Week 2 (Spring ’21): Act 2 – Act 3 Sc. 2

Hi! Your homework this week is to read Act II through Act III Scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice, watch my videotaped lectures below, and then post a comment about the assigned reading at the bottom of this page. The speeches that I refer to in my lectures are printed below each video. At the bottom of this page, below all of the videos, I give you some simple study questions to help you formulate a post. The study questions follow up on things I say in my lectures, so you may want to watch the videos first. Leave your post in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Noteworthy speeches in Merchant II.1-6:

Morocco to Portia, 2.1.1:

Mislike me not for my complexion,
The shadowed livery of the burnished sun,
To whom I am a neighbor and near bred.
Bring me the fairest creature northward born,
Where Phoebus' faire scarce thaws the icicles,
And let us make incision for your love
To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine.
I tell thee, lady, this aspect of mine
Hath feared the valiant.  By my love I swear
The best-regarded virgins of our clime
Have loved it too.  I would not change this hue,
Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen.

Portia's reply, 2.1.13:

In terms of choice I am not solely led
By nice direction of a maiden's eyes.
Besides, the lott'ry of my destiny
Bars e the right of voluntary choosing.
But if my father had not scanted me,
And hedged me by his wit to yield myself
His wife who wins me by that means I told you,
Yourself, renowned prince, then stood as fair
As any comer I ahve looked on yet
For my affection.

Jessica at 2.3.15:

Farewell, good Lancelot.
Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
To be ashamed to be my father's child.
But though I am a daughter to his blood,
I am not to his manners.  O Lorenzo,
If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife,
Become a Christian and thy loving wife!

Jessica at 2.6.33:

Here, catch this casket; it is worth the pains.
I am glad 'tis night, you do not look on me,
For I am much ashamed of my exchange.
But love is blind, and lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit;
For if they could, Cupid himself would blush
To see me thus transformed to a boy.

Noteworthy speeches in Merchant 2.7-9:

Morocco making his choice, 2.7.13:

Some god direct my judgment!  Let me see:
I will survey th'inscriptions back again.
What says this leaden casket?
"Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath."
Must give -- for what?  for lead?  Hazard for lead?
This casket threatens; men that hazard all
Do it in hope of fair advantages.
A golden mind stoops not to shows of dross;
I'll then nor give nor hazard aught for lead.
What says the silver with her virgin hue>
"Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves."
As much as he deserves?  Pause there, Morocco,
And weigh thy value with an even hand:
If thou be'st rated by thy estimation,
Thou dost deserve enough; and yet enough
May not extend so far as to the lady;
And yet to be afeard of my deserving
Were but a weak disabling of myself.
As much as I deserve?  Why that's the lady.
I do in birth deserve her, and in fortunes,
In graces, and in qualities of breeding;
But more than these, in love I do deserve.
What if I strayed no farther, but chose here?
Let's see once more this saying graved in gold:
"Who chooseth meshall gain what many men desire."
Why that's the lady!  All the world desires her;
From the four corners of the earth thy come
To kiss this shrine, this mortal breathing saint.
The Hyrcanian deserts and the vasty wilds
Of wide Arabia are as thoroughfares now
For princes to come view fair Portia.
The watery kingdom, whose ambitious head
Spits in the face of heaven, is no bar
To stop the foreign spirits, but they come
As o'er a brook to see fair Portia.
One of these three contains her heavenly picture.
Is't like that lead contains her?  'Twere damnation
To think so base a thought; it were too gross
To rib her cerecloth in the obscure grave.
Or shall I think in silver she's immured,
Being ten times undervalued to tried gold?
O sinful thought!  Never so rich a gem
Was set in worse than gold.  They have in England
A coin that bears the figure of an angel
Stamped in gold; but that's insculped upon:
But here an angel in a golden bed
Lies all within.  Deliver me the key.
Here do I choose, and thrive as I may.

It doesn't go well for Morocco, 2.7.62:

                    O hell!  What have we here?
A carrion death, within whose empty eye
There is a written scroll!  I'll read the writing.
       "All that glisters is not gold;
       Often have you heard that told.
       Many a man his life hath sold
       But my outside to behold.
       Gilded tombs do worms infold.
       Had you been as wise as bold,
       Young in limbs, in judgment old,
       Your answer had not been inscrolled.
       Fare you well, your suit is cold."
Cold indeed, and labor lost.
Then farewell heat, and welcome frost!
Portia, adieu.  I have too grieved a heart
To take a tedious leave.  Thus losers part.

Portia speaks once he's out of earshot, 2.8.78:

A gentle riddance.  Draw the curtains, go.
Let all of his complexion choose me so.

Solanio tells of Shylock's reaction to Jessica's flight, 2.8.11:

I never heard a passion so confused,
So strange, outrageous, and so variable
As the dog Jew did utter int he streets:
"My daughter!  O my ducats!  O my daughter!
Fled with a Christian!  O my Christian ducats!
Justice!  The law!  My ducats and my daughter!
A sealed bag, two sealed bags of ducats,
Of double ducats, stolen from me by my daughter!
And jewels -- two stones, two rich and precious stones,
Stolen by my daughter!  Justice!  Find the girl!
She hath the stones upon her, and the ducats!

Salarino describes Antonio and Bassanio's mutual affection, 2.8.35:

A kinder gentleman treads not the earth.
I saw Bassanio and Antonio part:
Bassanio told him he would make some speed
Of his return; he answered, "Do not so.
Slubber not business for my sake, Bassanio,
But stay the very riping of the time;
And for the Jew's bond which he hath of me,
Let it not enter in your mind of love.
Be merry, and employ your chiefest thoughts
To courtship and such fair ostents of love
As shall conveniently become you there."
And even there, his eye being big with tears,
Turning his face, he put his hand behind him,
And with affection wondrous sensible
He wrung Bassanio's hand; and so they parted.

