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Merchant of Venice, B1v

Editorial note

This encoded version of the B1V edition of Merchant of Venice is a work of historical reading that emphasizes the national affairs of the time, illuminating the internationality of Venice and its status as a cosmopolitan city with it being the trade and cultural hub. As a result, the elements of the page to emphasize for us is to convert the Suitors into language of nationality, including their names, titles, pronouns, as well as their status.

We identify a rhetorical strategy of the text to parallel Portia's dismissal of most of suitors while foreshadowing the possibility of Bassanio as a strong suitor. Two different methods are effective in demeaning the suitors' identities in text. The first is to show their internationality (their interaction with and representation of nations other than their 'own') thus weakening the perception of their own national identities. The other is to specifically focus on and isolate their national identity, which if it differs from that of Venetians, serves to alienate them. However, if the individual is Venetian, and this identity is mentioned in detail, it benefits them as they are both familiar and of solid, loyal background. Bassanio, consequently, stands out among the descriptions of various suitors as his identity is familiar, related to Portia and her father's lives, and shows allegiance to Venice. It's these two methods casting Bassanio's locality in light of the international reputation that the play exploits that highlights the role of Venice as the international city of its time.

worth in the English: hee is a proper masnpicture, but alas who

can converse with a dumbe show? how oddly hee is suted, I thinke

he bought his doublet in Italie, his round hose in France, his bon-

net in Germanie, and his behaviour everywhere.

Nerrisa: What thinke you of the Scottish1 Lorde his neigh-


Portia: That hee hath a neighbourlie charitie in him, so hee

borrowed a boxer o the are of the Englishman, and sworehee

would pay him again when he was able: I think the Frenchman

became his  suretie 2, and deals under for another.

Nerissa: How like you the young Germaine, the Duke of Saxo-

nies nephew?

Porissa: Very wildlie in the morning when hee is sober, and most

wildly in the afternoon when he is drunk: when he is best, he is

a little worse than a man, & when he is worst he is little better then

a beast, and the worst fall that ever fell, I hope I shall make shift

to goe without him.

Nerissa: If hee should offer to choose, and choose the right Cas-

ket, you should refuse to perform your Fathers will, if you should

refuse to accept him.

Portia: Therefore for fear of the worse, I pray thee set a deepe

glasse of Reynishe wine 3 on the contrary Casket, for if the deuill

be within, and that temptation without, I know hee will choose

it. I will doe anything Nerrissa ere I will be married to a spunge.

Nerrissa: You needed not fear Ladie the having anie of these

Lords, they have acquainted me with their determinations, which

is indeed to return to their home, and to trouble you with no

more suit, unlesse you may be wonne by some other sort than your

Fathers imposition, depending on the Caskets.

Portia: If I line to be as old as Sibilla4. I will die as chast as Diana5,

unlesse I be obtained by the manner of my Fathers will: I am glad

this parcell of wooers are so reasonable, for there is not one among

them but I donate on his very absence:  & I pray God grant them

a fair departure.

Nerrissa: Doe you not remember Lady in your Fathers time, a

Venecian a Scholler & a Souldiour that came whether in companie

of the Marquesse of Mountserrat?

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, B1v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Professor Erika Boeckeler's Spring 2020 Introduction to Shakespeare class. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).


  1. "'Scottish' in the 1601 Q was changed to 'other' in the 1624 F edition, after King James of Scotland came to the English throne in 1603." Citation: Shakespeare, William. “The Merchant of Venice.” The Norton Shakespeare: The Essential Plays/The Sonnets. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt, 3rd ed.,W.W. Norton & Company, 2015, pp. 287.
  2. Historical Comment: The Frenchman’s surety and aid for the Scottish lord signified the failure of the French to aid the Kingdom of Scotland during the Anglo-Scottish Wars that took place during the time of play against England on multiple occasions. Although the last formal conflict between the two states as independent kingdoms was dated September 1547, periods of fighting nevertheless continued. Citation: Blakeway, Amy. "The Anglo‐Scottish War of 1558 and the Scottish Reformation." History 102.350 (2017): 201-224.
  3. Rhenish wine (Or Rheinhassen) is a german wine that originates from the regions around the Rhine River, generally rose or white.
  4. A prophetess, described in Greek legend, of ancient age
  5. The goddess of the hunt of in Greek and Roman mythology. Also a goddess of the moon and childbirth, known for both her chastity and fertility