Martin Foreman
drama and fiction

A Pound of Flesh

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A Pound of Flesh
text is provisional and subject to change
concept and all new text © Martin Foreman
full script available:

Act One, Scene One
Venice, a tavern

ANTONIO In sooth I know not why I am so sad.
It wearies me, you say it wearies you.
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
what stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn
and such a want-wit sadness makes of me
that I have much ado to know myself.
SALARINO Your mind is tossing on the ocean,
there where your argosies with portly sail
do overpeer the petty traffickers
as they fly by them with their woven wings.
Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,
the better part of my affections would
be with my hopes abroad. I should be still
plucking the grass to know where sits the wind,
peering in maps for ports and piers and roads
and every object that might make me fear
misfortune to my ventures. My wind cooling my broth
would blow me to an ague when I thought
what harm a wind too great might do at sea.
I should not see the sandy hourglass run
but I should think of shallows and of flats,
and see my wealthy Andrew docked in sand.
From thoughts as these I deem Antonio
is sad to think upon his merchandise.
ANTONIO Believe me, no. I thank my fortune for it.
My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,
nor to one place; nor is my whole estate
upon the fortune of this present year.
Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad.
SALARINO Why then, you are in love. Some maiden fair
with raven hair as bright as moonlight
has quietly crept into your vacant heart
and there lays siege to your good humour.
SALARINO Mayhap you lust after a riper Eve
who shares the serpent's fruit and her warm bed
with lawful husband or young paramour.


SALARINO Then must you pine for woman yet unseen
except in nightly dreams or lovelorn youth's
dull sonnets.
ANTONIO By my honour and my wealth,
my life, I swear no woman young or old
shall ever steal my soul's affection. No,
my worthy friends are closer to my heart
than silken shirt or leather doublet
and one among them has long dwelt within.
SALARINO Then let us say you are sad because you are not merry;
and 'twere as easy for you to laugh and leap,
and say you are merry because you are not sad.
Here comes Bassanio, your most noble kinsman,
Gratiano and Lorenzo. Fare you well.
I leave you now with better company.
ANTONIO I take it your own business calls on you,
and you embrace th' occasion to depart.
SALARINO Good morrow, my good lords.
GRATIANO Good signior, when shall we laugh? Say, when?
You grow exceeding strange. Must it be so?
SALARINO I'll make my leisure to attend on yours.


LORENZO My Lord Bassanio, since you have found Antonio,
we two will leave you. But at dinner time
I pray you have in mind where we must meet.
BASSANIO I will not fail you.
GRATIANO You look not well, Signior Antonio.
You have too much respect upon the world.
They lose it that do buy it with much care.
Believe me, you are marvelously changed.
ANTONIO I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano,
a stage where every man must play a part,
and mine a sad one.
ANTONIO Let me play the fool.
with mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,
and let my liver rather heat with wine
than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man whose blood is warm within
sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
There are a sort of men whose visages
do cream and mantle like a standing pond
and do a willful stillness entertain
with purpose to be dressed in an opinion
of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit,
as who should say "I am Sir Oracle,
and when I ope my lips, let no dog bark."
I'll tell thee more of this another time.
Come, good Lorenzo.-Fare you well a while.
I'll end my exhortation after dinner.
LORENZO Well, we will leave you then till dinner time.
I must be one of these same dumb wise men,
for Gratiano never lets me speak.
GRATIANO Well, keep me company but two years more,
thou shalt not know the sound of thine own tongue.


BASSANIO Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them, they are not worth the search.
ANTONIO Well, now we meet as you did ask, tell me
what ails thee, sweet Bassanio?
BASSANIO                             Ails me?
Methinks thou see'st into my heart as keenly
as the eagle spies the careless rabbit
ere swoops to snatch and bring it to its lair.
ANTONIO There not to eat but take it as strange mate.
Again I say, what ails thee?
BASSANIO 'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
how much I have disabled mine estate
by something showing a more swelling port
than my faint means would grant continuance.
Nor do I now make moan to be abridged
from such a noble rate. But my chief care
is to come fairly off from the great debts
wherein my time, something too prodigal,
hath left me gaged. To you, Antonio,
I owe the most in money and in love,
and from your love I have a warranty
to unburden all my plots and purposes
how to get clear of all the debts I owe.
ANTONIO I pray you, good Bassanio, let me know it,
and if it stand within the eye of honour, be assured
my purse, my person, my extremest means
lie all unlocked to your occasions.
BASSANIO In my school days, when I had lost one shaft,
I shot his fellow of the selfsame flight
the selfsame way with more advisèd watch
to find the other forth; and by adventuring both
I oft found both. I urge this childhood proof
because what follows is pure innocence.
I owe you much, and, like a willful youth,
That which I owe is lost. But if you please
to shoot another arrow that self way
which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt,
as I will watch the aim, or to find both
or bring your latter hazard back again,
and thankfully rest debtor for the first.
ANTONIO You know me well, and herein spend but time
to wind about my love with circumstance;
and out of doubt you do me now more wrong
in making question of my uttermost
than if you had made waste of all I have.
Then do but say to me what I should do
that in your knowledge may by me be done,
and I am prest unto it. Therefore speak.
BASSANIO In Belmont is a lady richly left,
and she is fair, and, fairer than that word,
of wondrous virtues. Sometimes from her eyes
I did receive fair speechless messages.
Her name is Portia, nothing undervalued
to Cato's daughter, Brutus' Portia.
Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth,
for the four winds blow in from every coast
renownèd suitors, and her sunny locks 9m 10s
hang on her temples like a golden fleece,
which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos' strond,
and many Jasons come in quest of her.
O my Antonio, had I but the means
to hold a rival place with one of them,
I have a mind presages me such thrift
that I should questionless be fortunate!
ANTONIO Thou know'st that all my fortunes are at sea.
Neither have I money nor commodity
to raise a present sum. Therefore go forth:
try what my credit can in Venice do;
that shall be racked even to the uttermost
to furnish thee to Belmont to fair Portia.
Go presently enquire, and so will I,
where money is, and I no question make
to have it of my trust, or for my sake.

Prologue           Final Scene           Structure & Characters

Born in Dundee and growing up in Edinburgh, Martin Foreman spent many years living and working in London and on five continents. That international perspective is reflected in his fiction, particularly The Butterfly's Wing and First and Fiftieth.

Since 2011 he has focused on theatre, initially as an actor, more recently as a playwright and director. In 2012 he won the London Solo Festival New Writing Award and in 2018 the Pitlochry Festival Theatre Short Play Award. He currently lives in Perthshire but mostly directs and supports theatre in Edinburgh.

His playscripts and fiction are available from Amazon, ebay and Arbery Books.