Aaragon chooses the silver casket, 2.9.18:

And so have I addressed me.  Fortune now
To my heart's hope!  Gold, silver, and base lead.
"Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath."
You shall look fairer ere I give or hazard.
What says the golden chest?  Ha, let me see:
"Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire."
What many men desire -- that "many" may be meant
By the fool multitude that choose by show,
Not learning more than the fond eye doth teach,
Which pries not to th'inferior, but like the martlet
Builds in the weather on the outward wall,
Even in the force and road of casualty.
I will not choose what many men desire,
Because I will not jump with common spirits
And rank me with the barbarous multitudes.
Why then, to thee, thou silver treasure house:
"Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves."
And well said too, for who shall go about
To cozen fortune, and be honorable 
Without the stamp of merit?  Let none presume
To wear an undeserved dignity.
O that estates, degrees, and offices
Were not derived corruptly, and that clear honor
Were purchased by the merit of the wearer!
How many then should cover that stand bare,
How many be commanded that command;
How much low peasantry would then be gleaned
From the true seed of honor, and how much honor
Picked from the chaff and ruin of the times
To be new varnished.  Well, but to my choice.
"Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves."
I will assume desert.  Give me a key for this,
And instantly unlock my fortunes here.

He finds a fool's head, 1.9.53:

What's here?  The portrait of a blinking idiot
Presenting me a schedule!  I will read it.
How much unlike art thou to Portia!
How much unlike my hopes and my deservings!
"Who chooseth me shall have as much as he deserves."
Did I deserve no more than a fool's head?
Is that my prize?  Are my deserts no better?
                     What is here?
"The fire seven times tried this;
Seven times tried that judgment is
That did never choose amiss.
Some there be that shadows kiss;
Such have but a shadow's bliss.
There be fools alive iwis,
Silvered o'er, and so was this.
Take what wife you will to bed,
I will ever be your head.
So be gone, you are sped."

Noteworthy speeches in Merchant 3.1-2:

Shylock is furious, 3.1.49:

...If it [Antonio's flesh] will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge.  He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies -- and what's his reason?  I am a Jew.  Hath not a Jew eyes?  Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? -- fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject ot the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is?  If you prick us, do we not bleed?  If you tickle us, do we not laugh?  If you poison us, do we not die?  And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?  If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.  If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility?  Revenge.  If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example?  Why revenge!  The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

A glimpse of a young Shylock in love, 3.1.109:

TUBAL  One of them showed me a ring that he hand of your duaghter for a monkey.
SHYLOCK  Out upon her!  Thou torturest me, Tubal.  It was my turquoise; I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor.  I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.

Music plays (sung by Portia?) while Bassanio makes his choice, 3.2.63.  Notice the first verses rhyme with "lead":

Tell me where is fancy bred,
Or in the heart, or in the head?
How begot, how nourished?
reply, reply.
It is engendered in the eye,
With gazing fed, and fancy dies
In the cradle where it lies.
Let us all ring fancy's knell.
I'll begin it -- Ding, dong, bell.

Bassanio makes his choice, 3.2.73:

So may the outward shows be least themselves;
The world is still deceived with ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt
But being seasoned with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil?  In religion,
What damned error but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
There is no vice so simple but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts.
How many cowards whose hearts are all as false
As stairs of sand, wear yet upon their chins
The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars,
Who inward searched, have livers white as milk!
And these assume but valor's excrement
To render them redoubted.  Look on beauty,
And you shall see 'tis purchased by the weight,
Which therein works a miracle in nature,
Making them lightest that wear most of it.
So are those crisped snaky golden locks,
Which maketh such wanton gambols with the wind
Upon supposed fairness, often known 
To be the dowry of a second head,
The skull that bred them in the sepulcher.
Thus ornament is but the guiled shore
To a most dangerous sea, the beauteous scarf
Veiling an Indian beauty; in a word,
The seeming truth which cunning times put on
To entrap the wisest.  Therefore then, thou gaudy gold,
Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee;
Nor none of thee, thou pale and common drudge
'Tween man and man.  But thou, thou meager lead
Which rather threaten'st than doest promise aught,
Thy paleness moves me more than eloquence;
And here choose I.  Joy be the consequence!

Portia offers to marry Bassanio, 3.2.149:

You see me, Lord Bassanio, where I stand,
Such as I am.  Though for myself alone
I would not be ambitious in my wish
To wish myself much better, yet for you
I would be trebled twenty times myself,
A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times
More rich, that only to stand high in your account,
I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends,
Exceed account.  But the full sum of me
Is sum of something -- which to term in gross
Is an unlessoned girl, unschooled, unpracticed;
Happy in this, she is not yet so old
But she may learn; happer than this,
She is not bred so dull but she can learn;
Happiest of all, is that her gentle spirit
Commits itself to yours to be directed,
As from her lord, her governor, her king.
Myself and what is mine to you and yours
Is now converted.  But now I was the lord
Of this fair mansion, master of my servants,
Queen o'er myself; and even now, but now,
This house, these servants, and this same myself
Are yours, my lord's.  I give them with this ring,
Which when you part from, lose, or give away,
Let it presage the ruin of your love
And be my vantage to exclaim on you.

Discussion Board

Write a comment on The Merchant of Venice Act 2-Act 3, sc. 2 and post it in the comments section below.  Be sure to quote the text of the play at least once in your post.  Consider answering any of the following study questions:

1. As I note in my lectures, every Shakespearean comedy unfolds in two contrasting worlds:  there’s always a primary world, usually a very urban city, where the main characters live and where their hopes are crushed by parental authority, draconian laws, and restrictive social norms, and then a magical secondary world where the characters travel to be freed and transformed.  In The Merchant of Venice, the primary world is Venice and the secondary world is Belmont.  What does Shakespeare do to distinguish Belmont from Venice?  How is Belmont rendered an environment suitable for the characters’ transformation?

