The Merchant of Venice Study Guide

The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice is the story of the young Venetian nobleman Bassiano and his quest to woo the beautiful Portia. Strapped for cash and in need of money to court Portia, Bassiano takes a loan from the generous but anti-Semitic Antonio, the titular merchant, who in turn must borrow from the Jewish moneylender Shylock. Shylock hopes to exact vengeance upon Antonio for his prejudice, but in the end Bassiano marries Portia and Antonio is able to repay his loan.

The Merchant of Venice Quotes

The Merchant of Venice is one of William Shakespeare's best-known plays. It was written between 1596 and 1598.

Act I

  • In sooth, I know not why I am so sad.It wearies me, you say it wearies you.
    • Antonio, scene i

  • My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,Nor to one place.
    • Antonio, scene i

  • Now, by two-headed Janus,Nature hath fram'd strange fellows in her time.
    • Salarino, scene i

  • Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.
    • Salarino, scene i

  • You have too much respect upon the world:They lose it that do buy it with much care.
    • Gratiano, scene i

  • Antonio: I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;A stage, where every man must play a part,

    And mine a sad one. Gratiano Let me play the fool.

    • scene i

  • Why should a man whose blood is warm within,Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
    • Gratiano, scene i

  • There are a sort of men, whose visagesDo cream and mantle like a standing pond;

    And do a willful stillness entertain,

    With purpose to be dress'd in an opinion

    Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit;

    As who should say, I am Sir Oracle,And when I ope my lips, let no dog bark!"

    • Gratiano, scene i

  • I do know of these,That therefore only are reputed wise,

    For saying nothing.

    • Gratiano, scene i

  • Fish not with this melancholy bait,For this fool-gudgeon, this opinion.
    • Gratiano, scene i

  • Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day ere you find them; and when you have them, they are not worth the search.
    • Bassanio, scene i

  • In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft,I shot his fellow of the self-same flight

    The self-same way, with more advised watch,

    To find the other forth; and by adventuring both,

    I oft found both.

    • Bassanio, scene i

  • In Belmont is a lady richly left;And she is fair, and fairer than that word,

    Of wondrous virtues. Sometimes from her eyes

    I did receive fair speechless messages.

    • Bassanio, scene i

  • Her sunny locksHang on her temples like a golden fleece.
    • Bassanio, scene i

  • They are as sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing. It is no mean happiness, therefore, to be seated in the mean; superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.
    • Nerissa, scene ii

  • If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces.
    • Portia, scene ii

  • The brain may devise laws for the blood; but a hot temper leaps o’er a cold decree.
    • Portia, scene ii

  • He doth nothing but talk of his horse.
    • Portia, scene ii

  • God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man.
    • Portia, scene ii

  • When he is best, he is a little worse than a man; and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.
    • Portia, scene ii

  • I dote on his very absence.
    • Portia, scene ii

  • My meaning in saying he is a good man, is, to have you understand me that he is sufficient.
    • Shylock, scene iii

  • Ships are but boards, sailors but men: there be land-rats and water-rats, water-thieves and land-thieves.
    • Shylock, scene iii

  • I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.
    • Shylock, scene iii

  • If I can catch him once upon the hip,I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.

    He hates our sacred nation; and he rails,

    Even there where merchants most do congregate,

    On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift,

    Which he calls interest.

    • Shylock, scene iii

  • The devil can cite scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness,

    Is like a villain with a smiling cheek;

    A goodly apple rotten at the heart:

    O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

    • Antonio, scene iii

  • Signior Antonio, many a time and oftIn the Rialto you have rated me

    About my moneys, and my usances:

    Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,

    For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.

    You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,

    And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,

    And all for use of that which is mine own.

    Well then, it now appears you need my help:

    Go to then: you come to me, and you say,

    Shylock, we would have monies; You say so;You, that did void your rheum upon my beard,

    And foot me, as you would spurn a stranger cur

    Over your threshold; monies is your suit.

