The Merchant of Venice

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 5 Scene 1

page Act 5 Scene 1 Page 4

Original Text

Modern Text

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears. Soft stillness and the night
55Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patens of bright gold.
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
60Still choiring to the young-eyed cherubins.
Such harmony is in immortal souls,
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
How beautiful the moonlight’s shining on this bank! Let’s sit here and let the music fill our ears. Stillness and nighttime are perfect for beautiful music. Sit down, Jessica. Look at the stars, see how the floor of heaven is inlaid with small disks of bright gold. Stars and planets move in such perfect harmony that some believe you can hear music in their movement. If you believe this, even the smallest star sings like an angel in its motion. Souls have that same kind of harmony. But because we’re here on earth in our earthly bodies, we can’t hear it.
Enter musicians
Musicians enter.
Come ho, and wake Diana with a hymn!
65With sweetest touches pierce your mistress' ear,
And draw her home with music.
Wake up the moon goddess with a hymn! Get her attention and draw her home with music.
Play music
Music plays.

JESSICA

I am never merry when I hear sweet music.

JESSICA

I’m never in the mood to laugh when I hear sweet music.

LORENZO

The reason is your spirits are attentive.
For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
70Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,
Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
Which is the hot condition of their blood—
If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
Or any air of music touch their ears,
75You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
Their savage eyes turned to a modest gaze
By the sweet power of music.

LORENZO

That’s because your soul is paying attention to the music. Take a wild herd of animals, or young untrained colts, leaping around like crazy, roaring and neighing loudly, which they have to do because it’s in their blood—but if they happen to hear a trumpet, or any kind of music, they all stand still. Sweet music makes their wild eyes peaceful. That’s why the poet Ovid wrote that the great musician Orpheus could make