2. Last week we observed that money dominates the figurative language of this play.  Does the way that money is used in the language of Merchant evolve or change at all over the course of the play, or does it stay constant?

3. Shylock plays many different roles in this play:  villain, victim, anti-Semitic stereotype, critic of that stereotype, satirist of Christianity and Christians, devout Jew, secular merchant, domineering father, emasculated man, friend, widower.  Can you comment on a passage of the play where Shylock’s many dimensions are displayed in a particularly interesting manner?

4. Do you have your own take on the subplot of the three caskets?

I encourage you to reply to your classmates’ posts if you want to.  Also, feel free to ask questions that I can answer when we meet over Zoom.

33 thoughts on “Week 2 (Spring ’21): Act 2 – Act 3 Sc. 2”

  1. I agree with the analysis of Venice as a crushing city of law and Belmont as a joyful escape from that world where the characters can develop and be themselves. However, following up on my comment from last week, I would like to attempt to lighten the contrast between Venice and Belmont. Perhaps Venice is a more inspiring setting than it seems.
    When I think of a major Renaissance city, I feel as though it is an enchanting place of lively commerce, art, culture, and festivities. I am aware that my view is heavily biased by how medieval and Renaissance cities have been inaccurately portrayed in modern tv shows and movies, with their subplots about magic, fairies, and witches, but it is still my view nonetheless. There is something exciting about a hotspot of trade in long ago times: an exchange of rare and coveted items from far away lands; mysterious merchants trading gemstones, silks, animals, and exotic foods that one has never seen before. Venice is a vibrant and diverse city with a flow of knowledge, ideas, and secrets, as foreign travelers come from all over the world to make a living through trade. And it all relies on ships magically flying through the dangerous ocean to reach their destination safely, or individuals travelling past treacherous deserts or mountains to reach distant civilizations for new commodities.
    Belmont, on the other hand, is when we are first introduced to restrictive social norms and parental authority in a major plot-changing way, as Portia cannot choose her own husband, but must follow her dead father’s wishes. In Act I, Scene 2, Lines 22-24, which is very early on in the play, Portia says “O, me, the word “choose”! I may neither choose who I would nor refuse who I dislike.” This clearly causes Portia a great deal of stress.
    That being said, I still agree that Belmont is a beautiful place of love in the rural countryside, whereas Venice is presented as a place of greed in an urban and filthy city. Overall, Belmont is the more magical place, but I thought I’d try and argue the contrarian point of view.

  2. In my own opinion of the subplot of the three caskets, I think that it is honestly a little cliché. Right when I first started to read about the three caskets I knew that it would be the one casket of lead just because any smart writer such as Shakespeare would never make the right choice the one that everyone would think it is such as the gold or even the silver casket. The gold casket read, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire” (II.vii.5). The silver casket read, “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves” (II.vii.7). Finally the lead casket basically told the chooser that he will have to give and risk everything he has. In the end I do have to cut Shakespeare a little slack because the way he ties Bassanio to the theme of the lead chest is extremely well thought-out since Bassanio is the type of man who risks everything on a limb. Also this was written in the 16th century so maybe Shakespeare was the first person to ever create a piece of work that made the choice the least valuable one which was the lead casket and then everyone after him just copied him in their own works.

  3. The subplot of the three caskets is interesting because of each clue; the clue on the gold casket says “who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire,” the silver casket says “who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves,” and the lead casket says “who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” I believe that Shakespeare uses these caskets to describe the men that chose them; the prince of Morocco seems to put a lot of weight on outer appearances so he chooses the most beautiful casket, gold. He only judges Portia on her outer beauty and feels that many other men must desire her beauty as well. The prince of Arragon chooses the silver casket because he is arrogant (as implied in his name) and believes that he deserves the privilege of Portia’s hand in marriage. Finally, Bassanio chooses the lead casket; not only is the lead casket the least beautiful, but it also has the most threatening clue. However, the lead casket is the correct one and Bassanio wins Portia’s hand in marriage. I believe that Shakespeare made this choice to show that although Bassanio seems to have the least to offer on the outside (he is not rich nor is he a prince), he is the best choice for Portia because he is her only true love.

  4. #3:
    In Act III scene I of The Merchant of Venice, Shylock’s dimensions are displayed in a very interesting manner. Starting on line 49, Shylock begins a speech. Within this speech, Shylock is portrayed as a victim, a villain and a critic of the anti-Semitic stereotype. Within the speech, Shylock explains that although he is a Jew, it does not make him any different from a Christian. He explains that Jews and Christians bleed the same, their organs are the same, their body parts are the same, and many of them share similar motivations. While reading Shylock’s speech, Shakespeare’s audience has a slight feeling of remorse for Shylock. It is obvious that when he is made fun of simply because of his religion, it bothers him greatly. Shylock is a critic of the anti-Semitic stereotype because he implies that he does not hate someone simply because they are Christian, he hates Christians because of the way they treat him. Shylock channels his anger in the wrong ways sometimes, making him a villain (especially with Antonio). Towards the end of his speech, Shylock talks about revenge and how both Jews and Christians alike seek revenge when they feel hurt or taken advantage of. In a way, Shylock is trying to get across that him and the Christian characters are simply reflections of one another. For example, Antonio hates Shylock because he is Jewish. So, Shylock wants revenge on Antonio because of Antonio’s anti-Semitic actions.

  5. The way money is used in the language is mostly constant throughout the play, but there is a particular scene that disrupts the continuous flow. Since it is established that money dominates the figurative language of the play, I am only going to provide some examples and details (to focus more on the dynamic).

