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The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare

  Act 4 Scene 1

page Act 4 Scene 1 Page 2

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Make room, and let him stand before our face.—
Shylock, the world thinks, and I think so too,
That thou but lead’st this fashion of thy malice
To the last hour of act, and then ’tis thought
20Thou'lt show thy mercy and remorse more strange
Than is thy strange apparent cruelty,
And where thou now exacts the penalty—
Which is a pound of this poor merchant’s flesh—
Thou wilt not only loose the forfeiture
25But—touched with human gentleness and love,—
Forgive a moiety of the principal,
Glancing an eye of pity on his losses
That have of late so huddled on his back
Eno' to press a royal merchant down
30And pluck commiseration of his state
From brassy bosoms and rough hearts of flint,
From stubborn Turks and Tartars never trained
To offices of tender courtesy.
We all expect a gentle answer, Jew.


Make room so he can stand in front of me. Shylock, everyone thinks—and I agree—that you’re just pretending to be cruel. They think that at the last second you’re going to show mercy and pity, which will be more surprising than the bizarre cruelty that you seem to be showing now. And even though you’re here to collect the penalty—a pound of this poor merchant’s flesh—they think you’ll not only let it go, but out of humanity and love you’ll forgive some portion of the principal he owes you too. In doing so you’ll be taking pity on him for his many recent losses, which have been large enough to send even the greatest merchant out of business, and make even the most hard-hearted Turk or Tartar feel sorry for him. What do you say? We all expect a nice answer from you, Jew.


35I have possessed your grace of what I purpose,
And by our holy Sabbath have I sworn
To have the due and forfeit of my bond.
If you deny it, let the danger light
Upon your charter and your city’s freedom.
40You’ll ask me why I rather choose to have
A weight of carrion flesh than to receive
Three thousand ducats. I’ll not answer that
But say it is my humour. Is it answered?
What if my house be troubled with a rat
45And I be pleased to give ten thousand ducats
To have it baned? What, are you answered yet?


I’ve told you what I intend to do, and I’ve sworn by the holy Sabbath to seek the penalty that is due according to our contract. If you refuse to allow me to do so, your city’s charter and its freedom are endangered. You’re going to ask me why I’d rather have a pound of decaying flesh than three thousand ducats. I won’t answer that. Let’s just say it’s because I feel like it. Is that enough of an answer? What if I had a rat in my house, and I felt like paying ten thousand ducats to have it exterminated? Do you have your answer yet?