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Merchant of Venice, H4r

Editorial note

This page demonstrates an editorial approach that prioritizes fidelity to the original document, as well as historical contextualization of the language in the play. Although the transcription of the passage reflects the original spelling, there is a clarification to special characters (e.g. the long s,v, and u) in order to allow the text to be read in a more coherent manner. These alterations and additions had little to no significance for my editorial perspective. Despite these changes, documentary fidelity (e.g. indents, text display, regularization, italics, etc.) has all been preserved. The annotations reflect an editorial perspective aimed at examining certain historical and linguistic contexts by focusing on the relationship between religion and citizenship in the sixteenth century.

of the Duke onely, gainst all other voyce.
In which predicament I say thou standst:
for it appeares by manifest proceeding,
that indirectly, and directly to,
thou hast contriu(v)ed against the very life
of the defendant: and thou hast incurd
the danger formorly by me rehearst.
Downe therefore, and beg mercy of the Duke.
   Gra. Beg that thou maist hau(v)e leaue to hang thy selfe,
and yet thy wealth beeng forfait to the state,
thou hast not left the value of a cord,
therefore thou must be hangd at the states charge.
   Duke. That thou shalt see the difference of our spirit1,
I pardon thee thy life before thou aske it:
for halfe thy wealth, it is Anthonios,
the other halfe comes to the generall state,
which humblenes may driu(v)e v(u)nto a fine.
   Por. I for the state, not for Anthonio.
   Shy. Nay, take my life and all, pardon not that,
you take my house, when you do take the prop
that doth sustaine my house: you take my life
when you doe take the meanes whereby I liu(v)e.
   Por. What mercy can you render him Anthonio?
   Gra. A halter gratis, nothing else for Godsake.
   Anth. So please my Lord the Duke, & all the Court
to quit the fine for one halfe of his goods,
I am content: so he will let me hau(v)e
the other halfe in v(u)se, to render it
v(u)pon his death, v(u)nto the Gentleman
that lately stole his daughter.
Two things prou(v)ided more, that for this fauou(v)r
he presently become a Christian2:
the other, that he doe record a gift
heere in the Court of all he dies possest
v(u)nto his sonne Lorenzo, and his daughter.
   Duke. He shall doe this, or else I doe recant
the pardon that I late pronounced here.


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, H4r. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Aerial Starks. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).


  1. “A parallel gift-but one of a very different flavor-is then given by the Duke to Shylock. Just before he confiscates Shylock's wealth and property, the Duke presents him with the gift of his life. . . The spirit of gift is closely linked with the spirit of hospitality” (Sharp, 251-53). This gift-giving is embedded with religious connotations, alluding to the difference between Christians and Jews, and the ways each religion demonstrates hospitality and divine grace.
    Sharp, Ronald A. “Gift Exchange and the Economies of Spirit in ‘The Merchant of Venice.’” Modern Philology, vol. 83, no. 3, 1986, pp. 250–65. JSTOR,
  2. “On the one hand, the masochistic subject shows that the more exclusive version of friendship is open to failure by provoking affect associated with enmity. The masochist solicits figures who operate outside the bounds of exclusive friendship, figures granted the power to upset the smooth exchanges of everyday life by strengthening and therefore rendering explicit the grip that authority has on subjectivity and the body in political systems based on rule of law. On the other hand, the pleasure that the masochist experiences . . . is the pleasure one takes in accepting the unbefriendable . . . [they show] an element of self-interested pleasure that reinforces the ego even as it constitutes community around a sense of more general inclusiveness” (Hammill, 238).
    Hammill, Graham. “Converting Cruelty and Constituting Community in Shakespeare’s Venice: A Response to Drew Daniel.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 61, no. 2, 2010, pp. 234–40. JSTOR,