Twinkling of an eye Introduction
I'm Lancelot. I'm a servant and clown, but my real job is fooling around, making smart-aleck comments, and bagging on other characters. And you know what I think?
Father, in. I cannot get a service, no; I have
ne'er a tongue in my head. Well, if any man in
Italy have a fairer table which doth offer to swear
upon a book, I shall have good fortune. Go to,
here's a simple line of life: here's a small trifle
of wives: alas, fifteen wives is nothing! eleven
widows and nine maids is a simple coming-in for one
man: and then to 'scape drowning thrice, and to be
in peril of my life with the edge of a feather-bed;
here are simple scapes. Well, if Fortune be a
woman, she's a good wench for this gear. Father,
come; I'll take my leave of the Jew in the twinkling of an eye. (2.2.145-156)
Who Said It and Where
Lancelot Gobbo, Shylock's servant, hates his job.
Who wouldn't? Shylock is condescending, particular, and just plain rude.
In this scene, Lancelot stands before Shylock's house, having a very serious and hilariously muddled conversation with himself about his desire to quit his job. He says his conscience tells him to stay with Shylock out of loyalty, but some fiend in his brain is telling him he should run away. He reasons crookedly: since his conscience tells him to stay with the devil incarnate, clearly the thing to do is run away, loyalty be damned.
Lancelot decides that he can't stick around serving Shylock because being Shylock's servant has left him in such a state that you can count each of his ribs (i.e., he's not paid enough to eat properly). So what's a servant to do? Find a new master of course. As luck would have it, Bassanio is looking for a new servant, and Lancelot likes the guy.
Bassanio enters the scene and hears a convoluted attempt on the part of both Lancelot and his father to get the younger man employed by Bassanio. Don't worry, it's all good. Shylock's already given over Lancelot's service to Bassanio, though Lancelot will be leaving a rich Jew to serve a poor gentleman. Lancelot insists he's okay with this, and Bassanio sends Old Gobbo off with young Gobbo to buy some fancy new threads.
Lancelot will leave Shylock right away.