    What should I say to you? Should I not say,

    Hath a dog money? is it possibleA cur can lend three thousand ducats? or

    Shall I bend low, and in a bondman’s key,

    With bated breath and whispering humbleness,

    Say this,—

    Fair sir, you spet on me Wednesday last;You spurn'd me such a day; another time

    You call'd me— dog; and for these courtesies

    I'll lend you thus much monies?

    • Shylock, scene iii

  • For when did friendship takeA breed for barren metal of his friend?
    • Antonio, scene iii

  • O father Abram! what these Christians are,Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect

    The thoughts of others!

    • Shylock, scene iii

  • I like not fair terms and a villain's mind.
    • Bassanio, scene iii

Act II

  • Mislike me not for my complexion,The shadow’d livery of the burnish’d sun.
    • Prince of Morocco, scene i

  • An honest exceeding poor man.
    • Old Gobbo, scene ii

  • The young gentleman (according to Fates and Destinies and such odd sayings, the Sisters Three, and such branches of learning) is, indeed, deceased; or, as you would say in plain terms, gone to heaven.
    • Launcelot Gobbo, scene ii

  • The very staff of my age, my very prop.
    • Old Gobbo, scene ii

  • It is a wise father that knows his own child.
    • Launcelot Gobbo, scene ii

  • Truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man's son may; but, in the end, truth will out.
    • Launcelot Gobbo, scene ii

  • In the twinkling of an eye.
    • Launcelot Gobbo, scene ii

  • But hear thee, Gratiano;Thou art too wild, too rude and bold of voice;

    Parts that become thee happily enough,

    And in such eyes as ours appear not faults;

    But where thou art not known, why, there they show

    Something too liberal. Pray thee, take pain

    To allay with some cold drops of modesty,

    Thy skipping spirit, lest through thy wild behavior,

    I be misconstrued in the place I go to,

    And lose my hopes.

    • Bassiano, scene ii

  • I know the hand: in faith, 'tis a fair hand;And whiter than the paper it writ on

    Is the fair hand that writ.

    • Lorenzo, scene iv

  • The vile squeaking of the wry-necked fife.
    • Shylock, scene v

  • There will come a Christian by,/Shall be worth a Jewess' eye.
    • Launcelot Gobbo, scene v

  • Fast bind, fast find.
    • Shylock, scene v

  • All things that are,Are with more spirit chased than enjoy’d.

    How like a younker, or a prodigal,

    The scarfed bark puts from her native bay,

    Hugg’d and embraced by the strumpet wind!

    How like the prodigal doth she return,

    With over-weather’d ribs and ragged sails,

    Lean, rent, and beggar’d by the strumpet wind!

    • Gratiano, scene vi

  • But love is blind, and lovers cannot seeThe pretty follies that themselves commit.
    • Jessica, scene vi

  • Must I hold a candle to my shames?
    • Jessica, scene vi

  • For she is wise, if I can judge of her,And fair she is, if that mine eyes be true,

    And true she is, as she hath proved herself,

    And therefore, like herself, wise, fair and true,

    Shall she be placed in my constant soul.

    • Lorenzo, scene vi

  • All that glisters is not gold,Often have you heard that told:

    Many a man his life hath sold,

    But my outside to behold:

    Gilded tombs do worms infold.

    Had you been as wise as bold,

    Young in limbs, in judgment old,

    Your answer had not been inscroll'd.

    Fare you well, your suit is cold.

    • Prince of Morocco, reading Portia's note, scene vii; this is the source of the popular paraphrase "All that glitters is not gold."

  • Salerino: I saw Bassanio and Antonio part:Bassanio told him he would make some speed

    Of his return: he answer'd, 'Do not so;

    Slubber not business for my sake, Bassanio

    But stay the very riping of the time;

    And for the Jew's bond which he hath of me,

    Let it not enter in your mind of love:

    Be merry, and employ your chiefest thoughts

    To courtship and such fair ostents of love

    As shall conveniently become you there:'

    And even there, his eye being big with tears,

    Turning his face, he put his hand behind him,

    And with affection wondrous sensible

    He wrung Bassanio's hand; and so they parted.

