The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice – Act II Scene 1 Summary

Plot Summary / The Story-line

In this scene the prince of Morocco comes to Belmont to select the right casket among the three (gold, silver and lead). He wants to win the hands of Portia in marriage. The prince requests Portia not to judge him for his dark skin. He tells that his skin is dark for regional effect. He assures Portia that his blood is as red as other fairest Europeans and he is as brave as her other suitors.

Portia here reminds him that her judgment does not matter. It depends on her father’s will. She also ironically says if she had any chance to judge then Morocco stands an equal chance (think ‘similar fate’ to get the irony) as the other suitors she had already met.

With a lengthy description of his own bravery and heroism the prince asks Portia to lead him to the caskets where he would try to test his luck. Portia warns him about the harsh rule that he must remain unmarried forever if his selection is wrong.

“never speak to lady afterward
In way of marriage”.

The prince accepts this condition. Both Portia and the prince go to have their dinner after which he will take his chance.

Commentary on Act II, Scene 1

In this scene we are introduced to the prince of Morocco. We get a clear picture of his character too. At first, Morocco presents an imperfect excuse to be born and raised in the sun for his dark skin. He talks with excessive pride. He narrates the story of his bravery and heroism. Actually, Morocco wants to create a good impression in Portia’s mind. His main motive is to prove himself superior to the other suitors of Portia.

As Portia mentions the penalty for incorrect selection of the casket, Morocco uses the reference of Hercules (Hercules could be beaten by his servant because of luck). It indicates that he believes in luck (fatalistic character). However, unlike the other suitors he does not escape without an attempt. Depending on luck he takes the risk to select the casket.

Morocco’s proud nature creates an unfavourable impression in the mind of Portia as well as that of the audience. Thus, the audience is prepared to see him as an unworthy suitor and does not expect him to choose the right casket.

On the other hand, Portia’s explanation about the casket mentions the harsh rule of her Father’s will. Here we see Portia as a humble girl. In the previous scene she was displeased on hearing the news of Morocco’s arrival. But here she shows her gentle behavior towards the prince of Morocco. She does not heartily accept him as her suitor though.

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