The Merchant of Venice, A2r

Editorial note

This contemporary edition of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice focuses on depression and sadness as continuing themes throughout the play. It emphasizes this metaphor both by adding quotation marks around "Comical" (highlighting the ironic nature of the title) and by bolding/coding royal blue words that connote depressive emotions or feelings. We also opted to code teal any words that are associated with the ocean/sea. We chose shades of the same color to mark the similarities between the two groups as the body of water acts as a metaphor for Antonio's tears and the sand acts as a metaphor for the salt in his wounds. Yet, we decided to differentiate between the two groups to show the difference between words that are explicitly 'sad' (e.g., sadness) and words that act as potential metaphors for sadness (e.g., woven wings). In the footnotes, readers will be able to see how different words are used to highlight this theme of both explicit and inexplicit sadness.

We wanted to make this translation as accessible as possible, so we chose to altar certain original characters (e.g., misplaced capitalizations and long 'S's) to allow for a more modern reading. We also opted to insert definitions for any irregular or obsolete words, with added commentary to best communicate what is occuring throughout the scene. Lastly, we chose to regularize the majority of spellings to allow for a more understandable reading, with the exception of character names. While our primary goal was accessibility, we also wanted to minimize distortion of the original text, wherever possible. As such, we chose to maintain certain aspects of the first quarto, e.g., punctuation, choice-word, and the page number. We also chose to preserve the original spellings of names and unabbreviate them for clarity. Maintaining the names of Salaryno and Salanio was especially pertinent to this edition, as the prefix 'sal' connotes 'salt' - a further suggestion of the waters of Venice and, again, the tears of Antonio's sadness.


   The "Comical" History of the Merchant of Venice

           Enter Anthonio, Salaryno, and Salanio.

        Anthonio In 1  sooth 2 I know not why I am so sad,
It wearies me, you say it wearies you;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn: and such a want-wit 3 sadness
makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.
         Salaryno Your mind is tossing on the ocean 4,
There where your argosies 5 with portly 6 sail
Like signors 7 and rich burghers 8 on the flood 9,
Or as it were the pageants 10 of the sea,
Do over-peer 11 the petty traffickers
That curtsy to them do them reverence
As they fly by them with their woven wings.
          Salanio Believe me sir, had I such venture forth,
The better part of my affections would
Be with my hopes abroad. I should be still
Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind,
Peering in maps for ports, and piers and roads:
And every object that might make me fear
Misfortune to my ventures, out of doubt
Would make me sad.
            Salaryno My wind cooling my broth,
would blow me to an ague 12 when I thought
what harm a wind too great might do at sea.
I should not see the sandy hourglass run
But I should think of shallows and of flats,
And see my wealthy Andrew 13 dock in sand

                                   A 2.                                        Vailing

Image credit: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library, copy G.176.16. The most excellent historie of the merchant of Venice. First Quarto. London: 1600.

Citing this page: Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice, A2r. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Eleanor Galbreath and Lily Richards. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).


  1. In the original edition, 'I' is set aside from the rest of the line, embellished with what appears to be ivy branches. The branches point upwards, appearing as if the 'I' is flexing its arms. Perhaps, Shakespeare chose to highlight the letter 'I' as a way to emphasize the internal; foreshadowing Antonio's discussion of the self. We were unable to insert an image of the original 'I.' Instead, we opted to bold and color it royal blue as a way to emphasize its original muscular and/or strong connotations, as well as its reference to the internal self.
  2. Truth. "sooth, n." OED Online, Oxford University Press, March 2020, Accessed 29 March 2020. All subsequent definitions come from the OED, unless otherwise noted.
  3. A person who lacks common sense. Here, Anthonio suggests that his sadness results in a lack of knowledge. Anthonio's lack of knowledge is further emphasized in the lines "I am to learn" and "I have much ado to know myself" - both suggesting that he is not properly informed about his own sadness (e.g., where it derives from, how he caught it, etc). In describing himself as as a 'want-wit,' Anthonio may also be foreshadowing his decision to trade a pound of flesh with Shylock, i.e., his sadness results in both a lack of knowledge and, consequently, an inability to make sensible decisions. 
  4. Here, Salaryno suggests that Anthonio's mind is being thrown on the ocean with his ships. While his ships can easily survive the waves, we see through his sadness that his mind cannot. This reference to the ocean and the water imagery that follows can be a metaphor for not only the water and/or flood of Anthonio's tears, but also the trials and storms of the world around him that have brought him to such immense sadness.
  5.  A large merchant-vessel, noted mainly in the regions of Ragusa and Venice
  6. Bearing dignity. Here, Salaryno is attempting to reassure Anthonio that his ships will return by emphasizing their grandeur and prestige. If we consider the ocean to be a a metaphor for Anthonio's sadness, then the argosies are a metaphor for Anthonio himself. As such, Salaryno is suggesting that Anthonio will overcome his saddness because he is larger and more dignified than the emotion. 
  7. A title of courtesy for an Italian man. Here, Salaryno is again suggesting that Anthonio's ships possess a certain of level of prestige, comparable to people that go by "Sir." As such, Anthonio is also more prestigous than the ocean (i.e., his sadness) and can override it due to his prestige. 
  8. An inhabitant of a borough. Similar to 'signors,' Salaryno describes the burghers as 'rich' to emphasize both the prestige of Anthonio's ships and the power of Anthonio to overcome his depressive emotions.
  9. Here, Salaryno is possibly referring to The Great Flood; suggesting that Anthonio's boats are so powerful that they could withstand the test of a biblical weathering. This 'flood' reference could also be emphasizing the granedur and/or expansiveness of Anthonio's sadness.
  10. An allegorical device erected on a stage or float, used as part of a public celebration (i.e., a parade float). Here, Salaryno suggests that Anthonio's sadness is impermanent, i.e., it will pass or 'float by' when his ships return.
  11. 'Over-peer' has two meanings; either to tower over or to have a higher position than. The former definition suggests that Anthonio's ships are bigger than other ships, the latter definition suggests that his ships are of higher rank than other ships. Both definitions can be interpreted to suggest that Anthonio is above/has authority over his sadness.
  12. 'Ague' has a double meaning; either a state of distress or a fit of shivering. The latter definition suggests that Salaryno is using the ocean metaphor literally, i.e., he is shivering due to the high winds. The former definition suggests that Salaryno is thrown into a state of emotional distress when he blows on his soup, as it reminds him of how strong winds have the ability to wipe out ships. This coincides with Salaryno's earlier understandings of Anthonio's sadness; suggesting that Anthonio's emotional state is tied directly to the stability of his ships.
  13. Reference to HMS St. Andrew, a Spanish galleon captured by the English in the 1596 Capture of Cádiz. Again, this is likely Salaryno's way of comparing Anthonio's ships to large, prestigious vesicles and, consequently, his propensity to overcome sadness. Mabillard, Amanda. The Merchant of Venice Q & A. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. Accessed 29 March 2020.