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Merchant of Venice, H1r

Editorial note

Dear readers,

In the short amount of time working on the H1r page of The Merchant of Venice from the First Quarto, I have learned to appreciate the editorial work that I used to neglect or glance over in the past. As my first editorial project, I hope to provide an entry level understanding of the editorial differences of page H1r from the First Quarto and the four folios.

The version displayed on the left part of the webpage is the First Quarto of the play (H1r). The editorial notes were made based on other major publication of The Merchant of Venice on Internet Shakespeare Editions: page 17 in the First Folio, page 197 in the Second Folio, page 202 in the Third Folio, and page 168 in the Fourth Folio. *page number according to the Internet Shakespeare Editions website*

The annotated part of the H1r page is edited with the intension of keeping the original formatting intact. The characters' names’ are bolded to make the reading experience easier, and to create a screen-play-like setting for the readers. The shortened names of characters are displayed as its’ appearance on page H1r to provide possible interpretations on which characters' are determined as important by the different editors. The stage directions are shifted to the right side of the page to distinguish its non-dialogistical features. The heading at the top and the information at the bottom are displayed as its original location position on the printed page of H1r of the First Quarto.

The annotations of page H1r are for readers interested in the various editions and the differences of editorial choices made on page H1r of The Merchant of Venice. While the editor only viewed 5 versions of this page, it opens the possibility for those who are interested to compare more editions in the trajectory of the works of Shakespeare and the works that Shakespeare touched.

Your humble Shakespeare reader,

Alisa Chen

the Merchant of Venice.

to curelesse1 ruine. I stand heere for law. 2

Duke. This letter3 from Bellario doth commend a young and learned4 Doctor to our Court: Where is he?

Ner.    He attendeth here hard by to know your aunswer whether youle admit him.

Duke. With all my hart: 5 some three or foure of you goe giue him curteous conduct to this place, meane time the Court shall heare Bellarios6 letter.7

Your Grace shall vnderstand, that at the receit of your letter8 I am very sicke,9 but in the instant that your messenger came, in lo-uing visitation was with me a young Doctor of Rome, his name10 is Balthazer: I acquainted11 him with the cause12 in cōtrouersie13 between the Iew14 and Anthonio the Merchant,15 wee turnd ore many books16 together,17 hee is furnished with my opinion18, which bettered with his owne learning19, the greatnes whereof I cannot enough commend, comes with him at my importunitie,20 to fill vp your graces21 request22 in my stead. I beseech you23 let his lacke of yeeres be no impediment to let him lacke a reuerend estimation,24 for I neuer knew so young a body25 with so olde a head:26 I leaue him to your gracious acceptance, whose tryall shall better publish his commendation.27

Enter Portia for Balthazer.

Duke.28 You heare the learnd29 Bellario what he writes, and heere I take it30 is the doctor31 come. Giue me your hand,32 come33 you from old Bellario?

Portia. I did my Lord.

Duke.   You are welcome,34 take your place:35 are you acquainted with the difference that holds this present question in the Court.36

Por.       I am enformed throughly of the cause37, 38 which is the Merchant here? and which the Iew39?

Duke.   Anthonio and old Shylocke, both stand forth.

Por.       Is your name Shylocke?

Iew.       Shylocke is my name.

Por.       Of a strange nature is the sute you follow, yet in such rule, that the Venetian40 law41


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, H1r. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Alisa Chen. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).


