Friday, 8 May 2015


At some point in high school we were doing The Merchant of Venice. Our teacher was a tall dame nearing retirement. She was always impeccably dressed, with a hint of expensive jewellery. Frau something-or-other was intimidating yet friendly, intent on teaching us to have ambitions whilst also making us appreciate the beauty of the language. 

This day, we were nearing the end of the play, and I knew the scene would come. The one I had heard quoted before, the one I (mis)wrote on my jeans, the one thing Shakespeare wrote besides 'to be or not to be, that is the question' that I can't forget. 

Always these lines: 

To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,
it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and
hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,
mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my
bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction.

The Merchant of Venice,3,i.

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