The Merchant of Venice

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

   Even for that I thank you.
Therefore I pray you lead me to the caskets
To try my fortune. By this scimitar
25That slew the Sophy and a Persian prince
That won three fields of Sultan Solyman,
I would o'erstare the sternest eyes that look,
Outbrave the heart most daring on the earth,
Pluck the young sucking cubs from the she-bear,
30Yea, mock the lion when he roars for prey,
To win the lady. But, alas the while!
If Hercules and Lychas play at dice
Which is the better man, the greater throw
May turn by fortune from the weaker hand.
35So is Alcides beaten by his page,
And so may I, blind fortune leading me,
Miss that which one unworthier may attain
And die with grieving.
Thank you for saying that. Show me the caskets and let me try my luck. I swear by my sword, which killed the Shah of Persia and a Persian prince and defeated the Sultan Suleiman three times, that I would face the meanest-looking warriors on earth. I would act braver than the bravest man on earth. I would grab bear cubs from a ferocious mother bear, or tease a hungry lion—all of this in order to win your love, lady. But this is bad! If the hero Hercules and his servant Lychas rolled the dice, which would win? Not the greater hero. Just the one who happened to be luckier that time. And just as Hercules could be beaten by his servant, blind luck could make me lose this test and make someone worse than me win. If that happened, I’d die of sadness.
    You must take your chance,
And either not attempt to choose at all
40Or swear before you choose, if you choose wrong
Never to speak to lady afterward
In way of marriage. Therefore be advised.
You have to take your chances. Either don’t choose at all, or swear beforehand that if you choose incorrectly you’ll never talk about marriage to any woman again. Think about it carefully.
Nor will not. Come, bring me unto my chance.
Fine, I swear I won’t ever get married if I choose incorrectly. Let me take my chances.
First, forward to the temple. After dinner
45Your hazard shall be made.
Let’s go to the temple first. You can take your chances after dinner.
    Good fortune then!—
To make me blessed or cursed’st among men.
I’ll try my luck then. I’ll either be the luckiest or the unluckiest man alive.
Trumpets play.
They exit.