William Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice

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William Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice

Act I, scene 1
Antonio, a Venetian merchant, complains that he is depressed but does not know why. His friends, Salerio and Solanio, suggest that he is worried about his commercial investments, but Antonio responds that his
money is invested in so many different products and ships that he has no specific worries. Solanio declares that he must be in love, but Antonio dismisses that suggestion as well. They encounter Bassanio and when the other leave, they are left alone. They are intimate friends and Bassanio is in debt with Antonio. The debtor now begs his friend to make him a final loan so that he can go to Belmont and court the rich heiress Portia. Antonio is willing, but says that all of his own money is tied up in ship cargoes. However, if Bassanio borrows money from someone, Antonio will provide security for the loan.

Act I, scene 2
At Belmont, Portia complains to her servant, Nerissa, that she is depressed, because according to her father's will, Portia cannot choose her own husband. Instead, suitors must select one of three caskets--one of gold, one of silver, and one of lead. If they choose the casket containing Portia's picture, they win her hand in marriage; but if
they choose wrongly, they suffer a penalty. Nerissa lists the suitors who have come already: a Neapolitan prince, a Palatine count, a French nobleman, an English baron, a Scottish lord, and the nephew of the Duke of
Saxony. Portia criticizes each of them--one likes his horse too much, one is a drunk, and so on.
All of these suitors have left without guessing, fearing the penalty if they fail. Portia is relieved that none of them tried to guess, and we learn that Portia and Nerissa wish that Bassanio, who has visited Belmont once
before, would guess successfully. At this moment, a servant enters to tell Portia that the Prince of Morocco will arrive soon to attempt the choice of caskets; Portia is not happy to hear the news.

Act I, scene 3
Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, agrees to loan Bassanio three thousand ducats, but asks to speak with Antonio first because he is offering security for the loan. When Antonio arrives, Shylock notes in an aside that
he hates this man--because he is a Christian, because he lends money without interest, and because he despises Jews. Shylock then asks how long the money will be lent for, and Bassanio tells him three months.
Shylock wonders why he should lend money to someone who has injured him.

Antonio responds that he should lend it to him as an enemy, exacting a harsh penalty if he defaults on the loan. Shylock protests that there are no hard feelings and offers to lend the money interest-free. As a joke, he asks Antonio to promise him a pound of flesh, from any portion of the body, if he fails to pay on time. Bassanio warns his friend against the deal, but Antonio replies that he will have no trouble paying on time. He then tells Shylock that they will meet at the notary's office to sign the bond. Bassanio remains suspicious of the deal, but Antonio promises him that his ships will arrive in a month, and then he will have no trouble paying the debt.
Act II, scene 1
Meanwhile, the Prince of Morocco arrives in Belmont. Portia leads him to dinner before he makes his choice.

Act II, scene 2
Lancelot Gobbo, a servant of Shylock, struggles over whether or not to run away from his master--his conscience tells him to stay, but his "fiend" says that he should abandon Shylock. His father, who is nearly
blind, approaches him (not knowing that Lancelot is his son) and asks the way to Shylock's house. As a joke, his son gives him confusing directions, and then reports that he himself is dead. When his father begins to weep, he reveals the deception, and Old Gobbo embraces him.
Lancelot tells him that he wants to shift his service from Shylock to Bassanio. Bassanio passes, at that moment, and father and son appeal to him so confusingly that it takes a moment before he can understand what they are asking him. Finally he takes Lancelot Gobbo into his employment, saying that Shylock had offered him Lancelot’s service.

Act II, scene 3
Jessica, Shylock's daughter, gives Lancelot a letter to carry to Bassanio's friend Lorenzo, and when he is gone, tells the audience that she plans to marry Lorenzo and convert to Christianity.

Act II, scene 4
Gratiano, Lorenzo, Salerio and Solanio agree to slip away from Bassanio's house at supper and return in disguise, accompanied by a torchbearer. As they talk, Lancelot brings Jessica's letter. Lorenzo reads it, and pays Lancelot to return to Jessica and tell her that he will not fail her. He tells his friends Salerio and Solanio to
prepare for the night's revelry--he has found a torchbearer. He then tells Gratiano that Jessica will carry their torch--she is going escape her father's house with her gold and jewels--and that he, Lorenzo, plans to marry her.

Act II, scene 5
Shylock tells Lancelot that he will have to work harder in Bassanio's house than he does in Shylock's.

He calls his daughter, Jessica, and tells her that he has accepted Bassanio's invitation to dinner and that she is to keep the doors locked because he has a premonition that something bad will happen to his house this night. As he gives these orders, Lancelot whispers to Jessica that she must disobey her father and look out the window because Lorenzo is coming for her. Shylock departs for Bassanio's house.

Act II, scene 6
Their faces hidden by masks, Gratiano and Salerio arrive at Shylock's house. Lorenzo joins them and calls to Jessica, who passes down a casket of gold and jewels. She then emerges, asking the men to look away from her clothing since she is dressed as a boy. Lorenzo declares that he loves her greatly, and she goes with him and Salerio. Gratiano, left behind, is accosted by Antonio, who tells him that the wind has changed and Bassanio is sailing for Belmont immediately, so Gratiano must leave the festivities and join him at once.

