Act III - Scene IV


Enter Portia, Nerissa, Lorenzo, Jessica, and a man of Portia [Balthasar].

Madam, although I speak it in your presence,
You have a noble and a true conceit
Of god-like amity; which appears most strongly
In bearing thus the absence of your lord.
But, if you knew to whom you show this honour,(5)
How true a gentleman you send relief,
How dear a lover of my lord your husband,
I know you would be prouder of the work,
Than customary bounty can enforce you.
I never did repent for doing good,(10)
Nor shall not now; for in companions
That do converse and waste the time together,
Whose souls do bear an equal yoke of love,
There must be needs a like proportion
Of lineaments, of manners, and of spirit;(15)
Which makes me think, that this Antonio,
Being the bosom lover of my lord,
Must needs be like my lord. If it be so,
How little is the cost I have bestow'd,
In purchasing the semblance of my soul(20)
From out the state of hellish cruelty!
This comes too near the praising of myself,
Therefore, no more of it: hear other things.
Lorenzo, I commit into your hands
The husbandry and manage of my house,(25)
Until my lord's return; for mine own part,
I have toward heaven breathed a secr't vow,
To live in prayer and contemplation,
Only attended by Nerissa here,
Until her husband and my lord's return:(30)
There is a monastery two miles off,
And there will we abide. I do desire you
Not to deny this imposition,
The which my love, and some necessity,
Now lays upon you.(35)
Madam, with all my heart,
I shall obey you in all fair commands.
My people do already know my mind,
And will acknowledge you and Jessica,
In place of Lord Bassanio and myself.(40)
So fare you well, till we shall meet again.
Fair thoughts and happy hours attend on you!
I wish your ladyship all heart's content.
I thank you for your wish, and am well pleas'd
To wish it back on you: fare you well, Jessica.(45)

Exeunt [Jessica and Lorenzo]

Now, Balthasar,
As I have ever found thee honest, true,
So let me find thee still: Take this same letter,
And use thou all the endeavour of a man
In speed to Padua; see thou render this(50)
Into my cousin's hand, Doctor Bellario;
And, look, what notes and garments he doth give thee,
Bring them, I pray thee, with imagin'd speed
Unto the Tranect, to the common ferry
Which trades to Venice:—Waste no time in words,(55)
But get thee gone; I shall be there before thee.
Madam, I go with all convenient speed.
Come on, Nerissa; I have work in hand,
That you yet know not of; we'll see our husbands
Before they think of us.(60)
Shall they see us?
They shall, Nerissa; but in such a habit,
That they shall think we are accomplished
With that we lack. I'll hold thee any wager,
When we are both accoutred like young men,(65)
I'll prove the prettier fellow of the two,
And wear my dagger with the braver grace;
And speak, between the change of man and boy,
With a reed voice; and turn two mincing steps
Into a manly stride; and speak of frays,(70)
Like a fine bragging youth: and tell quaint lies,
How honourable ladies sought my love,
Which I denying, they fell sick and died;
I could not do withal; then I'll repent,
And wish, for all that, that I had not kill'd them:(75)
And twenty of these puny lies I'll tell,
That men shall swear I have discontinued school
Above a twelvemonth:—I have within my mind
A thousand raw tricks of these bragging Jacks,
Which I will practise.(80)
Why, shall we turn to men?
Fie! what a question's that,
If thou wert near a lewd interpreter!
But come, I'll tell thee all my whole device
When I am in my coach, which stays for us(85)
At the park gate; and therefore haste away,
For we must measure twenty miles to-day.



  1. "Quaint" was a pun on female genitalia. Telling "quaint lies" was a colloquial term that meant lying about the women one had slept with, generally in a bragging manner. Portia's words also invoke the lie she tells about her own gender in dressing up as a man.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. A reed is a thin piece of wood placed in the mouthpiece of woodwind instruments such as clarinets, saxophones, and oboes. Portia uses this reference to suggest that she will disguise her voice by pitching it deeper.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Portia is revealing her plan to dress as a man in order to intervene in her husband's affairs. By "accomplished with that we lack," Portia means that their husbands will think that they have male genitalia that they lack because they are women.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Notice that Lorenzo's words are both a sincere statement of Antonio's good character and a hint at the nature of Bassanio and Antonio's relationship. This speech emphasizes a theme of careless speech in the play: characters often speak without recognizing what their words imply.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff