Launcelot Monologue (Act 2, Scene 2) | Monologues Unpacked

Launcelot Monologue (Act 2, Scene 2)

Written by on | Monologues Unpacked

Today we’re going to be breaking down this fantastic Launcelot monologue from the Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. This is a great monologue for anyone with an upcoming audition for a Shakespearean comedy, or anyone just wanting to brush up their comedy skills. This monologue is chock full of word play, jokes, and big characterisation. Let’s take a look…

Context

Meet Bassanio, a young Venicean of noble birth who wants to woo the heiress of Belmont, Portia. He needs money to get to Belmont and so he asks his friend Antonio to loan it to him. Unfortunately for Bassanio, Antonio is a bit skint at the moment and says he’ll cover the bond if Bassanio can find a lender. And so Bassanio goes to the wealthy Jewish man, Shylock. Shylock agrees to loan him the money on the condition that should he not get it back he will take a pound of Bassanio’s flesh as collateral. And so after some deliberation he agrees and readies himself to go to Belmont with his friend Gratiano, but is met by Launcelot Gobbo, a servant of Shylock, and his Father Old Gobbo who come to Bassanio asking to enter his service instead…

Original Text

Certainly, my conscience will serve me to run from this Jew, my master. The fiend is at mine elbow and tempts me, saying to me, ‘Giobbe, Lancelet Giobbe, good Lancelet’, or ‘Good Giobbe’, or ‘Good Lancelet Giobbe, use your legs, take the start, run away’ my conscience says, ‘No; take heed, honest Lancelet, take heed, honest Giobbe’, or, as aforesaid, ‘Honest Lancelet Giobbe, do not run, scorn running with thy heels.’ Well, the most courageous fiend bids me pack. ‘ Via ,’ says the fiend, ‘away,’ says the fiend, ‘for the heavens, rouse up a brave mind,’ says the fiend, ‘and run.’ Well, my conscience, hanging about the neck of my heart, says very wisely to me: ‘My honest friend Lancelet’, being an honest man’s son, or rather an honest woman’s son, for indeed my father did something smack, something grow to – he had a kind of taste – well, my conscience says, ‘ Lancelet , budge not.’ ‘Budge,’ says the fiend. Budge not,’ says my conscience. ‘Conscience,’ say I, ‘you counsel well. Fiend,’ say I, ‘you counsel well.’ To
be ruled by my conscience, I should stay with the Jew my master, who, God bless the mark, is a kind of devil; and, to run away from the Jew, I should be ruled by the fiend, who, saving your reverence , is the devil himself. Certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnation, and, in my conscience, my conscience is but a kind of hard conscience, to offer to counsel me to stay with the Jew. The fiend gives the more friendly counsel: I will run, fiend, my heels are at your commandment; I will run.

Unfamiliar Language

Fiend: Devil
Take Heed: Wait
Aforesaid: Said before
Scorn: Look down on/Tell off/Punish
Via: Go
Rouse: Conjur
Smack: Dishonest
Grow-To: Unfaithful
Mark: Man

Modern Translation

Certainly my conscience wants me to run away from my master, this Jewish man. But the devil is in my ear saying ‘Gobbo, Launcelot Gobbo, good Launcelot’, or ‘Good Gobbo’, or ‘Good Launcelot, get moving, run away!’ but my conscience says ‘No wait, honest Launcelot, wait, honest Gobbo’, or as I said before ‘honest Launcelot, don’t run, look down on running away’.
Well, the brave devil keeps telling me to pack my things! ‘Go!’ the devil says, ‘Get away!’the devil says, ‘for heaven’s sake, strengthen your convictions!’ the devil says ‘and run!’.
Well my conscience hanging from my heart has these wise words: ‘My honest friend Launcelot’, being the son of an honest man, or rather the son of an honest woman given my father has done some dishonest and unfaithful things – he had a certain taste for it. Anway so my conscience says ‘Launcelot, don’t move’, ‘Go’ says the devil, ‘Don’t move’ says my conscience.
So I say to my conscience ‘Conscience, you give good advice’ and then to the devil I say ‘Devil, you also give good advice’. If I follow my conscience then I should stay here with my master, who, God bless the man, is a kind of devil himself, and if I listen to the devil, then I’d be ruled by the devil who is the devil himself. So it simply must be that my Jewish master is the devil himself, and so my conscience is being a very tough conscience advising me to stay with my master. So the devil is a lot nicer. I will run Devil, my feet are at your commandment, I will run!

Notes on Performance

Okay so the first thing to note about this monologue is just how much fun you can have with the words. Where there’s repetition there’s opportunity for comedy through word play. Go through the script and mark out all of the repeated words and phrases and use those to your advantage by leaning into the absurdity of the repetition.

The next thing to note is how much fun can be found in the different characterizations. There’s really four characters being spoken about in the monologue: The conscience (or the angel), the fiend (the devil), Launcelot the storyteller, and of course past Launcelot. The last is important to keep in mind as this isn’t happening in the present, Launcelot is recounting a spiritual journey. It just happens to be very silly. This is almost as if Hamlet had another monologue after Act 3, Scene 1 in which he recounted his internal monologue as to whether or not to be, or not to be and just wasn’t as eloquent.

Lastly, as always, play for truth. Comedy is never funny for the audience if the character or the actor thinks they’re being funny. Play it truthfully but be aware that you’re being funny.


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is made up of professional actors, acting coaches and writers from around the world. This team includes Andrew, Alex, Emma, Jake, Jake, Indiana, Patrick and more. We all work together to contribute useful articles and resources for actors at all stages in their careers.

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