Belmont. A room in Portia’s house.
(Portia; Nerissa; Lorenzo; Jessica; Balthazar)
As Lorenzo praises Portia for offering to get Antonio out of trouble, the lady insists that it is nothing. She entrusts Belmont to Lorenzo and Jessica as she and Nerissa have decided to spend the time of their husbands’ absence in a nearby monastery. Actually, Portia has a completely different plan in mind. She sends a letter to an old family friend, the noted lawyer Bellario, while she and Nerissa leave for Venice, planning to arrive there dressed as men. (87 lines)
Enter Portia, Nerissa, Lorenzo, Jessica, and Balthazar, a man of Portia’s.
Madam, although I speak it in your presence,
You have a noble and a true conceit
Of godlike amity, which appears most strongly
In bearing thus the absence of your lord.
But if you knew to whom you show this honor,
How true a gentleman you send relief,
How dear a lover of my lord your husband,
I know you would be prouder of the work
Than customary bounty can enforce you.
I never did repent for doing good,
Nor shall not now: for in companions
That do converse and waste the time together,
Whose souls do bear an egall yoke of love,
There must be needs a like proportion
Of lineaments, of manners, and of spirit;
Which makes me think that this Antonio,
Being the bosom lover of my lord,
Must needs be like my lord. If it be so,
How little is the cost I have bestowed
In purchasing the semblance of my soul,
From out the state of hellish cruelty.
This comes too near the praising of myself,
Therefore no more of it. Hear other things:
Lorenzo, I commit into your hands
The husbandry and manage of my house
Until my lord’s return. For mine own part,
I have toward heaven breath’d a secret vow
To live in prayer and contemplation,
Only attended by Nerissa here,
Until her husband and my lord’s return.
There is a monast’ry two miles off,
And there we will abide. I do desire you
Not to deny this imposition,
The which my love and some necessity
Now lays upon you.
Madam, with all my heart,
I shall obey you in all fair commands.
My people do already know my mind,
And will acknowledge you and Jessica
In place of Lord Bassanio and myself.
So fare you well till we shall meet again.
Fair thoughts and happy hours attend on you!
I wish your ladyship all heart’s content.
I thank you for your wish, and am well pleas’d
To wish it back on you. Fare you well, Jessica.
Exeunt Jessica and Lorenzo.
As I have ever found thee honest-true,
So let me find thee still. Take this same letter,
And use thou all th’ endeavor of a man
In speed to Padua. See thou render this
Into my cousin’s hands, Doctor Bellario,
And look what notes and garments he doth give thee,
Bring them, I pray thee, with imagin’d speed
Unto the traject, to the common ferry
Which trades to Venice. Waste no time in words,
But get thee gone. I shall be there before thee.
Madam, I go with all convenient speed.
Come on, Nerissa, I have work in hand
That you yet know not of. We’ll see our husbands
Before they think of us.
Shall they see us?
They shall, Nerissa; but in such a habit
That they shall think we are accomplished
With that we lack. I’ll hold thee any wager,
When we are both accoutered like young men,
I’ll prove the prettier fellow of the two,
And wear my dagger with the braver grace,
And speak between the change of man and boy
With a reed voice, and turn two mincing steps
Into a manly stride; and speak of frays
Like a fine bragging youth, and tell quaint lies,
How honorable ladies sought my love,
Which I denying, they fell sick and died.
I could not do withal. Then I’ll repent,
And wish, for all that, that I had not kill’d them;
And twenty of these puny lies I’ll tell,
That men shall swear I have discontinued school
Above a twelvemonth. I have within my mind
A thousand raw tricks of these bragging Jacks,
Which I will practice.
Why, shall we turn to men?
Fie, what a question’s that,
If thou wert near a lewd interpreter!
But come, I’ll tell thee all my whole device
When I am in my coach, which stays for us
At the park-gate; and therefore haste away,
For we must measure twenty miles today.