    Between Morocco and Portia’s interaction, it is evident that a human being (Portia seen as a prize) can be viewed as an object (money). Morocco says: (Act II, Scene 1, lines 25 and 32)

    To try my fortune.
    To win the lady.

    This exchange below (later in their conversation) further strengthens this concept that a prize (Portia) can be won and handed over just like an object (money). Portia: (Act II, Scene 7, lines 14-15)

    The one of them contains my picture, prince.
    If you choose that, then I am yours withal.

    The last example from this conversation is similar to how Bassanio first mentioned Portia to Antonio. Morocco’s choice of words uttered an object (shrine) followed by a noun (saint). He says: (Act II, Scene 7, line 46)

    To kiss this shrine, this mortal, breathing saint.

    Switching gears––what I wanted to allocate most of my attention to is the concept of how the interior matters more than the exterior. As I mentioned, the figurative language of money is dominant throughout the entire play, but it is evident that the casket scene (hints at) contradicts and challenges this concept to display that the use of language is slowly beginning to evolve. This is seen with the casket of lead with a portrait of Portia inside. The meaning behind this is to look past the glamorous illusion of wealth (how choosing the casket of gold left the Prince of Morocco with nothing) to see the real value within (Bassanio choosing the casket of lead and winning Portia’s hand). Here is what the scroll contains: the first is from the casket of gold (Act II, Scene 7, lines 73-74), and the second is from the casket of lead (Act III, Scene 2, lines 135-142)

    All that glisters is not gold––
    Often have you heard that told.

    You that choose not by the view
    Chance as fair and choose as true

    Extra: This is another example of intrinsic versus extrinsic, where Bassanio tells Portia that (after revealing he is broke on the outside) his value/worth is rich on the inside: (Act III, Scene 2, lines 265-266)

    I freely told you all the wealth I had
    Ran in my veins: I was a gentleman.

  6. The way money is used in this play evolves and changes as the play continues. It starts with Antonio using his good fortune and credit to help Bassiano to get to Belmont to try his luck at winning Portia’s hand in marriage. As we see in Act 3 scene 2, Antonio’s ships were all failed missions and his estate, credit, and debts are all crashing down on him. Shylock is threatening his flesh if he cannot pay these debts back and Antonio is pretty much out of options. Money goes from being a thing that could potentially get Bassiano married to Portia to potentially getting Antonio killed by Shylock due to the misfortunes that happened with his ships. As we move on with the play I’m sure we will see that money will dominate the scenes as Antonio’s life is now in danger and Bassiano wants to save him.

  7. The use of money related figurative language remains constant throughout the course of The Merchant of Venice. There are many instances where this is true in acts two and three, especially when a person is discussing Portia. One example in act two in the seventh scene when Morocco is thinking about which casket to pick he says “Or shall I think in silver she’s immured, Being ten times undervalued to tried gold? O sinful thought! Never so rich a gem was set in worse than gold” (line 52). In this quote Morocco compares Portia to a gem and states that she is much more valuable than anything below gold, which in this case he might not be directly referring to her monetary value but it implies such. Another example occurs in act three scene two when Bassanio is reading the note in the lead casket and it states “Since this fortune falls to you, be content and seek no new” (line 133). In this quote Portia is referred to as the “fortune” that falls to Bassanio. He is fortunate in that he can now be with her however the word choice can also speak of the monetary fortune that Bassanio now has access to.

  8. The way that money is used in The Merchant of Venice evolves & changes throughout the play. At the beginning of the play, we see that Antonio gives up almost his money to help Bassino get out of Shylock’s debt & helping Bassino get Portica to marry him. But in Act 2, Scene 1, lines 25-32, the conversation between Portica and the prince of Morocco shows that Portica is seen as a prize. The conversation begins with Morocco, and he states. “ To try my fortune. To win the lady”. Also, another example of money is when Bassino tells Portica that he needs to use some of her money to help Antonio pay back Shylock and that he is broke in Act 3, Scene 2, lines 265-266, “I freely told you all the wealth I had Ran in my veins: I was a gentleman.”

  9. Throughout Merchant of Venice the language used as a reference to money is constant through act 1 but it remains frequently used in acts two and three as well. In act three scene two line 133 we witness the note from the lead casket read by Bassanio in which states, “Since this fortune falls to you be content and seek no new.” Within the note the word “fortune” is referring to Portia in which she shall fall for Bassanio. This leads me to believe that he is after her money since he portrays how he has access to her wealthy “fortune.” We all witness the figurative language of money used in act three scene 2. At this time Antonio is better off filing for bankruptcy as all his ships are failing, not to mention his homes and debts are sinking as well. A possible result later on could well be the killing of Antonio by Shylock, I firmly can see that the figurative language in which money is used might alter as we went from act 1 to act 2 and 3 but it will continue to be used more often as its almost becoming a characteristic.

  10. When it comes to the three caskets I believe the father of portia cared more about who was right for her rather than someone who is considered noble or wealthy. For the father it wasn’t just about social status it was about the right one for Portia. In the beginning of this play portia is complaining about the rules her father has set up for her because she doesn’t get to pick who she loves but in the end the person who loved her for her picked the right casket. It wasn’t about looks like Morocco picked which was the golden casket. Loving someone doesn’t mean you love them for their looks only. Arragon chose the silver casket which was “who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.” this shows Arragon believes he is the rightful one to marry Portia but in the end it was Bassanio who chose the correct one. Portia had said previously in the play that she had liked Bassanio. Bassanio chose the lead one which was the correct one. Bassanio didn’t have money or was any kind of noble and was even the one in debt but still won. The others were too focussed on other aspects like beauty to see which one was correct but Bassanio was the right one for Portia. This all shows Portias father was looking after her even after he was gone. The father knew the right person for Portia wouldn’t be too arrogant or only focused on beauty to see which casket was correct.

