a braggart. When I told you(265)
My state was nothing, I should then have told you
That I was worse than nothing; for, indeed,
I have engag'd myself to a dear friend,
Engag'd my friend to his mere enemy,
To feed my means. Here is a letter, lady;(270)
The paper as the body of my friend,
And every word in it a gaping wound,
Issuing life-blood. But is it true, Salerio?
Have all his ventures fail'd? What, not one hit?
From Tripolis, from Mexico, and England,(275)
From Lisbon, Barbary, and India?
And not one vessel 'scape the dreadful touch
Of merchant-marring rocks?
Not one, my lord.
Besides, it should appear, that if he had(280)
The present money to discharge the Jew,
He would not take it. Never did I know
A creature that did bear the shape of man,
So keen and greedy to confound a man:
He plies the duke at morning, and at night,(285)
And doth impeach the freedom of the state
If they deny him justice: twenty merchants,
The duke himself, and the magnificoes
Of greatest port, have all persuaded with him;
But none can drive him from the envious plea(290)
Of forfeiture, of justice, and his bond.
When I was with him, I have heard him swear
To Tubal, and to Chus, his countrymen,
That he would rather have Antonio's flesh,
Than twenty times the value of the sum(295)
That he did owe him; and I know, my lord,
If law, authority, and power deny not,
It will go hard with poor Antonio.
Is it your dear friend that is thus in trouble?
The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,(300)
The best-condition'd and unwearied spirit
In doing courtesies; and one in whom
The ancient Roman honour more appears,
Than any that draws breath in Italy.
What sum owes he the Jew?(305)
For me, three thousand ducats.
What, no more?
Pay him six thousand, and deface the bond;
Double six thousand, and then treble that,
Before a friend of this description(310)
Shall lose a hair through Bassanio's fault.
First go with me to church, and call me wife,
And then away to Venice to your friend;
For never shall you lie by Portia's side
With an unquiet soul. You shall have gold(315)
To pay the petty debt twenty times over;
When it is paid, bring your true friend along:
My maid Nerissa and myself, meantime,
Will live as maids and widows. Come, away,
For you shall hence upon your wedding-day:(320)
Bid your friends welcome, show a merry cheer:
Since you are dear bought, I will love you dear.
But let me hear the letter of your friend.
[Reads] Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all
miscarried, my creditors grow cruel, my estate is very low, my bond(325)
to the Jew is forfeit; and since, in paying it, it is impossible I
should live, all debts are cleared between you and I, if I might
but see you at my death; Notwithstanding, use your pleasure:
if your love do not persuade you to come, let not my letter.
O love, despatch all business, and be gone.(330)
Since I have your good leave to go away,
I will make haste: but, till I come again,
No bed shall e'er be guilty of my stay,
Nor rest be interposer 'twixt us twain.(335)



  1. Deface the bond takes on multiple meanings here. Portia both wants to break the bond between Shylock and Antonio, but also she needs to get rid of Bassanio's indebtedness to Antonio. While Bassanio is "engaged" to Antonio, he cannot be fully bound to Portia. Thus it is important that she "deface," mar the appearance of or blot out from existence and memory, the bond.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Portia's surprise at the "low cost" of the bond reveals how vast her estate is. Remember that 3,000 ducats was a lot of money in this time. It is roughly what Michelangelo was paid to paint the Sistine Chapel.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Notice the language of bonds mimics the language of marriage and love. Bassanio is "engaged" to Antonio by his this bond. Thus, he cannot be truly engaged to Portia.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. This is a reference to the story of Jason and the golden fleece that Bassanio mentioned at the beginning of the play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. An "infidel" is someone who does not believe in the "true religion"; a nonbeliever. By this, Gratiano refers to Jessica. Notice that even though Jessica has converted and married Lorenzo, she is still perceived as an "infidel."

