[Flower logo] The Merchant of Venice - Shakespeare

Shylock sued Antonio in the Court of the Duke of Venice. The Court had just assembled when a messenger came to announce the arrival of a young judge, Balthasar.

(Crowd) No! No!

(Duke) Silence! Silence!

(Crowd quietens)

(Duke) This letter does commend
a young and learned doctor to our court.
Well, where is he?

(messenger) He attendeth here hard by
to know your answer,
whether you'll admit him.

(Duke) Go, give him
courteous conduct to this place.
Meantime, the court
shall hear Bellario's letter.

"Your grace shall understand that
at the receipt of your letter, I am very sick
but in the instant your messenger came
there was with me a young doctor of Rome
whose name is Balthasar.
He comes at my asking to take my place.
I beseech you,
let his lack of years be no impediment,
for I never knew so young a body
with so old a head.
I leave him to your gracious acceptance. "

You heard Bellario, what he writes.
Oh, and here, I take it, is the doctor come.
You are welcome.
Take your place.
Are you acquainted with the difference that
holds this present question in the court?

(Balthasar) I am informed thoroughly of the case.
Which is the merchant here
and which the Jew?

(Duke) Antonio and old Shylock, both stand forth.

(Balthasar) Is your name Shylock?

(Shylock) Shylock is my name.

(Balthasar) Of a strange nature is the suit you follow,
yet in such rule that the Venetian law
cannot deny you as you do proceed.
You stand within his power, do you not?

(Antonio) Ay, so he says.

(Balthasar) Do you confess the bond?

(Antonio) I do.

(Balthasar) Then must the Jew be merciful.

(Shylock) On what compulsion must I? Tell me that.

(Balthasar) The quality of mercy is not strained,
it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
upon the place beneath.
It is twice blessed -
it blesseth him that gives
and him that takes.

'Tis mightiest in the mighty.
It becomes the throned monarch
better than his crown.
His sceptre shows the force
of temporal power,
the attribute to awe and majesty wherein
doth sit the dread and fear of kings.

But mercy is above this sceptred sway.
It is enthroned in the heart of kings.
It is an attribute to God himself
and earthly power doth then show
likest God's
when mercy seasons justice.

Therefore, Jew,
though justice be your plea,
consider this.
That in the course of justice,
none of us should see salvation.

We do pray for mercy
and that same prayer doth teach us all
to render the deeds of mercy.
I have spoke thus much
to mitigate the justice of your plea,
which if you follow
this strict course of Venice
must needs give sentence
against the merchant there.

(Shylock) My deeds upon my head.
I crave the law,
the penalty and forfeit of my bond.

(Balthasar) Is he not able to discharge the money?

(Bassanio) Yes, here I tender it for him in court,
yea, twice the sum.
If that is not enough,
I will be bound to pay it ten times o'er
on forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart!
If this is not enough it must appear
that malice bears down on truth.

I beseech you,
wrest once the law to your authority -
to do a great right, do a little wrong
and curb this cruel devil of his will.

(Balthasar) It must not be. There is no power in Venice
can alter a decree established.
'Twill be recorded for a precedent
and many an error of the same example
will rush into the state.
It cannot be.

(Shylock) A Daniel come to judgment.
Yea, a Daniel.
O wise young judge, how I do honour you.

(Balthasar) I pray you, let me look upon the bond.

(Shylock) Most reverend doctor, here it is.

(Balthasar) Shylock, there is twice the money
offered you.

(Shylock) An oath, an oath.
I have an oath in heaven.
Shall I lay perjury upon my soul?
No. Not for Venice.

(Balthasar) Why, this bond is forfeit
and lawfully at this time
the Jew may claim a pound of flesh
to be by him cut off
nearest the merchant's heart.
Be merciful.
Take twice your money,
bid me tear the bond.

(Shylock) When it is paid, according to the terms.

(Antonio) Most heartily I do beseech the court
to give the judgment.


(Balthasar) Then thus it is. You must prepare
your bosom for his knife.

(Shylock) O noble judge, excellent young man.

(Balthasar) For the intent and purpose of the law
has full relation to the penalty
which here appeareth due upon the bond.

(Shylock) 'Tis very true, O wise and upright judge.
How much more elder are you
than you look.

(Balthasar) Therefore, lay bare your bosom.

(Shylock) Ay, his breast.
So says the bond, does it not,
noble judge?
Nearest the heart.
Those are the very words.

(Balthasar) It is so.
Are there balances here
to weigh the flesh?

(Shylock) I have them here.

(Crowd gasp)

(Knife unsheathing)

(Balthasar) Have by some surgeon, Shylock,
on your charge
to stop his wounds
lest he should bleed to death.

(Shylock) Is it so nominated in the bond?

(Balthasar) It is not so expressed but what of that?
'Twere good you do so much for charity.

(Shylock) I cannot find it. 'Tis not in the bond.