  1. In the four folios, “curelesse” becomes “endless,” further providing a sense of continuity  and ambiguity rather than a definite "cureless."
  2. In all four folios, the L in “law” is capitalized. Potentially due to the emphasis of Shylocke’s mindset on the judgement being in his favor and his possession of the legally bounding paperworks. When in reality, the court is filled with people in disguise that will influence the final judgement against Shylocke’s favor. This capitalization can be seen as an ironic and comedic one to demonstrate that even the law itself can be altered and influenced.
  3. In all four folios, the L in “letter” is capitalized. Further emphasizing the materialistic nature of the letter as a form to stage the declaration of the information of Bellario’s letter (under disguise).
  4. In all four folios, the L in “learned” is capitalized. This puts stress on the high level of the knowledge state of Bellario’s profession as a lawyer.
  5. In all four folios, this colon is being replaced with a period. Marking this line with a period makes the Duke’s response an affirmative one for Nerissa’s question.
  6. In the First and Second Folio, it is spelled “Bellarioes”; in the Third and Fourth Folio, it is spelled “Bellario’s.” All versions italicized the name, putting emphasis on the position of the character and the audience’ expectation of a testimony from Bellario the lawyer.
  7. In all four folios, the L in “letter” is capitalized again. This double capitalization of the L in “letter” directs the reader’s attention back to the letter that was mentioned by the Duke; this tension arc of the letter is then released by the reading of the actual letter.
  8. Capitalization of the L starting in in all four folios. See note 3.
  9. In all four folios, this comma is changed into a colon, further creating a sense of continuity and providing a temporary issue for the legal processing
  10. The N in “name” is capitalized in the Fourth Folio. This emphasis creates tension on the reveal of Balthazer and the justification of Balthazer being send as a substitute.
  11. The First Folio, this is spelled “acquained.”
  12. In the Third and Fourth folio, instead of “cause” it is “Case.” The switch of "cause" to "case" demonstrates the type of information that Bellario has passed on to Balthazer: "cause" is the settlement of the debt and Shylocks' accusations; "case" is more well rounded, it sounds like Bellario told Balthazer on every aspect and perspective of the case and provided information on everyone involved.
  13. In the First and Second Folio, the C is capitalized.
  14. The Fourth Folio changed Iew into “Jew.”
  15. This comma is replaced with a colon in all four folios. The colon provides Bellario's clarification of Balthazer's educational background and Bellario's approval of Balthazer's intelligence.
  16. The B is capitalized in all four folios, further putting authority and educational experience in Balthazer.
  17. In the Second, Third, and Fourth Folio, this comma is replaced with a colon. This can be viewed as Bellario guaranteeing the courtroom that Balthazer carries the exact knowledge and opinion that he carries.
  18. The O is capitalized in the Fourth Folio.
  19. The L is capitalized in the Fourth Folio. This capitalization of "learning" highlights the claim of Bellario on Balthazer not only carries the same level of knowledge, but Balthazer further advanced and studied on his own.
  20. In the first four folios, “importunitie” was changed to “importunity.”
  21. The G for “graces” is capitalized in the four folios.
  22. The R in “request” is capitalized in the Fourth Folio.
  23. A comma was inserted here in the Fourth Folio creating a pause and stresses the "I beseech you."
  24. In the four folios, this comma is replaced with a colon.
  25. In the First, Second, and Third Folio, a comma was inserted here, creating a contradiction of a young body with an old state of mind.
  26. In the four folios, this colon is replaced with a period, establishing an end to the contradicting young body old soul.
  27. By italicizing only the two names of Balthazer and Antonio in the letter, it demonstrates that the surroundings of Balthazer and Antonio is a falsely constructed reality; the entire courtroom and the legal state of the case is indeed real and a legal procedure, yet it is filled with people in disguise that will nudge the final judgement towards Antonio’s favor.  In the four folios, the italicization of the letter is reversed: script of letter is entirely italicized but the names of Balthazer and Antonio aren't.
  28. The character Duke is shortened into “Du.” in the four folios. This provides a sense of equal treatment among all the story characters.
  29. The letter L is capitalized in the Fourth Folio, continuing its emphasis of the effect that letter itself carries in this scene. See note 3.
  30. In the four folios, “I take it” is placed within parenthesis. This editorial choice separates the content inside the parentheses from the story plot, making the Duke's thought less crucial to the story, and eventually revealing his limited influence during the final judgement of the case.
  31. The letter D is capitalized in “doctor” starting in the four folios.
  32. This comma is replaced with a colon in the First, Second, and Third Folio. The colon expresses the Duke's extended interest and his sense of hospitality towards Balthazer. In the Fourth Folio, it is replaced with a period. The period made the Duke's words more like a command towards Balthazer.
  33. The C in “come” is capitalized in all four folios. Potentially due to the grammatical rules of capitalization after a period or colon.
  34. This comma is replaced with a colon in the four folios.
  35. This colon is replaced with a period in the Fourth Folio. Adding to the Duke's command and authorial position in court.
  36. In the Fourth Folio, this period is replaced with a question mark. Rather than the sense of affirmation provided by the period, a question mark demonstrates the Duke's doubts towards Balthazer's latest updates of the court case.
  37. Instead of “cause,” “case” is used in the Third and Fourth Folio. See note 12.
  38. This comma is replaced with a period in all four folios. With a period, Balthazer is confirming that he is caught up with everything related to the case by Bellario.
  39. In the Third and Fourth Folio, “Jew” is used instead of “Iew.”
  40. Venetian is italisized in the Fourth Folio. This special treatment of "Venetian" provides a sense of superiority in terms of the high state of its law, which is implied that everyone needs to follow Venetian law.
  41. The L is capitalized in all four folios. See note 2.