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Merchant of Venice, G3v

Editorial note

Our rendition of this scene is a transcription into modern English with the constructed audience of 21st century adults. With this transcription we wanted to highlight the tumultuous social and religious climate, so we added some lines and stage directions that emphasize Shylock’s position as a religious minority and how that impacts his relationship to the other characters. These added lines are highlighted in blue. We noticed some undertones in the original text that point to religious topics, so we drew those out and elaborated on them. The original text names Shylock as “Jew”, so although we replaced this with his name to better reflect the modern period, we wanted to point out the blatant antisemitism that is present in the original text while allowing Shylock to have a sense of humanity and confidence to speak out against it.

The DUKE, ANTONIO, BASSANIO, GRAZIANO, and SHYLOCK are in a courtroom.

Shylock sits in the witness stand, and the Duke stands over him. The rest watch, standing, as the Duke grabs him forcefully by the arm. 1

DUKE: [on the question of your request for a pound of flesh] We expect you to answer 

with Christian kindness and grace 2, Jew. 

SHYLOCK: I already told you what I want and I’ve made my intentions

clear more times than I can count. 

I swear to God, I will get what I’m owed. 

If you and your corrupt court 3

prevent me from getting it, destruction

will come to your charter and commonwealth, 

and it is only when your people lose their freedom,  4 that they will finally understand the plights of the Jewish experience in this city. 

You’re wondering why I demand a pound of flesh 

rather than the money that’s owed to me. 

Let’s just say it’s an inside joke 

with me and myself. Does that give you your answer?

If I had a rat in my house, 

and I wanted it killed, would you question my reasons? 

One man may love pigs, 

while another loves cats, 

and the next wets his pants when he hears the sound of a bagpipe. 

Our desires cannot always be explained. 

So I cannot answer you, and I won’t. 

Antonio is awful and he has given me countless reasons to hate him, 

and now he must follow through on our legal agreement, to which he himself swore on. Is that a satisfactory Christian 5 answer for you?

BASSANIO: That’s not a sufficient answer, you apathetic asshole, 

it doesn’t excuse the cruelty your request requires!

SHYLOCK: My answers aren’t obligated to make you happy. 

BASSANIO: Is violence and killing the only way to resolve this conflict?

SHYLOCK: I’m sure everyone would love to kill the thing they hate.

and you’ve all made that perfectly clear through your violent discrimination of my people. 6

BASSANIO: You don’t have to hate someone just because of one mistake.

SHYLOCK: So should I just sit back and let a snake sting me as much as he wants?

Editors: Mari Snider and Aaliya Valentine

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, G3v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Mari Snider and Aaliya Valentine. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).


  1. These stage directions physically represent the power dynamics at play in this scene. Shylock is sitting while the rest stand, demonstrating the oppressed/oppressors overtone. We decided to have the Duke grab Shylock while saying his line, to place emphasis on his threatening, angry attitude, and to show how violence against Jews is normalized.
  2. We changed this line from "Gentle" to "Christian kindness" and "grace" because we noticed a pun between the words "gentle" and "gentile." The word gentile denoting someone who is not Jewish.
  3. We added these lines to convey that Shylock knows that the odds are against him. And yet he still relies on the laws of the Christian Venetian court in order to enact his revenge against Antonio.
  4. We added these lines to reflect how the Duke has oppressed Shylock and the rest of the Jewish people. In saying that the the freedom of all of the people will be inhibited by a corrupt call on the part of the court, Shylock could be implying that everyone would begin to experience how it feels to be Jewish under a discriminatory public.
  5. The rest of the characters present morality/righteousness through a Christian lens, so when Shylock asks if his answer is satisfactory, what he's really asking is if it holds up against their closed-minded idea that being Christian is the only way to be honorable.
  6. In past scenes, Shylock has explained that much of his perceived "violent" or "unreasonable" actions are actually learned from the Christians around him. This invokes a similar logic, articulating that Shylock's search for revenge against a hated party is nothing new; violence is inflicted upon the Jewish people on the daily