    Solanio: I think he only loves the world for him.

    • scene viii

  • Even in the force and road of casualty.
    • Prince of Arragon, scene ix

  • The fire seven times tried this;Seven times tried that judgment is,

    That did never choose miss.

    Some there be that shadow's kiss,

    And have but a shadow's bliss.

    There be fools alive, iwis,

    Silver'd o'er, and so was this.

    Take what wife you will to bed,

    I will ever be your head:

    So be gone; you are sped.

    • Prince of Arragon, reading Portia's note, scene ix

  • Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.
    • Nerissa, scene ix

Act IV

  • A harmless necessary cat.
    • Shylock, scene i

  • What, wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?
    • Shylock, scene i

  • If you deny me, fie upon your law!There is no power in the decrees of Venice.

    I stand for judgement: answer— shall I have it?

    • Shylock, scene i

  • I am a tainted wether of the flock,Meetest for death; the weakest kind of fruit

    Drops earliest to the ground.

    • Antonio, scene i

  • I never knew so young a body with so old a head.
    • Clerk, scene i

  • The quality of mercy is not strain'd,It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

    Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless’d;

    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

    ’Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes

    The throned monarch better than his crown;

    His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

    The attribute to awe and majesty,

    Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

    But mercy is above this sceptred sway,

    It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

    It is an attribute to God himself;

    And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,

    When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,

    Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

    That in the course of justice none of us

    Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;

    And that same prayer, doth teach us all to render

    The deeds of mercy.

    • Portia, scene i

  • A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel!
    • Shylock, scene i

  • Shylock: Is it so nominated in the bond? Portia: It is not so express'd, but what of that? 'Twere good you do so much for charity.

    Shylock: I cannot find it: 'tis not in the bond.

    • Scene i

  • Commend me to your honorable wife.Tell her the process of Antonio's end;

    Say how I loved you, speak me fair in death.

    And when the tale is told, bid her be judge

    Whether Bassanio had not once a love.

    • Antonio, scene i

  • This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;The words expressly are, a pound of flesh.

    Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh ; But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed One drop of Christian blood , thy lands and goodsAre by the laws of Venice confiscate

    Unto the state of Venice.

    • Portia, scene i

  • An upright judge, a learned judge!
    • Gratiano, scene i

  • A second Daniel, a Daniel, Jew!Now, infidel, I have you on the hip.
    • Gratiano, scene i

  • A Daniel, still say I; a second Daniel!—I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.
    • Gratiano, scene i

  • Nay, take my life and all; pardon not that;You take my house, when you do take the prop

    That doth sustain my house; you take my life,

    When you do take the means whereby I live.

    • Shylock, scene i

  • He is well paid that is well satisfied.
    • Portia, scene i

Act V

  • How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!Here we will sit, and let the sounds of music

    Creep in our ears: soft stillness, and the night,

    Become the touches of sweet harmony.

    Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven

    Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold.

    There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st

    But in his motion like an angel sings,

    Still quiring 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.

    • Lorenzo, scene i

  • I am never merry when I hear sweet music.
    • Jessica, scene i

  • The man that hath no music in himself,Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,

    Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;

    The motions of his spirit are dull as night,

    And his affections dark as Erebus:

    Let no such man be trusted.

    • Lorenzo, scene i

  • How far that little candle throws his beams!So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
    • Portia, scene i

  • How many things by season season’d areTo their right praise, and true perfection!—

    Peace, ho! the moon sleeps with Endymion,

    And would not be awak'd!

    • Portia, scene i

  • This night, methinks, is but the daylight sick.
    • Portia, scene i

  • These blessed candles of the night.
    • Bassanio, scene i

  • Fair ladies, you drop manna in the wayOf starved people.
    • Lorenzo, scene i

  • We will answer all things faithfully.
    • Portia, scene i

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