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The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare

  Act 3 Scene 2

page Act 3 Scene 2 Page 5

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110 (aside) How all the other passions fleet to air,
As doubtful thoughts, and rash-embraced despair,
And shuddering fear, and green-eyed jealousy!
O love, be moderate. Allay thy ecstasy.
In measure rein thy joy. Scant this excess.
115I feel too much thy blessing. Make it less,
For fear I surfeit.


(to herself) All my other emotions are vanishing into thin air, as all my doubts and desperation and fears and jealousy are all flying away! Oh, I need to calm down, make my love and my joy less intense. I’m feeling this too strongly. Please make my love less, or I’m going to overindulge, making myself sick.


(opening the lead casket)
   What find I here?
Fair Portia’s counterfeit! What demigod
Hath come so near creation? Move these eyes?
120Or whether, riding on the balls of mine,
Seem they in motion? Here are severed 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
125A golden mesh t' 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 unfurnished. Yet look how far
130The 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.
135“You that choose not by the view,
Chance as fair and choose as true.
Since this fortune falls to you,
Be content and seek no new.
If you be well pleased with this
140And hold your fortune for your bliss,
Turn you where your lady is
And claim her with a loving kiss.”


(opening the lead box) What do we have here? A picture of beautiful Portia! What artist captured her likeness so well? Are these eyes moving? Or do they just seem to move as my eyes move? Her sweet breath forces her lips open, a lovely divider of lovely lips. And look at her hair, looking like a golden mesh to trap the hearts of men, like little flies in a cobweb. The painter was like a spider in creating it so delicately. But her eyes—how could he keep looking at them long enough to paint them? I would’ve expected that when he finished one of them, it would have enraptured him and kept him from painting the other. But I’m giving only faint praise of the picture, just as the picture, as good as it is, is only a faint imitation of the real woman herself. Here’s the scroll that sums up my fate:
(he reads)
“You who don’t judge by looks alone,
Have better luck, and make the right choice.
Since this prize is yours,
Be happy with it, and don’t look for a new one.
If you’re happy with what you’ve won
And accept this prize as your blissful destiny,
Then turn to where your lady is,
And claim her with a loving kiss.”