The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice – Act II Scene 7 Summary

Plot Summary / The Story-line

We are back to Belmont where the Prince of Morocco is ready to try his luck in choosing the right casket. Portia leads him to the caskets. There are three caskets – one of gold, one of silver and one of lead. He must choose one of the three caskets. If he chooses the right casket, he will win Portia as his wife.

There is an inscription on each casket. On the lead casket it is mentioned “who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” On the silver casket it is written “who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves”. Finally the golden casket mentions “who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire”. Portia informs him that the lucky casket holds a portrait of her.

The prince reviews the inscription and rejects the lead casket. He thinks that the lead casket is worthless. He won’t give or risk anything for lead. Moreover, it cannot contain the portrait of Portia because she is worthier than the mean lead.

Then he reads the inscription written on the silver casket. He thinks for a long time. He revises the words “get much as he deserves”. He thinks, he deserves Portia. But he does not believe that Portia’s father would keep his daughter’s picture in a silver box. So, he rejects the silver casket.

Morocco thinks that the golden casket must contain the portrait of Portia whom all men in the world desire. So, he selects the golden casket.

Portia gives him the key. He opens the gold casket and gets a skull with a scroll in its empty eye socket. The scroll provides the message “All that glisters is not gold”. It also advises him to be as wise and matured in judgement as he is bold. Thus, Morocco is defeated. He departs with his followers.

Commentary on Act II, Scene 7

This scene is an important one in the sense that we are exposed to the actual caskets and the inscriptions on those for the very first time here. Moreover, for the first time we see a potential suitor of Portia to choose a casket in an attempt to win Portia’s hand. All this makes the scene exciting.

It is clear to us that Portia’s father imputed his daughter’s fortune to a game of pure chance. The inscriptions provide the clue of the right casket which can hold the portrait of Portia. But Morocco does not understand the clue.

The truth is that Shakespeare does not represent Morocco as a perfect suitor of Portia. And the audience find him as a bragger and wish to see him fail in his attempt.

Morocco is a person who is moved by outward appearance and not by inner beauty. On the other hand, he urges Portia not to judge him by his dark skin. However, through the message on the scroll inside the gold casket he learns a lesson and gets a realization about his own character. Actually, the casket scene serves Shakespeare’s moral.

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