The Comical History of the Merchant of Venice

Antonio is the Merchant of Venice. As the play opens, his mind is 'tossing on the ocean' -along with his livelihood.

Venice was the key to Europe's trade with Asia. Merchants like Antonio sent ships as far as London,
laden with valuable silks, perfumes and spices.

But his state of mind is not surprising. It was always a risky venture - merchants could lose all if their ships encountered pirates or sandbanks.

Extract from The Merchant of Venice, which begins with Anthony's lament. He says, "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 stuffe tis made off, whereof it is borne, I am to learne: & such a want-wit sadness makes of me, That I have much ado to know myself." Salarino replies, "Your minde is tossing on the Ocean, There where your Argosies with portly sayle, Like Signiors and rich Burgars on the flood, Or as it were the Pageants of the Sea, Doe over-peere the petty traffiquers, That cursie to them, do them reverence, As they flie by them with their woven wings."

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