  11. The three caskets in the play are made of Gold, silver and lead. Portia’s suitors were to select one of the caskets in hopes to find an image of Portia in order to win her hand in marriage. Before choosing a casket they have to agree that if they choose the wrong casket they are forbidden to ever marry. The first suitor to choose a casket was Morocco, he chose the golden casket because it said “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.”(Act II.7) Prince of Arragon chose the silver casket because it said “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves”.(Act II.9) Arragon chooses silver because it indicates he will receive what he deserves.(which he believes he deserves Portia and will take what he deserves.)His arrogance lead him to assume he is worthy of Portia. The third suitor to choose a casket was Bassanio, he chose the lead casket because it said “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” (Act He knows that true worth lies inside, even if the outside doesn’t look like much.

    The lottery is a test of character:
    I feel as though the caskets represented the characters that chose them. Morocco chooses the gold casket, showing he is brave, superficial and materialistic. Arragon chooses silver , showing his proud and arrogant nature. Bassanio chooses lead, showing he is clever and down to earth. Bassanio was just like the lead casket, even if the outside doesn’t look like much it’s what is inside that counts.

  12. Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, has two main worlds being Venice and Belmont. These worlds are not as contrasted as other Shakespearean plays, but still manage to differentiate from each other in subtle ways. Venice is usually portrayed as loud and bustling. It feels very public with characters constantly going in and out of the scenes that occur in Venice. The drama and misfortunes occur in Venice as well, being the place where the bond between Shylock and Antonio was created. In addition, some hostility can be seen in Venice such as Shylock’s outburst through the streets when he learns of his daughter leaving and robbing him. On the other hand, Belmont seems very calm with characters being very formal. Belmont seems to occur in an indoor area that is private and peaceful. Shakespeare adds the magical essence to Belmont by using the three caskets subplot and the old English folklore embedded in it. Shakespeare states on the note in the silver casket, “The fire seven times tried this; / Seven times tried that judgment is / That did never choose amiss. / Some there be that shadows kiss; / Such have but a shadow’s bliss. / There be fools alive, iwis, / Silvered o’er—and so was this. / Take what wife you will to bed, / I will ever be your head. / So begone; you are sped (2.9, 1183-1192).” The use of old English makes it seem more like a fairytale giving Belmont a magical essence. The environments in The Merchant of Venice may share some parallels, but are overall contrasted as Venice is more draconian and Belmont is more mystical.

  13. The three caskets are how Portia is handling the forced marriage by her deceased father. Each casket differs in color/material, and each of them have a different saying. The gold casket says, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire”, the silver casket says, “Who chooseth me will get what he deserves”, and the lead casket says, “Who chooseth me must hazard and give all he hath”. I believe that the subplot of the three caskets correlates with the men who are choosing them. Each man’s personality is shown through the casket that they choose. The Prince of Morocco is very worried with the appearance of things and is very bold. He decides on the gold casket, not only because it is the most beautiful, but because he believes that all the world desires Portia and she could never be placed in something worth less than gold, so this must be the correct casket to pick. The Prince of Arragon is very narcissistic and arrogant. He chooses the silver casket because he believes that he deserves to marry Portia and he believes he deserves only the best of things. Bassiano is a risk taker and he is not afraid to sacrifice anything, so he chooses the lead casket in which Portia’s image was found.

  14. Belmont is a place of romance and fantasy is a place where anybody can go there with the idea that they will become rich or find riches. This is where people can get marry and be able to live a happy life, which makes Venice that bad place. This is a place where you can escape from the world and is able to live in the dreamy bubble everyone has. Venice is a place that nobody wants to live since Jessica has to disguise herself as a male in order to escape. This makes it seem that they can’t be themselves and have to move out or live somewhere else that they can be happy. Act 2 Scene 4 lines 34- 42 “How I shall take her from her father’s house….. Fair Jessica shall be my torchbearer.”
    Lorenzo is in love with Jessica so they decide to run away from Venice and get marry in Belmont. As a daughter, she couldn’t do anything since their father is the one controlling her and decides her future but she decides to change it by going to Belmont. In Belmont, even though Portia can’t decide for her future she still has riches which makes her powerful and have a man come and try to win her. The laws are different as well in Belmont there are laws set out if someone doesn’t follow them it unlike Venice the law or payment is depending on fate for example Antonio’s fate depends on if Bassanio can pay off the loan to Shylock. In Belmont, the transformation that a character gets after being there is that anything will go right and they will live a happy life and not have to worry about the negative outcomes. Basically, those who are facing any love crisis or money crisis they will get that fixed once they step into Belmont.

  15. One passage of the play where I found many different sides of Shylock to be particularly interesting is in Act 3 Scene 1, Lines 52-72. In this passage, Shylock first shows his villain side in the first few lines when he mentions that he wants to seek revenge on Antonio. Shylock then proceeds to show a more humane side of himself when he says in lines 63 and 64, “…If you prick us, do we not bleed?” When he says this he is explaining that Jews and Christians are the same on the inside and therefore should be treated alike. Then Shylock starts to point out how Christians are hypocrites. Their teachings tell them that they should turn the other cheek when someone wrongs them, but instead, Shylock points out that Christians actually seek revenge. Shylock proceeds to make the argument that he should then be allowed to seek revenge against Antonio for this reason. I thought that this passage really portrayed the many dimensions that Shylock’s manner possesses.

  16. Throughout the play Shakespeare uses money as figurative language. In Act II, Scene VII we see the three suitors Morocco, Arragon and Bassanio choose their casket in hopes to win Portia’s hand in marriage. When it was Morocco’s turn to choose a casket he went for the gold. In the casket there is a scroll that reads “All that glisters is not gold- often you have heard that told. Many a man his life hath sold but my outside to behold. Gilded tombs do worms unfold. Had you been as wise as bold, young in limbs, in judgement old, your answer had not been enscrolled. Fare you well, your suit is cold” (Act II, Scene VII, Lines 73-81). From this scroll we know that Morocco has clearly chosen incorrectly and will not be marrying Portia. Portia’s father not only points out how Morocco is unwise, but that he is greedy. By picking gold rather than silver or lead we can see that Morocco cares more about wealth than Portia’s hand in marriage.