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Here Gratiano bets Portia and Bassanio that he and Nerissa will have a boy before they do. Again, notice that all of the elements of human emotion are reduced to monetary exchange.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Notice that all of the love in this play revolves around chance. Unlike most of other Shakespeare's love stories, which rely on confessions of love and schemes to bring about the outcome one desires, in this play the pairings rely on contracts and gambling.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Portia transforms her love and her wealth into a symbol, this ring. In making a symbol for her love, Portia moves her love from a an intangible emotion to an object.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Converted in this context touches on two of the play's main themes by connoting both a monetary conversion and a religious conversion. All of her things and person are now Bassanio's things. The way in which Portia describes her conversion as a change in perception rather than a change in state: nothing has changed but the title assigned to them.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Notice all of the monetary terms she uses to describe herself: gross, sum, account, rich etc. Like Bassanio, Portia focuses on her external and material attributes more than her internal character makeup. Portia, too, sees this as a relatively shallow, transaction.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Bassanio's language quickly turns from love to a contractual agreement. The bond between Portia and Bassanio reflects the bond between Shylock and Antonio and suggests that the action of this play revolves around monetary and legal contracts instead of love, friendship, or human emotion.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Notice that Bassanio can only focus on Portia's external beauty as he looks at her portrait. This is ironic given that he has just extolled external appearances as false and shallow.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. By this one line, Bassanio refers to the silver casket. "Common drudge" means servant at everyone's command and probably references silver's use as a common monetary form. Notice that Bassanio does not address what the boxes say but instead focuses on the materiality of each box. This suggests that Bassanio already knows the answer to the test and uses this speech to justify his knowing.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. King Midas is a character from Greek mythology who turned everything he touched into gold. He prayed for this "golden touch" without thinking through the implications of his wish. Midas turns his own daughter into a golden statue before starving to death surrounded by his gold. Midas's story is a classic example of be careful what you wish for.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. The liver was believed to be the seat of someone's courage. As red blood symbolized strength, courage, and virility, a "white" liver meant someone was a coward. Bassanio uses this metaphor to show that someone's outward appearance may clash with their internal makeup.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. Mars was the Roman god of war. His symbol was used as a sign of strength, power, and masculinity.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. Ironically, Bassanio catalogues all of the people who deceptively look different than what they actually are when he himself has borrowed money in order to look richer than he actually is. This suggests that Bassanio may not have passed the casket test without Portia's guidance. The test is designed to deter suitors who are there for the gold, and from the beginning of the play, the audience knows that Bassanio is this kind of suitor.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. The song underlines the basic set up of the casket test: if one chooses a casket based on looks then they probably will love based on looks too. Love based on appearance will die where it was born because it was not true love. Essentially, the song cautions against focusing on something's appearance.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. In this context, "fancy" means amorous love or devotion. Notice that Morocco and Arragon tried to solve the riddle of the caskets based on external and social understandings of what the caskets represented. For example, Morocco believed that "what men desire" was Portia, so gold must be the right choice. Here, the song focuses on the internal nature of love, suggesting that other suitors failed because they interpreted the test in a shallow way.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. "Dardanian wives" is another way to say Trojan wives. Portia's use of this metaphor demonstrates the performed nature of her rescue as it needs spectators.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. In mythology, Alcides, or Hercules, saved Hesione, the princess of Troy, from a sea monster sent by Poseidon to punish Hesione's father for breaking a bond. Hesione was stripped naked and tied to a rock to await the monster when Hercules came across her. He promised her father to rescue her in exchange for a herd of magical horses. Portia compares Bassanio to Hercules and herself to Hesione. She claims that Bassanio intends to rescue her because he loves her instead of for monetary. However, this metaphor is slightly ironic as Bassanio could, like Hercules, intend to rescue Portia for the reward.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. A "swan-like end" means a swan song or final performance before death. It was believed that swans only sang once in their lives while they were dying. Using this metaphor, Portia emphasizes the performative nature of Bassanio's love and choice; she imagines his failure like a final performance.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. While Portia says that she is helpless in her father's will and that she cannot break her oath, she finds a way to surreptitiously influence the outcome of this choice. Unlike the trials of Morocco or Arragon, Portia plays Bassanio a song that will give him the answer to the question if he pays attention. This shows that Portia is not as powerless as she says she is.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  24. This exchange metaphorically positions Portia as a torturer and Bassanio as her political prisoner and offers one reason why these two claim to be so emphatically in love with each other. As the "torturer" Portia gets the power she lacks while being constrained by her father's will. Bassanio will become her prisoner in order to relieve himself of debt.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  25. This metaphor refers to both the picture of Portia locked inside the casket, and Portia's feeling of being trapped inside her father's will.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  26. With this line, Bassanio signals that he has understood the song: the caskets are designed so that their outward shells are different from their interior. While Portia did not directly tell Bassanio which casket to choose, she has given him a large clue by telling him the theme of the caskets: appearances may be deceptive.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  27. Notice that the first two lines of the song rhyme with "lead." This poetic device sets up the song to be a clue to Bassanio about which casket to choose.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  28. Bassanio uses this metaphor to dissuade thoughts of anything but love lurking in his affections. By these lines he means that treason and his love cannot coexist in much the same way that snow and fire cannot coexist.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  29. This could be seen as a playful statement that takes Bassanio's hyperbole at fact for comedic effect. However, the audience might note that there is something vain about Bassanio's love: he has ventured to woo Portia because she is a rich lady and he is a deeply indebted man. Perhaps he has fallen in love with her, or perhaps she detects this ulterior motive in his intentions.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  30. "The Rack" was an Early Modern torture device used to get prisoners to confess to political treason. This is a hyperbolic way in which to say one suffers.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  31. Portia wishes that Bassanio would stay with her longer, but she claims that it is not love that compels her to ask him to stay. This suggests that either Portia is trying to coyly hide that she loves Bassanio, or she is very blatantly saying that she wants to keep Bassanio for another purpose, like his money.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  32. Portia tells Bassanio that she wishes she could tell him which casket to choose, but she cannot break her oath to her father. Notice the juxtaposition of Portia and Jessica in this play: one holds fast to her father's will while the other disregards and abuses her father's will.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  33. Notice how confused Portia's speech is here. Scholars have read this confusion as either a sign of her affection for Bassanio or a poor attempt to affect the language of lovers. Because the speech between these two characters is so poor, some scholars have question the authenticity of their love for one another.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff