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Merchant of Venice, C1v

Editorial note

       The transcription for this page of The Merchant of Venice deviates from the First Quarto facsimile in a number of ways. The majority of the spelling has been updated for modern readers, in order to make the text more accessible and relatable. Several exceptions were made in order to retain a level of archaic richness of vocabulary, for example preserving “sonties” instead of modernizing it to “saints.” Punctuation has also been updated, in order to better compliment the natural rhythmic flow of the text.

       In order to capture the back and forth between Lancelet’s conscience and the fiend, the former’s speech has been color coded blue, and the latter’s red. This degree of contrast can be seen in this theatrical performance: The fiend’s words have also been emboldened, in order to signify the power they have in eventually winning over Lancelet. Lancelet’s father Gobbo has been renamed Old Gobbo in order to avoid confusion, and to emphasize the importance of his age; being old is part of Gobbo’s character, and the reason Lancelet is able to so successfully prank him. Lancelet's name is emboldened and color coded red when he speaks with Old Gobbo so as to emphasize how he is embodying the fiend when he pranks his father. 

       Through the use of color coding and bolding to emphasize the back-and-forth between Lancelet's conscience and the fiend, we hope to illustrate the issue of religious difference vs. religious intolerance that is prevalent in the play. Lancelet embodies this issue in how his religious differences with Shylock turn into religious intolerance - a prejudice that seems to run relatively shallow as he easily becomes distracted with pranking his father.


or "good Lancelet Gobbo, use your legs, take the start, run away."
My conscience says, "No, take heed honest Lancelet, take
heed honest Gobbo," or, as afore-said, "honest Lancelet Gobbo, do
not run, scorn running with thy heels." Well, the most courageous
fiend bids me pack. "Fia!"1 says the fiend, "Away!" says the fiend,
"for the heavens rouse up a brave mind," says the fiend, "and run!"
Well, my conscience, hanging about the neck of my heart, says
very wisely to me: "my honest friend Lancelet, being an honest
man's son," or rather "an honest woman's son" -- for indeed my
father did something smack, something grow to; he had a kind
of taste.2 Well, my conscience says "Lancelet, budge not;" "Budge," says
the fiend. "Budge not," says my conscience. "Conscience," say I, "you
counsel well;" "fiend," say I, "you counsel well." To be ruled by my con-
science, I should stay with the Jew my Master - who, God bless
the mark, is a kind of devil. And to run away from the Jew, I
should be ruled by the fiend, who - saving your reverence3 - is the de-
vil himself. Certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnation4, and
in my conscience, my conscience is but a kind of hard consci-
ence, to offer to counsel me to stay with the Jew. The fiend
gives the more friendly counsel: I will run, fiend. My heels
are at your commandment - I will run.      

Enter Old Gobbo with a basket.
Old Gobbo. Master young-man, you I pray you, which is the way
to Master Jews?
Lancelet. [aside] O heavens! This is my true-begotten father, who
being more than sand blind, high gravel blind, knows me not. I
will try confusions with him.
Old Gobbo. Master young Gentleman, I pray you which is the way
to Master Jews?
Lancelet. Turn up on your right hand at the next turning,
but at the next turning of all on your left; marry, at the very next turning turn of no hand, but turn down indirectly to the Jew's
Old Gobbo. By God's sonties,5 twill be a hard way to hit! Can you

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, C1v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Lauren Thompson, Peter Burds, and Jacob Leroux. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).


  1. Italian "Via." Likely meant as a command to take leave or depart. "via, int." OED Online, Oxford University Press, September 2020, Accessed 26 November 2020.
  2. "Smack," "grow to," and "taste" all contain sexual overtones. Implies that Lancelot's father was unfaithful.
  3. Used to introduce a potentially offensive remark; an apology for what the person is about to say. "reverence, n." OED Online, Oxford University Press, September 2020, Accessed 26 November 2020.
  4. Lancelet likely meant "devil incarnate" instead of "incarnation," which refers to the birth of Christ. Shakespeare commonly used malapropisms to illustrate a character's lack of education and add a comedic aspect to the scene.
  5. Probably from "Sanctities," plural form of santy. "santy, n." OED Online, Oxford University Press, September 2020, Accessed 26 November 2020.