  17. The three caskets contained one of three things gold, silver, and lead. Portia wanted to get married, but wanted to obey by her fathers wishes. She had the three men choose one casket and whichever had the portrait of Portia inside it would be able to marry her. The Prince of Morocco, chose the casket with gold and inside was a skull and a scroll that said “everything that glisters is not gold…”. He chose the gold because he is conceited and believed he was the best option for Portia, but I took that as him only wanting Portia for her wealth. The Prince of Arragon chose the silver casket that contained a picture of a grinning fool. He was not happy with this and said how he came to Belmont with one fool’s head and left with two. Finally Bassanio chose the casket containing lead and inside had Portia’s portrait. The two seem to be in love with each other and Portia presented a ring to Bassanio for their marriage. By choosing lead Bassanio basically is saying how yes the wealth is a factor, but not more than his love for Portia.

  18. Although the environments of Venice and Belmont have their similarities, Shakespeare makes it known to the audience that Belmont is the ethereal and more favorable city for growth through the way of life there. In Belmont, the rich women live and there isn’t as much conflict between characters. Everything seems to be rather laid back and enjoyable. In Venice; Bassanio’s old home and coincidentally the home of the play’s “villain”, there is trouble brewing because of the tensions between characters. Bassanio has unresolved issues in Venice so when he travels to Belmont, it’s almost like he’s on vacation and ready to start anew. This fresh start is a way for Shakespeare to imply that Belmont is a place of positive growth and transformation.

  19. I think that Shylock’s many dimensions are displayed in an interesting manner in Act 3, Scene 1, lines 1275 – 1295. He says:

    To bait fish withal; if it will feed nothing else,
    it will feed my revenge
    If a Christian wrong
    a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian
    example? Why, revenge! The villainy you teach me I
    will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the

    In this passage, he responds to Salarino’s comment on the cruelty of demanding Antonio’s flesh. Shylock explains how he’s faced nothing but hatred as a Jew and how he’s just expected to take it without reacting. It serves to humanize him in a way that hasn’t been done before, providing even further context for his hatred towards Christians and almost makes me feel as though his extreme desire to take Antonio’s flesh is merited. This passage radiates with hatred, yet at the same time it sheds an even brighter light on Shylock’s many struggles as a character just to be treated as a simple human being. The antagonistic role that Shylock is supposed to fill is clouded by this passage. I can’t help but see his point of view and where he is coming from in his desire for vengeance. At the same time, it shows how he cannot live a satisfying life without seeking this vengeance and inflicting twice the harm on his oppressors. He is stooping down to the level of the people that have caused havoc in his life, and in my opinion that makes him no better off in the eyes of God than they are.

  20. 1. To distinguish Belmont from Venice, Shakespeare describes the wealth of the characters who live in Belmont, such as Portia. To describe Belmont, Shakespeare describes characters like Bassanio who have money, but are struggling with their money and use their money to impress others. Belmont is rendered an environment suitable for the characters’ transformation because characters who go to Belmont need to make themselves presentable and they will spend a lot of money to fit in.

    2. The way that money is used in the language in the play stays the same but also changes. I noticed that money was mentioned when a messenger was telling Portia that a young Venetian man sent her many gifts and that him doing that made him look like the best candidate for her. Also, in act 3, Shylock’s daughter traded many gifts that were very valuable and it made Shylock very upset. Money was described in Act 2 and 3 more specifically in relation to valuable objects instead of money itself. These valuable objects hold high monetary value and are very important to the characters.

    3.Shylock’s many dimensions are displayed in Act 2, Scene 5, lines 27-38. In these lines, he calls everyone Christian fools and then at the end states how he is in no mood to go to dinner with them, but says that he is going to go anyway. In previous lines, Shylock states how Bassanio, Gratanio and the others don’t like him and that they just invited him to “flatter” him. It seems as if he is contradicting himself, one part of him is upset and angered and the other part of him is making himself go.

    4. I think that the three caskets foreshadow the death of three people throughout the play, but I am not sure. In Shakespeare’s plays death is usually foreshadowed so that could be a possible subplot of the three caskets. The three caskets, one gold, one silver and one lead each have a saying written on them. I think it is kind of interesting how the correct choice is the one that no one thinks it would be. I also think it is interesting how each person chooses a casket with a saying which represents their personality the best. Bassanio picks the lead casket, which says “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath”. I think that it shows Bassanio’s character because when he is making his choice he talks about how he believes that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover and that people are too judgemental. The prince of Morocco chooses the gold casket, which says “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.” This shows how the prince of Morocco is thinking only about what he wants, which is Portia. The prince of Arragon chooses the silver casket, which says “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.” This shows that he is selfish and believes that he should get what he deserves. Both of these other men are unable to give and risk everything they have for Portia, they judge the caskets on their “covers” which reflects on and shows their true personalities.

