The Merchant of Venice By William Shakespeare Act IV: Scene 1

NERISSA.
From both, my lord. Bellario greets your Grace.

[Presents a letter.]

BASSANIO.
Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?

SHYLOCK.
To cut the forfeiture from that bankrupt there.

GRATIANO.
Not on thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew,
Thou mak'st thy knife keen; but no metal can,
No, not the hangman's axe, bear half the keenness
Of thy sharp envy. Can no prayers pierce thee?

SHYLOCK.
No, none that thou hast wit enough to make.

GRATIANO.
O, be thou damn'd, inexecrable dog!
And for thy life let justice be accus'd.
Thou almost mak'st me waver in my faith,
To hold opinion with Pythagoras
That souls of animals infuse themselves
Into the trunks of men. Thy currish spirit
Govern'd a wolf who, hang'd for human slaughter,
Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet,
And, whilst thou lay'st in thy unhallow'd dam,
Infus'd itself in thee; for thy desires
Are wolfish, bloody, starv'd and ravenous.

SHYLOCK.
Till thou canst rail the seal from off my bond,
Thou but offend'st thy lungs to speak so loud;
Repair thy wit, good youth, or it will fall
To cureless ruin. I stand here for law.

DUKE.
This letter from Bellario doth commend
A young and learned doctor to our court.
Where is he?

NERISSA.
He attendeth here hard by,
To know your answer, whether you'll admit him.

DUKE OF VENICE.
With all my heart: some three or four of you
Go give him courteous conduct to this place.
Meantime, the court shall hear Bellario's letter.

CLERK.
'Your Grace shall understand that at the receipt
of your letter I am very sick; but in the instant that your
messenger came, in loving visitation was with me a young doctor
of Rome; his name is Balthazar. I acquainted him with the cause
in controversy between the Jew and Antonio the merchant; we
turn'd o'er many books together; he is furnished with my opinion
which, bettered with his own learning, — the greatness whereof I
cannot enough commend, — comes with him at my importunity to fill
up your Grace's request in my stead. I beseech you let his lack
of years be no impediment to let him lack a reverend estimation,
for I never knew so young a body with so old a head. I leave him
to your gracious acceptance, whose trial shall better publish his
commendation.'

DUKE.
YOU hear the learn'd Bellario, what he writes;
And here, I take it, is the doctor come.

[Enter PORTIA, dressed like a doctor of laws.]

Give me your hand; come you from old Bellario?

PORTIA.
I did, my lord.

DUKE.
You are welcome; take your place.
Are you acquainted with the difference
That holds this present question in the court?

PORTIA.
I am informed throughly of the cause.
Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?

DUKE OF VENICE.
Antonio and old Shylock, both stand forth.

PORTIA.
Is your name Shylock?

SHYLOCK.
Shylock is my name.

PORTIA.
Of a strange nature is the suit you follow;
Yet in such rule that the Venetian law
Cannot impugn you as you do proceed.
[To ANTONIO.] You stand within his danger, do you not?

ANTONIO.
Ay, so he says.

PORTIA.
Do you confess the bond?

ANTONIO.
I do.

PORTIA.
Then must the Jew be merciful.

SHYLOCK.
On what compulsion must I? Tell me that.

PORTIA.
The quality of mercy is not strain'd;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation; we do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

SHYLOCK.
My deeds upon my head! I crave the law,
The penalty and forfeit of my bond.

PORTIA.
Is he not able to discharge the money?

BASSANIO.
Yes; here I tender it for him in the court;
Yea, twice the sum; if that will not suffice,
I will be bound to pay it ten times o'er
On forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart;
If this will not suffice, it must appear
That malice bears down truth. And, I beseech you,
Wrest once the law to your authority;
To do a great right do a little wrong,
And curb this cruel devil of his will.

PORTIA.
It must not be; there is no power in Venice
Can alter a decree established;
'Twill be recorded for a precedent,
And many an error by the same example
Will rush into the state. It cannot be.

SHYLOCK.
A Daniel come to judgment! Yea, a Daniel!
O wise young judge, how I do honour thee!

PORTIA.
I pray you, let me look upon the bond.

SHYLOCK.
Here 'tis, most reverend doctor; here it is.

PORTIA.
Shylock, there's thrice thy money offer'd thee.

SHYLOCK.
An oath, an oath! I have an oath in heaven.
Shall I lay perjury upon my soul?
No, not for Venice.

PORTIA.
Why, this bond is forfeit;
And lawfully by this the Jew may claim
A pound of flesh, to be by him cut off
Nearest the merchant's heart. Be merciful.
Take thrice thy money; bid me tear the bond.

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