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THE MERCHANT OF VENICE-II. 1. The rich heiress that Bassanio wished to marry lived near Venice, at a place called Belmont; her name was Portia, and in the graces of her person and her mind she was nothing inferior to that Portia who was Cato's daughter and the wife of Brutus. Bassanio, being so kindly supplied with money by his friend Antonio at the hazard of his life, set out for Belmont with a splendid train, and attended by a gentleman of the name of Gratiano. Bassanio proving successful in his suit, Portia in a short time consented to accept of him for a husband.
2. Bassanio confessed to Portia that he had no fortune, and that his high birth and noble ancestry were all that he could boast of; she, who loved him for his worthy qualities, and had riches enough not to regard wealth in a husband, answered with a graceful modesty that she would wish herself a thousand times more fair, and ten thousand times more rich, to be more worthy of him; and she said : Myself and what is mine, to you and yours is now converted.
But yesterday, Bassanio, I was the lady of this fair mansion, queen of myself, and mistress over these servants; and now this house, these servants, and myself, are yours, my lord; I give them with this ring :' presenting a ring to Bassanio. Bassanio was so overpowered with gratitude, that he could not express his joy by anything but broken words of love and thankfulness; and, taking the ring, he vowed never to part with it.
3. Gratiano and Nerissa, Portia's waiting-maid, were in attendance upon their lord and lady, when Portia so gracefully promised to become the obedient wife of Bassanio; and Gratiano, wishing Bassanio and the generous lady joy, desired permission to be married at the same time. With all my heart, Gratiano,' said Bassanio, ‘if you can get a wife.'
4. Gratiano then said that he loved the Lady Portia's fair waiting-gentlewoman, Nerissa, and that she had promised to be his wife, if her lady married Bassanio. Portia asked Nerissa if this was true. Nerissa replied: ‘Madam, it is so, if you approve of it. Portia willingly consenting, Bassanio pleasantly said: “Then our wedding-feast shall be much honoured by your marriage, Gratiano.'
5. The happiness of these lovers was sadly crossed at this moment by the entrance of a messenger, who brought a letter from Antonio containing fearful tidings. When Bassanio read Antonio's letter, Portia feared that it was to tell him of the death of some dear friend, he looked so pale; and inquiring what was the news which had so distressed him, he said: 'Oh, sweet Portia, here are a few of the unpleasantest words that ever blotted paper; gentle lady, when I first imparted my love to you, I freely told you all the wealth I had ran in my veins; but I should have told you I had less than nothing, being in debt.'
6. Bassanio then told Portia what has been here related, of his borrowing the money of Antonio, and of Antonio's procuring it of Shylock the Jew, and of the bond by which Antonio had engaged to forfeit a pound of flesh, if it was not repaid by a certain day; and then Bassanio read Antonio's letter, the words of which were: ‘Sweet Bassanio, my ships are all lost, my bond to the Jew is forfeited, and since in paying, it is impossible I should live, I could wish to see you at my
death; notwithstanding, use your pleasure—if your love for me do not persuade you to come, let not my letter.'
7. 'Oh, my dear love,' said Portia, despatch all business, and begone; you shall have gold to pay his money twenty times over, before this kind friend shall lose a hair by my Bassanio's fault; and as you are so dearly bought, I will dearly love you.' Portia then said she would be married to Bassanio before he set out, to give him a legal right to the money; and that same day they were married, and Gratiano was also married to Nerissa. And Bassanio and Gratiano, the instant they were married, set out in great haste for Venice, where Bassanio found Antonio in prison. The day of paying being past, the cruel Jew would not accept of the money which Bassanio offered him, but insisted upon having a pound of Antonio's flesh. A day was appointed to try this shocking cause before the Duke of Venice, and Bassanio awaited in dreadful suspense the event of the trial.
8. When Portia parted with her husband, she spoke cheeringly to him, and bade him bring his dear friend along with him when he returned. Yet she feared it would go hard with Antonio, and when she was left alone, she began to think and consider within herself, if she could by any means be instrumental in saving the life of her dear Bassanio's friend.
9. Being now called forth into action by the peril of her honoured husband's friend, she did nothing doubt her own powers, and by the sole guidance of her own true and perfect judgment, at once resolved to go herself to Venice, and speak in Antonio's defence. Portia had a relation who was a counsellor in the law; to this gentleman, whose name was Bellario, she wrote, and stating the case to him, desired his opinion, and that with his advice he would also send the dress worn by a counsellor.
When the messenger returned, he brought letters from Bellario of advice how to proceed, and also everything necessary for her equipment.
10. Portia dressed herself and her maid Nerissa in men’s apparel, and putting on the robes of a counsellor, she took Nerissa along with her as her clerk; and setting out immediately, they arrived at Venice on the very day of the trial. The cause was just going to be heard before the duke and senators of Venice in the senate-house, when Portia entered this high court of justice, and presented a letter from Bellario, in which that learned counsellor wrote to the duke, saying he would have come himself to plead for Antonio, but that he was prevented by sickness, and he requested that the learned young Doctor Balthasar-so he called Portia —might be permitted to plead in his stead. This the duke granted, much wondering at the youthful appearance of the stranger, who was prettily disguised by her counsellor's robes and her large wig.
forefathers. con-vert-ed, changed and become
the property of Bassanio.
sus-pense', uncertainty of mind.
for work and service.
body of men who make the
laws. dis-guised', having the appearance
changed by a different dress.
EXERCISES.–1. The Greek prefix para-, par-, means beside, near to, contrary to; as parable (literally), a placing beside, a comparison, a fable or allegory in which some doctrine is illustrated; parallel, lying side by side ; paradox, that which is contrary to general opinion.
2. Analyse and parse the following : When Portia parted with her husband, she spoke cheeringly to him, and bade him bring his dear friend along with him when he returned.'
3. Make sentences of your own, and use in each one or more of the following words : Permission, apparel, disguise, suspense.
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE—III. And now began this important trial. Portia saw Bassanio, but he knew her not in her disguise. He was standing beside Antonio, in an agony of distress and fear for his friend. The importance of the arduous task Portia had engaged in, gave this tender lady courage, and she boldly proceeded in the duty she had undertaken to perform.
Por. Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew ?