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,

Sleep when he wakes, and creep into the jaundice

By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio—

I love thee, and `tis my love which speaks—

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!”

O my Antonio, I do know of these

That therefore only are reputed wise

For saying nothing, when I am very sure

If they should speak, would almost damn those ears

Which, hearing them, would call their brothers fools……..

When they talk, they think everybody else should keep quiet,

And that even dogs should stop barking.

I know a lot of men like that, Antonio.

The only reason they`re considered wise is because they don`t say anything.

I`m sure if they ever opened their mouths, everyone would see what fools they are.

~~ The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare ~~


The opening lines of any play or book needs to quickly introduce the characters and mood of the piece in order to keep our attention; and so Gratiano is shown as the happy-go-lucky fool of the piece, while his friend, Antonio, is presented as someone who tends towards introspection, caution and worry. Yet, although Gratiano is the jester of the piece, his words contain a deep measure of wisdom: his speech on love and force of habit inhibiting the course and passion of true love is a benchmark of spirit and good sense.

Some men appear to look wise by either saying nothing or talking a good deal of nothing: their words appear Oracular and full of wisdom but are so much verbal diarrhea: there are others who need to act rather than think on every single angle to achieve their heart`s desire. Antonio needs to cut down on thinking and talking, and just act on his desires or lose everything.

There is a time for talking and a time for action: Shakespeare is also telling us that an empty vessel will always make the loudest noise.


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