Sunday, 19th July 2015

by Joshua Gaskell

Another late-sixteenth-century manuscript, newly discovered in the Duke Humfrey’s Library of the Bodleian, apparently contains a previously unknown textual variant of the second casket scene from The Merchant of Venice (Act 2 Scene 9):

Enter the Prince of Aragon, his train and Portia. Flourish of cornets

PORTIA Behold, there stand the caskets, noble prince.
If you choose that wherein I am contained,
Straight shall our nuptial rites be solemnized.
But if thou fail, without more speech, my lord,
You must be gone from hence immediately. […]

ARAGON And so have I addressed me. Fortune now
To my heart’s hope! Gold, silver, and base lead. […]
Why, then to thee, thou silver treasure-house.
Tell me once more what title thou dost bear:
‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.’

EDMONDS Deal or no deal?

ARAGON Deal.
I will assume desert; give me a key for this,
And instantly unlock my fortunes here.   [He opens the box]
What’s here? The portrait of a blinking idiot.

EDMONDS Gutted.   [Exeunt]

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