ACT I. I. 1 Scene I. Enter Duke, , Gaoler, , and other Attendants.
Æge. Proceed, , to procure my fall,
And by the doom of death end woes and all.
Duke. Merchant of Syracusa, plead no more;
I am not partial to infringe our laws:
The enmity and discord which of late
5 Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your duke
To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,
Who, wanting guilders to redeem their lives,
Have seal’d his rigorous statutes with their bloods,
10 Excludes all pity from our threatening .
For, since the mortal and intestine jars
’Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us,
It hath in solemn synods been decreed,
Both by the and ourselves,
15 To admit no traffic to our adverse towns:
If any born at Ephesus be seen
At Syracusian marts and fairs;
Again: if any Syracusian born
20 Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies,
His goods confiscate to the duke’s dispose;
Unless a thousand marks be levied,
To quit the penalty and him.
Thy substance, valued at the highest rate,
25 Cannot amount unto a hundred marks;
Therefore by law thou art condemn’d to die.
Æge. Yet my comfort: when your words are done,
My woes end likewise with the evening sun.
Duke. Well, Syracusian, say, in brief, the cause
30 Why thou departed’st from thy native home,
And for what cause thou camest to Ephesus.
Æge. A heavier task could not have been imposed
Than I to speak my unspeakable:
Yet, that the world may witness that my end
35 Was wrought by , not by vile offence,
I’ll utter what my sorrow gives me leave.
In Syracusa was I born; and wed
Unto a woman, happy but for me,
And , had not our hap been bad.
40 With her I lived in joy; our wealth increased
By prosperous voyages I often made
To ; till my factor’s death,
Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse:
45 From whom my absence was not six months old,
Before herself, almost at fainting under
The pleasing punishment that women bear,
Had made provision for her following me,
And soon and safe arrived where I was.
50 There not been long but she became
A joyful mother of two goodly sons;
And, which was strange, the one so like the other
As could not be distinguish’d but by names.
That very hour, and in the self-same inn,
55 A woman was delivered
Of such a , male twins, both alike:
Those, for their parents were exceeding poor,
I bought, and brought up to attend my sons.
My wife, not meanly proud of two such boys,
60 Made daily motions for our home return:
Unwilling I agreed; alas! too
A league from Epidamnum had we sail’d,
Before the always-wind-obeying deep
65 Gave any tragic instance of our harm:
But longer did we not retain much hope;
For what obscured light the heavens did grant
Did but convey unto our fearful minds
A doubtful warrant of immediate death;
70 Which though myself would have embraced,
Yet the incessant of my wife,
Weeping before for what she saw must come,
And piteous plainings of the pretty babes,
That mourn’d for fashion, ignorant what to fear,
75 Forced me to seek delays for them and me....