  21. The concept of a riddle whose choices result in different outcomes is one that has been told many times, turning into a bit of a cliche, acting as a ‘which cup is the coin under’ sort of device. Shakespeare, who very well may have been the first to use such a device in text, employs this quite beautifully in my opinion. The whole situation plays on the greed, vanity, and thirst for power that typical ‘men’ usually have in Shakespeare plays, especially the characters we aren’t supposed to like. So, to win Portia’s hand in marriage, the suitor must choose the correct casket. The three suitors, Bassanio, The Prince of Morocco, and the Prince of Arragon are presented with the three caskets; one of gold, one of silver, and one of lead. On each of the caskets is a clue to help guide the suitors. Or alternatively, a trick/bribe/temptation to weed out the unworthy. On the gold, “who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire,”, on the silver, “Who chooseth me will get what he deserves”, and on the silver, “Who chooseth me must hazard and give all he hath”. Let’s look at the gold casket first. The gold casket represents the greedy men of the world, those whose sole concern is themselves and their wealth. They are materialistic and the suitor who chooses this casket will not win, because they will put their wealth above Portia and will only see her as an object. They only want something because others desire it. The silver casket, again, represents greedy men, but not those who are so blatantly greedy. They will make compromises in order to fulfill their dreams. Additionally, the inscription gives the idea that those who choose this casket only choose it because they think they deserve very much and think incredibly highly of themselves. They will think so highly of themselves that they won’t treat Portia with equal respect. And lastly, the lead casket. ‘Ugly’ on the outside, but durable and strong, holding a treasure within. Looks and wealth are not the most important thing when it comes to a relationship. A husband must protect and support and care for his wife, and risk everything he has for her. He must give himself up to his wife, and give all of himself to protect her and cherish her. The lead casket is ultimately the correct choice because when looks and money and status fall away, the most important part of a marriage is the support the couple gives each other, willing to risk it all for their love and for their future. This is Portia’s father’s way of weeding out the unworthy and ensuring that Portias suitor will be a good man who treats her right, and would risk all that he has for her.

  22. In Shakespeare’s writings there are always two different worlds. One that is always better than the other, where a lot of people want to be. In this story it is Belmont. Bassanio is traveling to Belmont to meet Portia in the hopes of marrying her. In this story you can tell the difference in the two places, Venice and Belmont. Venice seems to be all about business while Shakespeare makes Belmont seem very put together and proper. An example of this is when Gratiano was begging Bassanio to take him to Belmont with him, Bassanio explained that he can only if he behaves properly. Gratiano answers with “If I do not put on a sober habit,
    Talk with respect, and swear but now and then, Wear prayer books in my pocket, look demurely, Nay more, while grace is saying, hood mine eyes Thus with my hat, and sigh and say “amen,” Use all the observance of civility Like one well studied in a sad ostent
    To please his grandam, never trust me more”(Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 193-200). This shows that Belmont is a much more elegant and put together.

  23. As I was reading Act 2-Act 3, scene 2, I really intrigued by the way Portia used the three caskets; gold, silver and lead to help her decide who her husband will be. All three men that opened the caskets had different takes on the opening of their results. First, was the Prince of Morocco. As he approached the caskets he reads the caption on them. His take on the three caskets were as follow; the gold casket read ” Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desires” (Line 5) and he believes that many men desire Portia. He is aware that many men want to be be her husband due to her beauty and wealth. Morocco chooses the Gold Casket because he feels that even though he deserves the best and is worth it (which is what he thinks about the silver casket) that the gold is more wealthier and worth then the silver. It seems that lead is not even an option for him when making his decisions as he sees the lead casket to represent low class and not worth anything.
    Next, you have The Prince of Aragon comes into this willingly to try to choose the right casket. His take the three caskets are as follow; the gold he believes is not the right choice because unlike Morocco he believes that he does not want someone that all men desire. He says, “I will not choose what many men desire, Because I will jump with common spirits and rank me withe the barbarous multitudes” (lines 30-32). This shows that he has no interest in joining the band wagon in what other men want. As for the silver he believes that people should earn what they desire and for that he believes that he himself has come a long way which is why he deserved to choose the silver casket. I noticed looking back that Aragon does not say much about the lead casket, which shows me that he is truly believe he deserves the best because of what he has done.
    Lastly, we have Bassanio whom I was curious as to how did this happen so nicely for Portia! She pretty much got the person who she wanted to be without really trying. As I was reading Act 3, scene 2 where Bassanio goes through the casket challenge, I was kind of hoping that he chose the wrong casket and then I began thinking how would that have effected the rest of the play. Bassanio just kind of knew that the lead casket was the right one because he felt that it was the most pure out of the three and promising. He says that ” which rather threaten’st than dost promise aught, the paleness moves me more then eloquence” (Lines 105-106). This shows Bassanio’s thought on the lead casket.
    Comparing the three men using their choices, I feel that they each had their own goal and lifestyle that was different from one another. The Prince of Morocco feels that he should have the best of everything because of his own personal wealth and looks as Portia as more of a Trophy wife than a housewife type. Then, the Prince of Aragon I feel has had to work a little more harder to get where he is at in his life. He definitely seem to feel that his work makes him deserve everything because he has done something to earn it where as the Morocco Prince just wants the best for his personal looks. Lastly, Bassanio is the most humble of the three because he doesn’t choose the casket based on his looks or standards but mainly from the pureness and from the inside out.

  24. I think that in Act 3 scene 1 it’s interesting to see more of Shylock’s villainous side, and also his views on Christians and Antonio specifically. He says that Christians and Jews are all human and should be treated the same; they all bleed and have the same composition within their bodies, but then he lowers himself to the same level as the people treating him wrong. He decides that since it’s “okay” for Antonio to seek revenge, he should do it too. He calls Antonio and Christians in general hypocrites, since they preach turning the other cheek yet always seek revenge, but then in a way kind of does the same thing himself. I think that this passage shows a lot about Shylock and his character.