Act II, scene 7
In Belmont, the Prince of Morocco reads the inscriptions on the caskets. After much pondering, the Prince chooses the gold, reasoning that only the most precious metal could house the picture of such a beautiful woman. The casket is opened, revealing a skull and a verse telling him that he has chosen incorrectly. The Prince departs, and Portia declares that she hopes no more dark-skinned suitors come courting.

Act II, scene 8
In Venice, Salerio and Solanio discuss how Shylock fell into a rage upon learning of his daughter's elopement and of the theft of his money, and how he searched Bassanio's ship for her--unsuccessfully, since Lorenzo and Jessica had fled on a gondola. The two men worry about the debt that Antonio owes—there are rumors that one of his ships has gone down in the English Channel.

Act II, scene 9
The Prince of Arragon arrives in Belmont and makes the choice of caskets, selecting the silver. Inside, he finds a fool's head, and a poem that calls him a loser. As he departs, a messenger arrives to tell Portia that a young, handsome Venetian has come to Belmont. Hoping that it is Bassanio, Portia and Nerissa go out to greet him.

Act III, scene 1
Salerio and Solanio discuss the rumors that another of Antonio's ships has been wrecked. They are joined by Shylock, who accuses them of having helped his daughter escape. A messenger arrives to summon Salerio and Solanio to meet with Antonio.

Shylock is joined by Tubal, another Jew, who brings him news of Jessica spending his money.

Act III, scene 2
Bassanio has come to Belmont and is ready to choose a casket; before he does so, Portia declares that she loves him, and begs him to put off choosing, because once the choice is made (and if he chooses wrongly) she will never see him again. Bassanio replies that he loves her as well, but that he must choose immediately. Bassanio examines the caskets and at last chooses the lead casket, which he opens to reveal her picture and a rhyme congratulating him on his victory. The happy couple promise one another love and devotion. Portia gives Bassanio a ring, making him promise never to give it away. Nerissa and Gratiano enter to congratulate them, and we learn that there will a double wedding--Nerissa has agreed to marry Bassanio's friend. Lorenzo, Jessica, and Salerio arrive, bringing news that
all of Antonio's ships and cargoes are lost, that the bond is due, and that Shylock is demanding his pound of flesh. Portia agrees to provide enough money to pay the debt six times over, but Jessica worries that her father is
more interested in his revenge on Antonio than in having the debt repaid. Promising his wife-to-be that he will return soon, Bassanio goes to Venice to attempt to save his friend.

Act III, scene 3
Shylock escorts Antonio to prison. Antonio tells Solanio that Shylock hates him because his generosity has
often saved people who owed money to Shylock. Solanio says that the Duke will never allow this ridiculous contract to stand, but Antonio is not so sure. Act III, scene 4
In Belmont, Lorenzo assures Portia that Antonio is worthy of all the help she is sending him. Portia answers that if Antonio is a great friend of Bassanio, then he must be like Bassanio in many ways Portia plans to go to Venice disguised as a man. She sends her servant Balthasar to her cousin, Doctor Bellario, and tells Balthasar to bring the clothing and documents that Bellario gives him and meet her on the ferry to Venice. Act III, scene 5
Lancelot and Jessica banter about her Jewish background. She says that she will be saved by her marriage to her husband, and Lancelot complains that if all Jews turn Christian, the price of pork, which Jews do not eat, will rise.

Act IV, scene 1
The Duke of Venice greets Antonio. Antonio replies that he knows the Duke has done all he can and that he is prepared for the suffering ahead. Shylock is called in, and the Duke tells him that everyone expects him to relent at the last moment--that he wants to frighten Antonio, but in the end will not inflict such a horrible penalty on a merchant who has already suffered the loss of all his ships.

