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began to make his preparations. He took into his service Launcelot Gobbo, a clownish fellow who had left the service of Shylock, and set out for Belmont. He was accompanied by his friend Gratiano, who had just assisted an5 other friend, Lorenzo, in running away with Jessica, the Jew's daughter.
Meanwhile, at Belmont, several high-born suitors had been endeavoring to win Portia as their wife. By her
father's will, the man she was to marry was the one who, 10 from three caskets of gold, silver, and lead, should choose the
one in which her portrait had been placed. She had talked over the qualities of the various gentlemen with Nerissa, her maid, finding none of them to her liking; indeed, the only
one for whom she had a good word was Bassanio, whom she 15 saw once before when he visited the house in her father's
lifetime among the retinue of a Venetian nobleman. At length two suitors tried their fortune, the Prince of Morocco and the Prince of Arragon. These chose the caskets
of gold and silver respectively, but neither contained the 20 portrait, and Portia was delighted at their failure. Then
came Bassanio, and Portia, letting him see by many a word and look how she loved him, awaited with anxiety the choice he would make. He passed by the caskets of gold
and silver, choosing the leaden one, which contained the 25 portrait. So he and Portia were happily betrothed, and she
gave him a ring which she made him promise never to part with. At the same time Nerissa, with whom Gratiano had fallen in love, had betrothed herself to him and given him a like present.
At this moment Lorenzo and Jessica arrived at Belmont, with Solanio, who brought Bassanio a letter from Antonio. It appears that Shylock had been in a terrible fury at the flight of his daughter, who took away with her a large
sum of money and a valuable jewel, and had grown still 35 more embittered against Antonio, believing him to be
concerned in her flight. And now the opportunity, had come for his revenge, for Antonio's ships were reported lost, and the time was drawing near for the repayment of the debt. Antonio, fearing that his life was soon to end, 5 wished Bassanio to come and see him before his death, though he was unselfish enough not to press him to come. Bassanio was much troubled by the letter, but Portia, as soon as she learned the facts, told him that he must at
once return to Venice, and carry money with him to satisfy 10 the Jew. Accordingly, he waited only to be married, and then with Gratiano set off for Venice.
Having arrived there, he endeavored to get Shylock to accept the money, but in vain. The day, being past,
he would have nothing but his bond. The case came into 15 court before the duke. Again the Jew was offered his
money, doubled, but again he refused to accept it, declaring that if the terms of the bond were not carried out, the boasted impartiality of the Venetian laws was a sham.
The duke, was about to dismiss the court until a learned 20 doctor of the law, Bellario, should arrive, when a lawyer's
clerk entered, bearing a letter from Bellario, in which he pleaded sickness as the reason of his not attending, but introduced a learned young man whom he sent in his place.
The young lawyer entered and was heartily welcomed by 25 the duke, who did not know that he was entertaining a lady
in disguise. For the “learned young man" was none other than Portia. When her husband had left Belmont, she had
gone off at once with Nerissa to see Bellario at Padua; he had heard from her the whole story and instructed her 30 in the law; she had persuaded him to let her represent
him in the court, and now she had come to save her husband's friend.
She began by assuring Shylock that the law was on his side, and when, in answer to her remark that he must be 35 merciful, he asked why, she gave a beautiful description
of mercy, showing how it was not only right, but wise to be merciful. Then, when Shylock had again refused thrice his money, she told Antonio that the Jew must have his pound of flesh, which delighted Shylock, who 5 called the disguised lady a wise young judge, a second Daniel. Then, just as Antonio's bosom was bared, and Shylock approached with his sharpened knife, Portia bade him stay. He must not shed one drop of blood, she told him, or all his goods were forfeited to the state.
Gratiano begun to mock the Jew, repeating ironically the compliments which he had bestowed on the wise young lawyer. Shylock was now willing to accept three times his money, but Portia would not have it so. She also
said that if he cut more or less than an exact pound, 15 he must lose all his goods and be put to death. The Jew
was overwhelmed, and then Portia relentlessly went on to show that having clearly made an attempt against the life of a citizen, one half of his goods must go to the injured
man, the other half to the state, and his life was at the 20 mercy of the duke. To show the mercy which Shylock
refused, the duke now gave him his life, and Antonio begged the duke to allow the Jew to keep half his property, on condition that he give up to Antonio the other half in trust
for his daughter's husband after his death, that he at once 25 become a Christian, and that he make a will in favor of
his daughter and son-in-law. Shylock, utterly broken down, agreed to it all, and left the court, saying he was not well.
Antonio and Bassanio then offered Portia payment for her services, which she refused. After some difficulty she 30 succeeded in getting her ring from Bassanio, while Nerissa, as her clerk, got hers from Gratiano.
Portia and Nerissa then returned home to Belmont, where Lorenzo and Jessica awaited them. Shortly afterward, on
a beautiful moonlight night, Bassanio and Gratiano arrived. 35 Their wives charged them with having parted with the rings, and pretended not to believe their account of the matter. Then explanations were made on both sides, and all ended happily, just as the faint streaks of dawn appeared in the sky.
The quality of mercy is not strained;
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From what play is this extract taken?
(Shakespeare's Plays, edited, with introductions and notes, are published in the Educational Publishing Company's Fifteen Cent Classics.)
WRITTEN IN MARCH, AT THE FOOT OF
William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Yorkshire, England, April 7, 1770. He was educated at Cambridge University, and afterward traveled in France and Germany. Upon his return from the Continent, he settled at Rydal Mount, in the beautiful Lake region of England. A fortunate legacy, and later a government position with light duties, supplied his simple wants and left him free to make poetry the serious occupation of his life. His first important work was a volume called “Lyrical Ballads,” the joint work of Wordsworth and Coleridge. It contained Coleridge's “Ancient Mariner” and a number of Wordsworth's poems, including the famous “Tintern Abbey.” In 1843, Wordsworth was made poet laureate. He died at Rydal Mount, April 23, 1850.