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Merchant of Venice, H3v

Editorial note

This editorial approach strikes a balance between preserving the unique aspects of this printing and making it more accessible to contemporary readers. As a result, “J” is substituted for “I” where relevant, as is “u” for “v,” and “s” for “ſ.” All of the nonstandard spellings, however, have been retained.

The annotations are focused on the tension in this moment between the self-empowerment of Portia and the oppression of Shylock, which happen in direct opposition to each other. 

The comicall Historie of

Bass. Heere is the money.

Por. Soft the Jew shal have all justice, soft no hast,

he shall have nothing but the penalty.1

Gra. O Jew, an upright judge,a learned Judge.

Por. Therefore prepare thee to cut of the flesh,

Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou lesse nor more

but just a pound of flesh : if thou Tak’st more

or lesse then a just pound, be it but so much 

as makes it light or heavy in the substance,

Or the devision of the twentith part 

of one poore scruple, nay if the scale doe turne 

but in the estimation of a hayre, 

thou dyest, and all thy goods are confiscate.2

Gra. A second Daniell, a Daniell Jew,

now infidell I have you on the hip3

Por. Why doth the Jew pause, take thy forfaiture.

Shy. Give me my principall, and let me goe4

Bass.I have it ready for thee, here it is.

Por. Hee hath refus’d it in the open Court,

hee shall have meerely justice and his bond.

Gra. Aa Daniell still say I, a second Daniell,

I thank thee Jew for teaching me that word,

Shy. Shall I not have barely my principall ?

Por. Thou shalt have nothing but the forfaiture

to be so taken at thy perrill,Jew.

Shy. Why then the devill give him good of it : 

Ile stay no longer question.5

Por. Tarry Jew, 

the law hath yet another hold on you. 

It is enacted in the lawes of Venice, 

if it be proved against an alien, 

that by direct, or indirect attempts 

he seeke the life of any Cittizen,6

the party gainst the which he doth contrive, 

shall seaze one halfe his goods, the other halfe 

comes to the privie coffer of the State,7

and the offenders life lies in the mercy

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, H3v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by [your names]. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).


  1. Portia's use of "shall" positions herself as an authority
  2. Portia, with her new power as a self-imposed judge, is able to enact arbitrary and draconian rules on Shylock. She understands that no matter what she says, her position of power as a Venetian, a  Christian, and a judge will ensure that her will is done. Her argument is built on shaky logic, but this logic is not questioned by others because it reinforces white, Christian supremacy, nor by Shylock out of fear of further retribution.
  3. Not interested in the logic of Portia's claims, Graziano immediately focuses on Shylock's Jewishness as grounds for his punishment
  4. As the gravity of Shylock's situation sets in, he is increasingly content to settle. As Portia enacts state violence against him, Shylock, very used to being at the complete mercy of Christians (especially Antonio) is not arguing his position further despite the illogic of Portia's claims.
  5. Shylock is quick to abandon his earthly possessions and status here, likely because he senses that he is in danger. Only a few lines earlier he was still seeking vengeance, but quickly grasps that now the best he can hope for is to escape with his life. The brevity of his lines suggests that he is trying to make a quick exit.
  6. By framing Shylock as an "alien" seeking to harm a "Cittizen," Portia asserts her authority over him as a person against a non-person. She is able to control him through dehumanizing him in the context of stately authority.
  7. Portia draws on the power of the state to subject Shylock to unreasonable consequences here. This gives Portia agency at the direct expense of Shylock's. She is in a position to rob Shylock of his freedom, which is both a highly privileged position and one that places her in the role of the oppressor.