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A Short Play from


ANTONIO (ăn-tõonl-6), a merchant of Venice.
BASSANIO (bå-sä'nî-7), his friend, and suitor to Portia.
SHYLOCK (shi’lok), a rich Jew.
LAUNCELOT GOBBO (län'sē-lót gòb'o), servant to Shylock.
JESSICA (jěs'r-ka), daughter to Shylock.
LORENZO (lô-rěn'zo), in love with Jessica.
GRATIANO (grä-shi-ä'no),
SALANIO (sa-lä'ni-o),

friends to Antonio and Bassanio.
SALARINO (să-la-rē'no),
SALERIO (sä-lā'ry-7),
TUBAL (tū”băl), a Jew, Shylock's friend.
PORTIA (pôr'sha), a rich heiress.
BALTHASAR (băl-thā'zēr), servant to Portia.
The DUKE OF VENICE (věn'is).
14 reading parts

SETTING: Partly at Venice and partly at Belmont (běl'mont), Italy.


Act I. Scene 1. A street in Venice. Antonio and Bassanio.

Scene 2. The same. Bassanio, Shylock. Act II. A street before Shylock's house. Launcelot, Jessica, Lorenzo.

Act III. A street in Venice. Salanio and Salarino, Tubal.

ACT IV. Belmont. A room in Portia's house. The visit of Lorenzo and Jessica, Salerio. Act V. Scene 1. Venice. A court of justice. The bond.

Scene 2. Belmont. Outside of Portia's house. Lorenzo and Jessica.

PROLOG-INTRODUCTION 1 NOTE. The Prolog-Introductions are especially useful in case there are no costumes or scenery. They are largely for the purpose of giving atmosphere and settings for the plays. They will also serve in a measure to replace a printed program which is almost a necessity for the playlets in this book, unless the same material can be placed before the audience in some other way. In a school room of course it may be put upon a sign or written on the blackboard.

The scene is laid in Italy, in the age of the Renaissance. The city of Venice was one of the beauty spots of the earth, and the Venetian merchant carried trade to every part of the civilized world. To Venice flowed the gold of the West, the precious things and fine workmen of the East. The artist, architect, and fine carver in metals and wood brought Venice masterpieces of art and left her examples of design which are her pride to this day, and of richness, beauty, and delicacy of execution incomparable for all time.

Of one of her citizens in the sixteenth century, the Merchant of Venice is an example. Rich, cultured, generous, he is a man who thoroughly enlisted the sympathy of Shakespeare's time. His environment, however, made him cultivate a religious prejudice against the Jews, who were wronged and mistreated by the Christians at almost every turn. Shylock, a Jewish money lender, was treated by the Merchant with especial insult and contempt.

Small wonder that there burned in Shylock's soul the embers of revenge! If Shylock became narrow, his cramped soul was not entirely his own fault. If you can identify yourself with Shylock and feel the injustice that is done him, you can realize the bitterness that welled up in his heart; for from every seed of injustice sown into this world, there springs up, with weedy strength, revenge. The story of Shylock's embittered soul and the terrible lesson that the Merchant learns through him represent a mightier idea in the world than merely a good play. Whatever the play may have meant in Shakespeare's day, to-day it has become a plea for those who, isolated and looked down upon, cannot be expected to see and feel and act as other people may. When will ungenerous customs, un-understanding minds, unsympathetic hearts perceive the disaster they invite?

1 Prolog-Introduction. The Prolog lines may be taken by Salerio.

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Venice had numerous possessions in the Mediterranean, both on the mainland of Europe and on the islands. From east to west, the wealth of the merchants of Venice was constantly seen and realized,

To all of Shylock's kind the lesson should be evident. Revenge is a barren, worthless, futile thing. It never will succeed in anything but harm unto one's self.

Other characters to be recognized are Shylock's daughter, Jessica, and his servant, Launcelot, who both desert him-one for young Lorenzo; the other for Bassanio.

The story of Portia and of her wooing by Bassanio cannot be included, except as the scenes bear directly on the story and experiences of Shylock. Their story is another playlet.

However, Bassanio appears first in our opening scene, accompanied by his friend the Merchant, who is named Antonio.


Scene 1. A street in Venice

Antonio and Bassanio enter (R.].1 Antonio. Well, tell me now what lady is the same

To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage,

That you today promised to tell me of.
Bassanio. In Belmont is a lady richly left;2

And she is fair and, fairer than that word,
Of wondrous virtues. Sometimes from her eyes
I did receive fair speechless messages.
Her name is Portia.
Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth,
For the four winds blow in from every coast
Renowned suitors; and her sunny locks
Hang on her temples like a golden fleece, 4
And many Jasons come in quest of her.

1 R., from the right-hand side of the stage as one faces the audience; L., from the left-hand side; C., from the center (the door or opening at the back of the stage, in the center).

2 richly left: left a rich orphan.
3 Sometimes: at one time, formerly.

4 golden fleece. In Grecian mythology Jason went in quest of the golden fleece.

O my Antonio, had I but the means

To hold a rival place with one of them!
Antonio. Thou know'st that all my fortunes are at sea;

Neither have I money nor commodity
To raise a presenta sum. Therefore go forth;
Try what my credit can in Venice do.
That shall be racked, even to the uttermost,
To furnish thee to Belmont, to fair Portia.
Go, presently inquire, and so will I.

[Exeunt Antonio L., Bassanio R.] 3

[Scene 2. The same] A little later Bassanio returns, with Shylock (R.). Shylock. Three thousand ducats;4 well Bassanio. Ay, sir, for three months. Shylock. For three months; well. Bassanio. For the which, as I told you, Antonio shall be

bound.5 Shylock. Antonio shall become bound; well. Bassanio. Shall I know your answer? Shylock. Antonio is a good man; that is, he is sufficient.

Yet his means are in supposition: he hath an argosy bound to Tripolis,” another to the Indies, a third at Mexico, a fourth for England, and other ventures he hath, squandered abroad. But ships are but boards, sailors but men; there be land-rats and water-rats, water-thieves and landthieves, I mean pirates, and then there is the peril of waters, one: any one. present: immediate. 3 Stage directions beginning with the words enter, ezit, or exeunt should not be read aloud, nor should any other expression enclosed in square brackets ( ).

4 ducats (důk'áts): A silver ducat was worth about a dollar.

5 shall be bound: will give his bond; i.e. a written promise to pay, sealed with his seal, and with a specified forfeiture in case of nonfulfillment.

argosy (är'go-sť): a large ship. Tripolis: pronounced trịp'o-li.





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