(Balthasar) You, merchant, have you anything to say?

(Antonio) But little.
I am armed and well prepared.
Give me your hand, Bassanio.
Fare thee well.
Grieve not that I am fallen to this for you.
For herein doth Fortune show herself
more kind than is her custom.
Commend me to thy honourable wife.
Tell her the process of Antonio's end.
Say how I loved you,
speak me fair in death.
And when the tale is told,
bid her be judge
whether Bassanio had not once a love.
Repent but you
that you shall lose your friend
and you repent not that he pays your debt.
For if the Jew do cut but deep enough
I'll pay it instantly with all my heart.

(Bassanio) Antonio, I am married to a wife
which is as dear to me as life itself.
But life itself, my wife and all the world
are not with me esteemed above your life.
I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all,
here to this devil
to deliver you.

(Gratiano) I have a wife, whom, I protest, I love -
I would she were in heaven,
so she could entreat some power
to change this cursed Jew!

(Shylock) I have a daughter!
Would that any of the stock of Barrabas
been her husband
rather than a Christian.
We trifle time. I pray you, pursue sentence.

(Duke) You may proceed.

(Balthasar) A pound of that same
merchant's flesh is yours.
The court awards it
and the law does give it.

(Shylock) Most rightful judge.

(Balthasar) And you must cut this flesh
from off his breast.
The court awards it and the law allows it.

(Shylock) Most learned judge.
A sentence.

(Shylock Prays)

(Balthasar) Tarry a little!

(Shylock) Aah!

(Balthasar) There is something else.
This bond does give you here
no drop of blood.
The words expressly are a pound of flesh.
Take then your bond,
take then your pound of flesh,
but in the cutting of it,
if you do shed one drop of Christian blood,
your lands and goods
are by the laws of Venice confiscate
unto the state of Venice.

(Gratiano) O upright judge!
Mark, Jew. Learned judge!

(Shylock) Is that the law?

(Balthasar) Yourself shall see the act.
For as you urge on justice,
be assured you shall have justice
more than you desire.

(Shylock) Well.
I take the offer, then.
Pay the bond twice
and let the Christian go.

(Bassanio) Here is the money.

(Balthasar) Soft. The Jew shall have all justice.
No haste. He shall have nothing
but the penalty.

(Crowd murmurs)

(Balthasar) Therefore, prepare you to cut off the flesh.
Shed then no blood
nor cut you less nor more
but just a pound of flesh.
If you take more or less than a just pound
be it but so much
as makes it light or heavy
in the substance or division
of the twentieth part of one poor scruple,
nay, if the scale do turn
but in the estimation of a hair,
you die
and all your goods are confiscate.

(Gratiano) A second Daniel! - (Laughter)
Now, infidel, I have you on the hip!

(Balthasar) Why does the Jew pause?

(Shylock) Shall I not have even my principal?

(Balthasar) You shall have nothing but your forfeiture,
to be so taken at your peril, Jew.

(Shylock) Why, then the devil give him good of it.
I'll stay no longer question.

(Balthasar) Tarry, Jew.
The law has yet another hold on you.
It is enacted in the laws of Venice,
if it be proved against an alien
that by direct or indirect attempts
he seek the life of any citizen,
the party 'gainst which he does contrive
shall seize one half of his goods.
The other half comes
to the privy coffer of the state
and the offender's life
lies in the mercy of the Duke only,
'gainst all other voice.
In which predicament, I say you stand.
Down, therefore,
and beg mercy of the Duke.

(Gratiano) Beg that you may have leave
to hang yourself.

(Duke) That you shall see the difference
in our spirit, I pardon you your life
before you ask it.
For half your wealth, it is Antonio's, the
other half shall come to the general state.

(Shylock) Nay, take my life and all -
pardon not that.
You take my house when you take the prop
that doth sustain my house.
You take my life
when you take the means whereby I live.

(Balthasar) What mercy can you render him, Antonio?

(Gratiano) A halter gratis,
nothing else, for God's sake.

(Antonio) So please my lord the Duke
and all the court
forego the fine of one half of his goods.
I am content so he will let me use
the other half, in trust,
relinquish it upon his death
unto the gentleman
that lately stole his daughter.
One thing provided more,
that, for this favour,
he shall presently become a Christian.

(Shylock contained, sobbing)

(Duke) He shall do this
or else I do recant the pardon
I late pronounced here.

(Balthasar) Are you contented, Jew?
What do you say?

(Shylock) Oh...
I am contented.

(Duke) Clerk, prepare a deed of gift.

(Shylock) I pray you, give me leave to go from hence.
I... I am not well.
I will... Send a deed after me
and I will sign it.

(Duke) Get you gone, then, but do it.
Court dismissed.


Read an article by Rick Laws on Conflicts of Law and Equity in The Merchant of Venice

The entire dialogue transcript