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Shakespeare's play, 'The merchant of Venice' - what do we learn about the character of each suitor both from the comments he makes about the caskets and the choice he makes?

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SAVROOP KAUR WHAT DO WE LEARN ABOUT THE CHARACTER OF EACH SUITOR BOTH FROM THE COMMENTS HE MAKES ABOUT THE CASKETS AND THE CHOICE HE MAKES? WHAT LESSON IS SHAKESPEARE TRYING TO TEACH US THROUGH THE CASKET SCENES? Shakespeare's play, 'The merchant of Venice', is set in the city of Venice but also has a subplot set in the town of Belmont. In Belmont, a rich heiress named Portia is visited by suitors who all wish to win her hand in marriage. Each suitor that visits Portia has to submit a kind of lottery in accordance with her dead fathers will: they are each shown three caskets, one of gold, another of silver and a third of lead. One box contains Portia's picture and the suitor who chooses that box wins her hand in marriage. In the course of the play, three suitors visit Portia, but what do the comments made by each one and their choices tell us about their characters? The first suitor to arrive is the Prince of Morocco. The prince of Morocco makes much of his appearance and bravery. The prince of Morocco has brown, tawny skin, and is a native African. He shows how he knows that people may judge him by this quite often as his first words in the play are: " Mislike me not for my complexion..." This shows us how the prince is quite paranoid about the fact that he has dark skin. The prince continues his speech and talks about his bravery: "I tell thee, lady, this aspect of mine Hath feared the valiant;........." ...read more.


He too reads each inscription on the caskets and makes his decision after pondering over them. SAVROOP KAUR The prince firstly refers to the leaden casket: "You should look fairer, ere I give or hazard" The prince takes one look at the casket and discards it without another thought. This implies how the prince of Arragon, just like the prince of Morocco, passes judgments on things, especially the lead casket, by their looks and appearance. The prince then looks at the golden casket and comments after reading the inscription: "I will not choose what many men desire, Because I will not jump with common spirits, And rank me with the barbarous multitudes." The prince's comments made here tell us how he does not associate himself with other men and sees himself as 'different'. He does not want to be a part of the 'ordinary crowd' and refers to people who choose the golden casket as the 'fool multitude'. The prince of Arragon next turns to the silver casket and after reading the inscription over again, makes some comments: "...For who shall go about To cozen fortune, and be honourable Without the stamp of merit? Let none presume To wear an undeserved dignity;" From this we can see how the prince sees himself as a honourable man. Arragon says he will no try to cheat fortune by pretending to have great honour without submitting a proper claim to it. This shows us how he thinks himself to be honest and honourable. ...read more.


After Bassanio makes his speech, he decides to choose the lead casket: "Thy plainness moves me more than eloquence, And here choose I; joy be the consequence!" Bassanio makes his choice and inside, he finds the picture of Portia, winning her hand in marriage. Bassanio's choice was wise and so he won Portia's hand in marriage. In the scenes of the caskets, it is evident that Shakespeare is trying to convey a message to the audience. The lesson that Shakespeare is trying to teach us is that beautiful things are not always the same on the inside. Shakespeare has used the scrolled messages in each scene to express the moral of each suitor's choice: "All that glisters is not gold..." The golden casket's scroll uses this simple phrase, which is a well-known proverb, to say how beautiful things are not always the best. The skull, which is also contained in the casket, is a sign of death for the prince because it symbolises that his reasoning with the casket was too bold and he risked too much "Some there be that shadows kiss..." The silver casket's scroll uses the word 'shadow' to continue the theme on appearances, which is the theme of the silver casket; a shadow is only an appearance, not a reality. The picture of the fool is used to show how Arragon was a fool to choose the silver casket when he tried to be clever. "You that choose not by the view, Chance as fair, and choose as true!" The leaden casket's scroll gives the final message of how if you do not judge by outward appearance then you are sure to succeed and triumph. ...read more.

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