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From The Merchant of Venice


Belmont in Italy. A room in Pontia's house

Enter PORTIA with her waiting-woman, NERISSA

Por. By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world.

Ner. You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes 5 are; and yet, for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing.

Por. Good sentences and well pronounc'd.
Ner. They would be better, if well followed.

Por. If to do were as easy as to know what were 10 good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men's

cottages princes' palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than to be one of the twenty

to follow mine own teaching. But this reasoning is 15 not in the fashion to choose me a husband. O me, the

word choose! I may neither choose who I would nor refuse who I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter

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curb’d by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor refuse none?

Ner. Your father was ever virtuous, and holy men at their death have good inspirations; therefore the 5 lottery that he hath devised in these three chests of gold, silver, and lead, whereof who chooses his meaning chooses you, will, no doubt, never be chosen by any rightly but one who you shall rightly love. But what

warmth is there in your affection towards any of these 10 princely suitors that are already come?

Por. I pray thee, over-name them; and as thou namest them, I will describe them; and, according to my description, level at my affection.

Ner. First, there is the Neapolitan prince.

Por. Ay, that's a colt indeed, for he doth nothing but talk of his horse; and he makes it a great appropriation to his own good parts, that he can shoe him himself.

Ner. Then there is the County Palatine.

Por. He doth nothing but frown, as who should say, “If you will not have me, choose.” He hears merry tales and smiles not. I fear he will prove the weeping philosopher when he grows old, being so full

of unmannerly sadness in his youth. I had rather 25 be married to a death's-head with a bone in his mouth

than to either of these. God defend me from these two !



Ner. How say you by the French lord, Monsieur Le Bon ?

Por. God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man.

In truth, I know it is a sin to be a mocker; but, he! why, he hath a horse better than the Nea-5 politan’s, a better bad habit of frowning than the Count Palatine. He is every man in no man.

If a throstle sing, he falls straight a capering. He will fence with his own shadow. If I should marry him, I should marry twenty husbands. If he would despise me, I 10 would forgive him, for if he love me to madness, I shall never requite him.

Ner. What say you, then, to Falconbridge, the young baron of England ?

Por. You know I say nothing to him, for he under-15 stands not me, nor I him. He hath neither Latin, French, nor Italian, and you will come into the court and swear that I have a poor pennyworth in the English. He is a proper man's picture, but, alas, who can converse with a dumb-show? How oddly he is 20 suited! I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behavior everywhere.

Ner. What think you of the Scottish lord, his neighbor ?

Por. That he hath a neighborly charity in him, for he borrowed a box of the ear of the Englishman and swore he would pay him again when he was able.


Ver. How like you the young German, the Duke of Saxony's nephew?

Por. Very vilely in the morning, when he is sober, and most vilely in the afternoon, when he is drunk. 5 When he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast. An the worst fall that ever fell, I hope I shall make shift to go without him.

Ner. If he should offer to choose, and choose the 10 right casket, you should refuse to perform your father's will, if you should refuse to accept him.

Por. Therefore, for fear of the worst, I pray thee, set a deep glass of rhenish wine on the contrary casket, for if the devil be within and that temptation with15 out, I know he will choose it. I will do anything, Nerissa, ere I'll be married to a sponge.

Ner. You need not fear, lady, the having any of these lords. They have acquainted me with their

determinations; which is, indeed, to return to their 20 home and to trouble you with no more suit, unless

you may be won by some other sort than your father's imposition depending on the caskets.

Por. I am glad this parcel of wooers are so reasonable, for there is not one among them but I dote on 25 his very absence, and I pray God grant them a fair departure.

Ner. Do you not remember, lady, in your father's

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