  25. #1:
    In The Merchant of Venice, the primary world is Venice and the secondary world is Belmont. Shakespeare shows the difference between Belmont and Venice by showing that Venice is more of a “world” where it is more formal. Venice represents matters of business and where law predominates. But, with Belmont, Shakespeare shows it as more as somewhere to go on “vacation” or the place everyone wants to be because it is where love and marriage are the centers of attention. How is Belmont rendered an environment suitable for the characters’ transformation? Lastly, Belmont is rendered an environment suitable for the characters’ transformation because they (for example Jessica and Lorenzo) are leaving because they want to get married but can’t because Jessica is ruled by her father, but she is hoping to change that once she steps foot in Belmont.
    Jessica 2.6.33…
    “But love is blind, and lovers cannot see
    The pretty follies that themselves commit;
    For if they could, Cupid himself would blush
    To see me thus transformed to a boy”.
    They think that leaving Venice to go to Belmont to get married will solve their problems, it may, it may not. It is perceived that Belmont is the place where there are no worries and that life is good.

  26. At the beginning of the play, money is seen as a gift of friendship. Money is one of the largest dominating problems throughout The entire show. In the beginning, it is used to help pay off debts to relieve stress however ending up broke is not where anyone thought they would be. And Antonio often denies that part of his sadness it’s coming from his poor wealth. As we go farther along money almost seems to become Portia’s most wanted quality. The men need to use her money to pay back Shylock. She becomes a prize of gold rather than a person. In a way money almost becomes a person itself that is wanted by all. They all seem to love money and despair when they have a lack it. I feel as though money and wealth will continue to come more of a cause of anxiety and sadness. The money will start to become more and more inhuman as it is lust after.

  27. 2. The way that money is used in the language of the play seems to evolve over the course of the play. While money was crucial during the first act, in the second act, money becomes more of an important figure. I noticed it becoming more of an important figure during Shylock’s speeches after Jessica ran away. In Act 2, Scene 8 Solanio and Salarnio are talking about Shylock’s reaction after Jessica ran away: “As the dog Jew did utter in the streets. / ‘My daughter, O my ducats, O my daughter! / Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats! / Justice, the law, my ducats, and my daughter” (14-17). I thought that this was an important line because Shylock seemed more concerned with the fact that his daughter took money from him. Later on in the play, Shylock calls his daughter a thief. One would think that Shylock would be more concerned with the fact that his daughter left him rather than that she stole money from him.

  28. In the assigned reading for this week, we return to the contest for Portia’s hand in marriage, and more specifically, the choosing of the rather symbolic caskets. As we learn in Act 2, Scene 7 of The Merchant of Venice, the “correct” choice in order to “win” Portia is the lead casket, which appears to be the cheapest of the three. The lead casket, however, warns the chooser that they must be willing to sacrifice all of what they have. In choosing the lead casket, Bassanio wins Portia’s wifehood and sacrifices both “what many men desire” (II,vii,5) and “as much as he deserves” (II,vii,7).

    The choosing of the caskets and more importantly Portia’s potential wifehood is rather symbolic, in that it represents much of what is taught in the Christian faith. A common theme throughout the play thus far, Christianity is symbolic of power when it comes to choosing the right casket. Choosing the lead casket teaches both Bassanio and viewers of the play that true wealth isn’t always represented at face value. Bassanio sacrificed material wealth and riches for what truly made him happy — Portia. This ultimately reflects the core values and teachings of Christianity, which are faith and charity. In this sense, charity is seen more as a sort of sacrifice, but Bassanio nevertheless had faith in choosing the less appealing of the three caskets, knowing he would be rewarded.

  29. 3. In the second act, Shylock adds on to the anti-Semitic stereotypes of valuing money over the importance of relationships. Shylock does so by referring to his servant as a waste of money and wants to get rid of the servant, because they are not efficient enough to turn enough positive benefits for Shylock.

    Shylock says to Jessica(Act 2, Scene 5, Lines 46-53)
    The Patch is kind enough, but a huge feeder,
    Snail-slow in profit, and he sleeps by day
    More than the wildcat. Drones hive not with me,
    Therefore I part with him, and part with him
    To one that I would have him help to waste
    His borrowed purse. Well, Jessica go in,
    Perhaps I will return immediately.
    Do as I bid you, shut doors after you.

  30. Belmont and Venice are very different in setting and theme. Venice is ruled by money and has draconian laws in the form of Antonio’s bond to Shylock. I would say that Belmont is not so different from the magical secondary worlds common to a Shakespeare play. Belmont has the motifs of a fairy-tale. In fairy-tales the king will demand that some impossible task be done and as a reward whoever accomplishes the task will be married to the princess; she is always the fairest maiden of all. This does remind me a lot of the casket subplot. It is a riddle with three choices (there are often 3 tasks or choices in a fairy-tale). The vows to never marry another woman do remind me of similar things in fairy-tales. Though I can’t think of a specific example there is always some high stakes involved in fairy-tales if a task is failed. I’m more familiar with the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales than I am with English folklore but a lot of these motifs come up over and over again.

  31. When it comes to the three caskets each one had something different inside of them. The caskets had gold, silver, or lead. We see that Portia was conflicted on who to get married with and she decided to do something. Portia had three different men choose a casket and the one who chose the one with a picture of her would marry her. It is interesting because the Prince of Morocco wants to marry her and he believes only he should be marrying her. The Prince of Arragon choose silver because he thought he will receive what he deserves. Bassanio chose the casket with lead and a picture of her which symbolize hat he can claim her as his wife.

  32. Shylock is a very interesting character. While I sympathize with the victimhood he feels from peoples anti-Semitic disposition against him, it is also hard to like his villainous side even though he had no intention of coming across in that way. Shylock does not find reason in the hate people hold against him just because of his race. He does not find any stark differences between Jews and Christians in neither body or spirit. While Shylock and Christians both hate each other there is a key difference in the source of that hate. Christians hate Shylock purely based on his religion while Shylock used the Christians hate towards him as a source for his own hatred. Shylock’s reasons for hatred are much more valid that the hate that the Christians have towards him because it is not based on their religion, gender, or race. However this hatred against those who despise him often leads Shylock down the wrong path. Shylocks relationship with Antonio in particular is where the villainous side of him comes out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s