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The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare

  Act 3 Scene 2

page Act 3 Scene 2 Page 10

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SALERIO

I would you had won the fleece that he hath lost.

SALERIO

PORTIA

250There are some shrewd contents in yond same paper
That steals the color from Bassanio’s cheek.
Some dear friend dead, else nothing in the world
Could turn so much the constitution
Of any constant man. What, worse and worse?—
255With leave, Bassanio, I am half yourself,
And I must freely have the half of anything
That this same paper brings you.

PORTIA

Something bad in that letter is making Bassanio turn pale. Some good friend of his must have died, because nothing else in the world could change a man so much. What, does the news only get worse?—Please, Bassanio, I’m half of you, so let me bear half the burden this letter brings you.

BASSANIO

     O sweet Portia,
Here are a few of the unpleasant’st words
That ever blotted paper. Gentle lady,
260When I did first impart my love to you,
I freely told you, all the wealth I had
Ran in my veins. I was a gentleman,
And then I told you true. And yet, dear lady,
Rating myself at nothing, you shall see
265How much I was a braggart. When I told you
My state was nothing, I should then have told you
That I was worse than nothing, for indeed
I have engaged myself to a dear friend,
Engaged my friend to his mere enemy
270To feed my means.
   Here is a letter, lady,
The paper as the body of my friend,
And every word in it a gaping wound,
Issuing life blood.—But is it true, Salerio?
Have all his ventures failed? What, not one hit?
275From Tripolis, from Mexico and England,
From Lisbon, Barbary, and India?
And not one vessel ’scape the dreadful touch
Of merchant-marring rocks?

BASSANIO

Oh Portia, these are some of the worst words that ever stained a piece of paper. My darling, when I gave my love to you, I told you that all the wealth I had ran within my veins—that I have noble blood, but no money. When I said that, I told you the truth. But my dear, when I said I was worth nothing, I was actually bragging—I should’ve said that I was worse than nothing. I’ve borrowed money from a dear friend who in turn borrowed money from his mortal enemy for my sake. Here’s a letter, my dear. The paper’s like my friend’s body, and every word in it is a bleeding wound on that body.—But is it true, Salerio? Have all his business ventures failed? Not even one success? He had ships to Tripolis, Mexico, England, Lisbon, North Africa, and India, and not one of these ships avoided the rocks?