Plot Summary / The Story-line
In this scene we are introduced to the prince of Arragon who arrives to choose casket in order to win Portia. He learns the conditions and accepts the challenge. If he fails he would leave immediately, he would never reveal which casket he selects and he would never marry another woman.
The prince of Arragon reads the inscription on the lead casket which mentions “who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath”. He rejects it right away because it is not beautiful enough for him to risk something for it.
Then he reads the inscription on the gold casket which mentions “who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire”. Arragon thinks that it will be foolish to choose this casket because most people go by the outward appearance of things. He does not want to represent himself as one of those common men. So, he rejects the gold casket.
Then Arragon reads the inscription of the silver casket. It mentions “who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves”. He ponders on how the society will look like in such a perfect world where everyone gets only what they deserve. He also assumes that he deserves the very best. So, he selects the silver casket.
Inside the silver casket he gets a picture of an idiot with a scroll. The scroll indicates that the men who choose to go with silver don’t get real joy but only the shadow of joy. Arragon’s selection is proved to be an idiotic job. He leaves the place unhappily.
Then a messenger comes to inform that a young Venetian is coming. Portia is anxious. She and Nerissa hope that the newcomer may be Bassanio.
Commentary on Act II, Scene 9
This scene is very important for the development of the plot. Here the audience come to know the rules one has to abide by after elimination. This scene also tells in advance that the lead casket is the right casket and Bassanio might be the winner of the game.
Shakespeare perhaps use the name of the character ‘Arragon’ because of his arrogant nature. He is driven by his ego.
After Morocco and Arragon’s failure, Portia understands the reason of this game. This scene serves a good message for the audience “do not judge a book by its cover”.