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The Merchant of Venice

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Enter PORTIA and NERISSA
PORTIA and NERISSA enter.

PORTIA
By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world.
PORTIA
Oh Nerissa, my poor little body is tired of this great big world.

NERISSA
You would be, sweet madam, if your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes are. And yet for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing. It is no mean happiness, therefore, to be seated in the mean. Superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.
NERISSA
You’d be tired, madam, if you had bad luck rather than wealth and good luck. But as far as I can tell, people with too much suffer as much as people with nothing. The best way to be happy is to be in between. When you have too much you get old sooner, but having just enough helps you live longer.

PORTIA
Good sentences, and well pronounced.
PORTIA
Good point, and well said.

10
NERISSA
They would be better if well followed.
NERISSA
It would be better if you actually applied it to your life.

PORTIA
If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men’s cottages princes' palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions. I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching. The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o'er a cold decree. Such a hare is madness the youth—to skip o'er the meshes of good counsel the cripple. But this reasoning is not in the fashion to choose me a husband. O me, the word “choose!” I may neither choose whom I would nor refuse whom I dislike—so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor refuse none?
PORTIA
You think it’s that easy? If doing good deeds were as easy as knowing how to do them, then everyone would be better off. Small chapels would be big churches, and poor men’s cottages would be princes' palaces. It takes a good priest to practice what he preaches. For me, it’s easier to lecture twenty people on how to be good than to be the one person out of twenty who actually does good things. The brain can tell the heart what to do, but what does it matter? Cold rules don’t matter when you’ve got a hot temper. Young people are like frisky young rabbits, and good advice is like a crippled old man trying to catch them. But thinking like this won’t help me choose a husband. Oh, the word “choose” is strange! I can’t choose who I like, or refuse who I dislike. I’m a living daughter still controlled by the wishes of her dead father. Isn’t it a pain that I can’t choose or refuse anyone, Nerissa?

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