Belmont. A room in Portia’s house.
(Prince of Morocco; Followers; Portia; Nerissa)
The bragging Prince of Morocco introduces himself to Portia, who flatters him. He declares his intention of undertaking the choice of caskets, though Portia reminds him that he must vow never to marry if he is unsuccessful. He is determined all the same. (49 lines)
Flourish cornets. Enter the Prince of Morocco, a tawny Moor, all in white, and three or four Followers accordingly, with Portia, Nerissa, and their Train.
Mislike me not for my complexion,
The shadowed livery of the burnish’d sun,
To whom I am a neighbor and near bred.
Bring me the fairest creature northward born,
Where Phoebus’ fire scarce thaws the icicles,
And let us make incision for your love,
To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine.
I tell thee, lady, this aspect of mine
Hath fear’d the valiant; by my love, I swear
The best-regarded virgins of our clime
Have lov’d it too. I would not change this hue,
Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen.
In terms of choice I am not solely led
By nice direction of a maiden’s eyes;
Besides, the lott’ry of my destiny
Bars me the right of voluntary choosing.
But if my father had not scanted me,
And hedg’d me by his wit to yield myself
His wife who wins me by that means I told you,
Yourself, renowned Prince, then stood as fair
As any comer I have look’d on yet
For my affection.
Even for that I thank you;
Therefore I pray you lead me to the caskets
To try my fortune. By this scimitar
That slew the Sophy and a Persian prince
That won three fields of Sultan Solyman,
I would o’erstare the sternest eyes that look,
Outbrave the heart most daring on the earth,
Pluck the young sucking cubs from the she-bear,
Yea, mock the lion when ’a roars for prey,
To win thee, lady. But alas the while!
If Hercules and Lichas play at dice
Which is the better man, the greater throw
May turn by fortune from the weaker hand:
So is Alcides beaten by his rage,
And so may I, blind fortune leading me,
Miss that which one unworthier may attain,
And die with grieving.
You must take your chance,
And either not attempt to choose at all,
Or swear before you choose, if you choose wrong
Never to speak to lady afterward
In way of marriage; therefore be advis’d.
Nor will not. Come bring me unto my chance.
First, forward to the temple; after dinner
Your hazard shall be made.
Good fortune then!
To make me blest or cursed’st among men.