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ANTONIO

    I do never use it.

ANTONIO

That’s right. That’s not how I do business.

SHYLOCK

When Jacob grazed his uncle Laban’s sheep—
70This Jacob from our holy Abram was,
As his wise mother wrought in his behalf,
The third possessor, ay, he was the third—

SHYLOCK

When Jacob took care of his uncle Laban’s sheep—Jacob was the heir to his grandfather Abraham’s birthright, because his mother cleverly arranged for her husband Isaac to make Jacob his heir—

ANTONIO

And what of him? Did he take interest?

ANTONIO

What’s your point? Did he charge interest?

SHYLOCK

No, not take interest—not as you would say
75Directly interest. Mark what Jacob did:
When Laban and himself were compromised
That all the eanlings which were streaked and pied
Should fall as Jacob’s hire, the ewes, being rank,
In the end of autumn turnèd to the rams.
80And when the work of generation was
Between these woolly breeders in the act,
The skillful shepherd peeled me certain wands.
And in the doing of the deed of kind
He stuck them up before the fulsome ewes,
85Who then conceiving did in eaning time
Fall parti-colored lambs—and those were Jacob’s.
This was a way to thrive, and he was blessed.
And thrift is blessing, if men steal it not.

SHYLOCK

No, he didn’t

charge interest

Shylock uses a story of Jacob from Genesis 30:25–43 to defend his practice of charging interest.

charge interest
—not in your sense of the word. But listen to what Jacob did. When he and Laban agreed that all the spotted lambs would be Jacob’s pay, it was the end of autumn, when the sheep were starting to mate. Because newborns look like whatever their mother sees during mating, he stuck some spotted branches into the ground right in front of the sheep, who saw them while they mated. The mothers later gave birth to spotted lambs, all of which went to Jacob. That was his way of expanding his business, and it worked. My point is that profit is a blessing, as long as you don’t steal to get it.

ANTONIO

This was a venture, sir, that Jacob served for—
90A thing not in his power to bring to pass
But swayed and fashioned by the hand of heaven.
Was this inserted to make interest good?
Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams?

ANTONIO

That business venture you’re referring to happened because God made it happen like that. Jacob didn’t have any control over what happened. Are you saying this story proves that charging interest makes sense? That your interest payments are like Jacob’s sheep?

SHYLOCK

I cannot tell: I make it breed as fast.
95But note me, signor—

SHYLOCK

I can hardly tell the difference; I make my money multiply as fast as those sheep. But listen to me, signor—