The Merchant of Venice

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 5 Scene 1

page Act 5 Scene 1 Page 5

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    Therefore the poet
Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones, and floods
Since naught so stockish, hard, and full of rage,
80But music for the time doth change his nature.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
85And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.
trees, stones, and rivers come to him by playing music. There’s nothing in the world that can resist music. The man who can’t be moved by the harmonious melodies is fit only for treason, violence, and pillage. His soul is as dull as night and dark as the underworld. Nobody like that should be trusted. Pay attention to the music.
Enter PORTIA and NERISSA
PORTIA and NERISSA enter.

PORTIA

That light we see is burning in my hall.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

PORTIA

That light we see is coming from my hall. Look how far that little candle sends its light! That’s the way a good deed shines in a naughty world.

NERISSA

90When the moon shone we did not see the candle.

NERISSA

While the moon was shining we didn’t even notice the candle.

PORTIA

So doth the greater glory dim the less.
A substitute shines brightly as a king
Until a king be by, and then his state
Empties itself, as doth an inland brook
95Into the main of waters. Music, hark.

PORTIA

Well, brighter lights always dim the smaller ones. A governor shines as brightly as a king until a king is near by, and the governor suddenly looks like a nobody. Music, listen!

NERISSA

It is your music, madam, of the house.

NERISSA

It’s your music, madam, from your house.

PORTIA

Nothing is good, I see, without respect.
Methinks it sounds much sweeter than by day.

PORTIA

Now I see that you can’t call anything good except in right context. I think that music sounds much better at night than it does during the day.

NERISSA

Silence bestows that virtue on it, madam.

NERISSA

The night’s silence makes it sound better.

PORTIA

100The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark
When neither is attended, and I think
The nightingale, if she should sing by day
When every goose is cackling, would be thought
No better a musician than the wren.
105How many things by season seasoned are
To their right praise and true perfection!
Peace! How the moon sleeps with Endymion
And would not be awaked.

PORTIA

The crow sings as well as the lark when no one’s listening. If the nightingale sang during the day, when every goose is honking, nobody would think it sang any better than a wren. How many things in life seem good to us because of when they happen! Quiet now! Look how the moon seems to be sleeping with its lover and can’t be awoken!