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The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 1

page Act 1 Scene 1 Page 7

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In Belmont is a lady richly left,
And she is fair and—fairer than that word—
165Of wondrous virtues. Sometimes from her eyes
I did receive fair speechless messages.
Her name is Portia, nothing undervalued
To Cato’s daughter, Brutus' Portia.
Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth,
170For the four winds blow in from every coast
Renownèd suitors, and her sunny locks
Hang on her temples like a golden fleece,
Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos' strand,
And many Jasons come in quest of her.
175O my Antonio, had I but the means
To hold a rival place with one of them,
I have a mind presages me such thrift
That I should questionless be fortunate!


There’s a girl in Belmont who’s inherited a huge amount of money, and she’s beautiful and—even better—she’s a good person. I think she likes me. Sometimes the expression on her face tells me she likes me. Her name is Portia. She’s as rich as that famous Roman heroine Portia, the daughter of Cato and wife of Brutus. Her wealth is world-famous. Famous and important men have come in from all over the world to try to marry her. The hair that hangs down on her forehead is like gold, calling every adventurer to Belmont like a gold rush. Antonio, if I only had enough money to hold my own against those suitors, I know I could win her!


Thou know’st that all my fortunes are at sea.
180Neither have I money nor commodity
To raise a present sum. Therefore go forth,
Try what my credit can in Venice do—
That shall be racked even to the uttermost
To furnish thee to Belmont, to fair Portia.
185Go presently inquire, and so will I,
Where money is, and I no question make
To have it of my trust or for my sake.


You know right now all my money’s tied up in that cargo that’s still at sea. I can’t give you the cash you need because I don’t have it. But go ahead and charge things to me on credit, as much credit as I can get in Venice. I’ll use all my lines of credit to help you get to Belmont, to Portia. Go see who will lend money, and I’ll do the same. I’m sure I can get something either as a business loan, or as a personal favor.
They exit.