Shylock replies that he has sworn by the Jewish Sabbath to exact the penalty and that he prizes the pound of flesh more than three thousand ducats. Bassanio, who has arrived from Belmont, offers Shylock six thousand ducats, twice the original sum, but Shylock declares that he would not forfeit the pound of flesh for thirty-six thousand ducats. The Duke says that he has sent messages to the learned lawyer, Doctor Bellario, asking him to come here and decide the matter. A messenger has just arrived from Bellario. Nerissa enters, disguised as a lawyer's
clerk, and gives the Duke a letter from Bellario. The Duke reads the letter from Bellario aloud. It says that the Doctor is ill, but has sent in his place a learned young lawyer from Rome named Balthasar, who has been informed of all the details of the case and will pass judgment. The Duke tells the disguised Nerissa to admit Balthasar.
Balthasar enters; he is really the disguised Portia, of course. The Duke greets her and asks if she knows the case. She says she does, and asks Shylock and Antonio to stand. Portia asks about the money, and Bassanio cries that he is willing to pay it ten times over, and then he begs Portia to bend the law slightly so that Antonio may be saved. Portia replies that she cannot do this, and Shylock is joyful. She examines the bond, says that
Shylock is entitled to the pound of flesh, and tells Antonio to prepare his breast for the knife. Portia asks Shylock to bring a doctor to prevent Antonio from bleeding to death, but Shylock refuses to consider it, saying
that it is not in the bond. As the Jewish merchant prepares to take the flesh, Portia reminds him that the bond says nothing about spilling blood and for a Jew to shed a Christian's blood is against the laws of Venice. Therefore, he must take the flesh without spilling Antonio's blood. Shylock says that he will accept Bassanio's offered money, but Portia says no, he must have his bond or nothing. Not only that, but he is guilty of conspiring against the life of a Venetian citizen, so his own lands and life are forfeit.
The Duke declares that he will show mercy--he takes half of Shylock's money for the state and gives half to Antonio. Shylock protests that they may as well kill him as take all his money. Antonio offers to give his share of Shylock's estate back, on condition that he leaves all his goods to Jessica and Lorenzo. The Duke invites the young lawyer to dinner, but Portia declines, saying that she must leave immediately for Padua, the city where Bellario lives.

The Duke then leaves the Court and tells Antonio to reward Portia since it was she who saved his life. Bassanio offered to reward her with the money intended to free Antonio. She declines this gift and asks instead for the ring that she herself gave him as a love-token. At first, Bassanio effuses, remembering that his wife demanded that he keep it always. After she departs, even Antonio asks him to give it to her as a gift. Finally, he is worn down and sends Gratiano after Portia to present her with the ring. Then the men go to Antonio's house for dinner, planning to depart for Belmont in the morning. Meanwhile, Portia sends Nerissa to Shylock's house, to ensure that he signs the deed that will leave his fortune to Lorenzo and Jessica. The disguised women plan to leave that night, to arrive in Belmont before their husbands. They are joined suddenly by Gratiano, who gives Portia the ring and says that Bassanio invites her to dinner. Portia accepts the gift but declines the invitation.
Lorenzo greets Portia and Nerissa, and she requests that he cannot mention her absence to her husband. Bassanio, Antonio, and Gratiano arrive. Antonio is introduced to Portia, and Nerissa asks Gratiano what became of her ring. He insists that he gave it to a lawyer's clerk, not to another woman as she supposes. Portia criticizes him for parting with so precious a present, saying that her own husband would never have given up his ring. Gratiano replies that Bassanio did give up his ring, to the lawyer who saved Antonio.
The women now accuse their husbands of cheating on them. Although Bassanio and Gratiano continue to insist that they gave the rings to men, Portia and Nerissa pretend to disbelieve them, and threaten to commit adultery themselves. Antonio intercedes for them, and Portia and Nerissa give their husbands rings--the same rings that were given away to the "lawyer" and the "clerk." The men are astonished, and now Portia reveals the deception--she was the lawyer in Venice. Antonio receives news that some of his ships have, miraculously, come safely to port, and Lorenzo is told that he will inherit Shylock's fortune.

The company rejoices, and the play ends happily for everyone.

Antonio – the Merchant of Venice
Bassanio – a good friend of Antonio
Solanio friends of Antonio and Bassanio
Shylock – a wealthy Jewish moneylender
Lancelot Gobbo – Shylock’s servant
Old Gobbo – Lancelot’s father
Portia – an extremely wealthy heiress from Belmont
Nerissa – her servant
Jessica – Shylock’s daughter
The Duke of Venice
The Prince of Morocco
The Prince of Arragon

Venicce and Belmont

Act I, scene 1: Antonio: “Znáte mě přec a maříte jen čas,
když na mou lásku jdete oklikami.
A činíte mi věru větší křivdu
svou pochybností o mé krajní snaze,
než kdybyste byl probil vše, co mám.
Tak jen už mluvte, co mám učinit,
co podle toho, jak mě znáte zmohu.
Ihned to udělám. Tak mluvte přec!”

Act I, scene 3: Shylock: “Zajdete se mnou k notáři a prostý
mi podepište úpis! A jen tak,
jen špásem, kdybyste mi tam a tam,
ten a ten den tu částku nebo částky,
jak smlouva ustanoví, nezaplatil
pokutou budiž jedná rovná libra
ctěného vašnostina masa, k vzetí
a uříznutí s těla odkudkoli.”

Act IV, scene 1: Portia: “Máme tu další věc. Ten úpis tady
ti nepřiznává ani krůpěj krve. Výslovně tady stojí ‚libra masa‘. Tak si ji vezmi, tu svou libru masa!
Leč proliješ-li při tom krůpěj jen
křesťanské krve, půda tvá i zboží
propadnou podle benátského práva
benátské vládě.”

Shakespeare, William. Komedie II. Knihovna klasiků, Státní nakladatelství krásné literatury, hudby a umění, Praha, 1955. Preložil E.A.Saudek.

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