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The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 1

page Act 1 Scene 1 Page 6

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130Is to come fairly off from the great debts
Wherein my time something too prodigal
Hath left me gaged. To you, Antonio,
I owe the most in money and in love,
And from your love I have a warranty
135To unburden all my plots and purposes
How to get clear of all the debts I owe.
I just want to be honorable and pay off the big debts that piled up when I was living the high life. I’m in debt to many people, and I owe most to you, Antonio—both money and gratitude. And because you care about me, I know you’ll let me tell you my plan to clear all my debts.


I pray you, good Bassanio, let me know it.
And if it stand, as you yourself still do,
Within the eye of honor, be assured
140My purse, my person, my extremest means
Lie all unlocked to your occasions.


Please let me know your plan, Bassanio. As long as it’s honorable, you can be sure that I’ll let you use all my money and do everything I can to help you.


In my school days, when I had lost one shaft,
I shot his fellow of the selfsame flight
The selfsame way with more advisèd watch
145To find the other forth—and by adventuring both,
I oft found both. I urge this childhood proof
Because what follows is pure innocence.
I owe you much, and, like a willful youth,
That which I owe is lost. But if you please
150To shoot another arrow that self way
Which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,
As I will watch the aim, or to find both
Or bring your latter hazard back again
And thankfully rest debtor for the first.


Back when I was a schoolboy, if I lost an arrow I would try to find it by shooting another arrow in the same direction, watching the second arrow more carefully than I had the first. By risking the second arrow, I’d often get both of them back. I’m telling you this story for a reason. I owe you a lot, and like a spoiled kid I’ve lost what I owe you. But if you’d be willing to shoot another arrow the same way you shot the first, I’ll watch your arrow more carefully this time. Either we’ll get back all the money I owe you, or else we’ll get back what you lend me this time, and I’ll just owe you what I already owe you.


155You know me well, and herein spend but time
To wind about my love with circumstance.
And out of doubt you do me now more wrong
In making question of my uttermost
Than if you had made waste of all I have.
160Then do but say to me what I should do
That in your knowledge may by me be done,
And I am pressed unto it. Therefore speak.


You know me better than that. You’re wasting your breath. All of this talk means you have doubts about my friendship. That’s worse than if you bankrupted me. Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. Tell me.