For this passage, we have chosen to highlight the words of love and nobility, as well as modernizing some of the Shakespearean words to make the text more easily accessible to younger audiences (i.e., swapping the f for s in words and names, shifting to American language from European language). Words of love and joy are highlighted in red, words showing nobility are highlighted in purple, and segments and letters of words, as well as the words themselves that have been changed for modernization have been highlighted in blue. Names also have been extended to their full length. This subtle adaptation preserves Shakespeare’s original use of language and grammar, but has been adjusted to keep today’s scholars captivated by the story rather than discouraged by the difficulty of a centuries-old dialect barrier.
The scene showcases a moment in the Shakespearean play The Merchant of Venice (traditionally in Act 3 scene 2; however, there are no Act nor Scene markers in the original text), where Bassanio has assisted in successfully hooking up Gratiano and Nerrissa (who is spelled Nerissa in modern translations, but is shown as Nerrissa with two r’s in this text; as such, we’ll continue to refer to her by the latter spelling), with the two of them celebrating their newfound bond.
Only my blood speaks to you in my veins,
and there is such confusion in my powers
as after some oration fairly spoke
by a beloved Prince1, there doth appear
among the buzzing pleased multitude.
Where every something being blent together,
turns to a wild of nothing, save of joy
expressed, and not expressed: but when this ring
parts from this finger, then parts life from hence,
o then be bold to say Bassanio’s dead 2.
Nerrissa. My Lord and Lady, it is now our time
that have stood by and seen our wishes prosper,
to cry good joy, good joy my Lord and Lady.
Gratiano. My Lord Bassanio, and my gentle Lady,
I wish you all the joy that you can wish:
for I am sure you can wish none from me:
and when your honors mean to solemnize
the bargain of your faith3: I do beseech you
even at that time I may be married to.
Bassanio. With all my heart, so thou canst get a wife.
Gratiano. I thank your Lordship, you have got me one.
My eyes my Lord can look as swift as yours:
you saw the mistress, I beheld the maid:
You loved, I loved for intermission,
No more pertains to me my lord4 than you;
your fortune stood upon the caskets there,
and so did mine too as the matter falls:
for wooing here until I sweat again,
and swearing till my very roof was dry
with oaths of love, at last, if promise last
I got a promise of this fair one here
to have her love: provided that your fortune
achieved her mistress.
Portia. Is this true Nerrissa?
Nerrissa. Madam it is, so you stand pleased withall.
Bassanio. And do you, Gratiano, mean good faith?
Gratiano. Yes, faith my Lord.
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, F2r. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Gabrielle Weiner and Nicolas Williams. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16). http://cacodemonshakespeare.com/comedies/merchant/f2r.
- Before Bassanio, Arragon, a Spanish prince, attempted to solve the riddle for Portia’s hand. His arrogance, as implied by his name, ultimately causes him to fail.
- In short: “When this sign of marriage parts from me, then so does my life part from myself; it would be bold to say that I (Bassanio) am dead.”
- Even though there is a romantic dynamic forming between Nerrissa and Gratiano, there’s still an underlying theme of money with this bargain-value pun.
- This is the only instance where Lord actually is in undercase, not having the same emphasis as the other noble titles in this passage. This may act as a sign that, now that Gratiano has a wife or Lady, he’s rising higher in social ranking than Bassanio, despite both comparing himself and looking up to Bassanio in these lines.