The Merchant of Venice
Act 2, Scene 1
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
Trumpets play. The prince of MOROCCO , a brown-skinned man dressed in all white, enters, followed by three or four servants dressed in costumes like his. PORTIA, NERISSA, and their ATTENDANTS enter.
Mislike me not for my complexion,
The shadowed livery of the burnished 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 feared the valiant. By my love I swear
The best-regarded virgins of our clime
Have loved it too. I would not change this hue
Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen.
Don’t hold my skin color against me. I was born and raised in the sun, which is why I’m dark-skinned. But I’m as red-blooded as any man. Show me the best-looking person born in the freezing north, where the sun barely thaws the icicles. I’ll win your love by cutting myself to prove to you I have redder blood than he does. I’m telling you, madam, my skin color has made brave men fear me and Moroccan girls love me. I wouldn’t change it except to make you think of me, my darling queen.
In terms of choice I am not solely led
By nice direction of a maiden’s eyes.
Besides, the lottery of my destiny
Bars me the right of voluntary choosing.
But if my father had not scanted me
And hedged me by his wit to yield myself
His wife who wins me by that means I told you,
Yourself, renownèd Prince, then stood as fair
As any comer I have looked on yet
For my affection.
Being good-looking isn’t the only way to my heart, you know. I have other criteria for choosing a husband. Not that it matters, because the box test takes away my free choice anyway. But if my father hadn’t restricted me like this—forcing me to marry whoever wins his test—then you’d have had as good a chance to marry me as any of the suitors I’ve met so far, prince.