The Merchant of Venice

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

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Though justice be thy plea, consider this—
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
190And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.
Justice won’t save our souls. We pray for mercy, and this same prayer teaches us to show mercy to others as well. I’ve told you this to make you give up this case. If you pursue it, this strict court of Venice will need to carry out the sentence against the merchant there.
195My deeds upon my head. I crave the law,
The penalty, and forfeit of my bond.
I take all responsibility for my decisions. I want the law, the penalty, and the fulfillment of my contract.
Is he not able to discharge the money?
Can’t he pay back the money?
Yes, here I tender it for him in the court—
Yea, twice the sum. If that will not suffice,
200I will be bound to pay it ten times o'er,
On forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart.
If this will not suffice, it must appear
That malice bears down truth.—
(to DUKE)
     And I beseech you,
205Wrest once the law to your authority.
To do a great right, do a little wrong,
And curb this cruel devil of his will.
Yes. I’m offering to pay it back right this moment—even twice the sum. If that’s not enough, I’ll sign a contract to pay ten times that much, and I’ll give you my hands, my head, and my heart as security. If that’s not enough, then you’re just evil and malicious.—(to the DUKE) I beg you, just this once, use your authority to bend the law. Do a great right by doing a little wrong. Don’t let this devil have his way.
It must not be. There is no power in Venice
Can alter a decree establishèd.
210'Twill be recorded for a precedent,
And many an error by the same example
Will rush into the state. It cannot be.
That can’t happen. There’s no power in Venice that can change an established decree. The change will be recorded as a precedent, and many bad legal decisions will result. That can’t happen.
A Daniel come to judgment, yea, a Daniel!—
O wise young judge, how I do honor thee!

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