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The Merchant of Venice Act 2 Scene 7 Summary
The subplot of Jessica’s elopement is over and we are brought back to the main plot. The scene takes place in Belmont. There are colour and brightness, pomp and show. This is the first of the famous casket scenes. The Prince of Morocco, after his visit to the temple, is ready to choose the casket.
As he goes about his choice, the audience comes to know about the details of the caskets. The first casket is of Gold with the inscription, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire 1.The second one made of Silver, says ‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves’ and the third one made of lead has the inscription who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath’.
The prince rejects the lead one thinking that no one will hazard for anything for the base metal; moreover, how can lead contain the portrait of such a worthy lady! He meditates over the Silver. By his birth, fortune and grace and love he deserves Portia. But finally he settles for the gold as silver is of much less value than gold. All the world desire Portia. Men from all corners of the world have come seeking for her hand.
When he opens it, he finds it to his utter consternation a skeleton with a scroll reading, ‘All that glitters is not gold.’ The prince is upset with his failure. He bids farewell to Portia and to his dreams. Portia feels relieved and hopes that all, like the Prince, should make such errors.
The Merchant of Venice Act 2 Scene 7 Summary Word Meanings
- as blunt – as dull as the lead
- withal – with the casket
- golden – noble
- aught – anything
- with an even hand – impartially
- graces – natural virtues
- breeding – upbringing
- shrine – a holy place
- mortal breathing saint – Portia is the holy person whom pilgrims have come to kiss
- Hyrcanian deserts – a province in ancient Persian Empire
- thoroughfares – main roads
- watery kingdom – ocean
- foreign spirits – suitors from abroad
- brook – a stream
- damnation – base thought
- gross – coarse
- rib – enfold
- cerecloth – waxed cloth
- obscure – dark
- immur’d – locked up
- insculp’d – engraved
- thrive as I may – whatever the result may be
- a carrion death – skeleton
- empty eye – hollow eye
- scroll – a roll of paper
- frost – disappointment
- tedious – formal
- complexion – personality.
The Merchant of Venice Act 2 Scene 7 Summary Questions and Answers
1. Prince of Morocco :
The first, of gold, who this inscription bears ;
‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire’.
The second, silver, which this promise carries :
‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves’.
This third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt:
‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath’
How shall I know if I do choose the right?
Where is the Prince of Morocco? What has brought him there?
Prince of Morocco is in a room in Portia’s house. He has come to try his luck with the lottery of caskets, to win Portia’s hand.
What is the motto carved on the golden casket? What does it contain?
The motto carved on the golden casket is that the man who opens it will get what many men desire. It contains an empty human skull holding a roll of paper, stating that, whoever happens to be guided by the glitter of things is invariably deceived.
What is the motto borne by the silver casket? What does it contain?
The motto borne by the silver casket is that the suitor who opens it will get what he deserves. It contains the portrait of a blinking idiot presenting a scroll in which, its written that, those who do not think carefully before taking any step in any matter will always be befouled.
What is the motto borne by the lead casket? What does it contain?
The motto borne by the lead casket is that the suitor who chooses it, will have to sacrifice whatever he has. It contains the portrait of fair Portia, and a roll of paper on which it is written that, whosoever has chosen it should be ready to risk everything he has, for the sake of love.
What are the views of the different suitors who are concerned with the casket incident? What do you think after views and remarks?
The Prince of Morocco looks upon the selection by caskets as a matter of ‘chance’. The Prince of Arrogan looks upon the selection of caskets as a matter of fortune. Even Bassanio, the successful suitor says, ‘But let me to my fortune and the caskets’. The remarks and views of various persons who are concerned with the casket incident would lead us to think that destiny is all powerful and she guides all human actions. Portia rightly remarks, ‘when they choose, they have the wisdom by their wit to lose’.
2. Prince of Morocco :
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?
Where is the character now? Who else are with him? What is this scene popularly known as? What is its importance?
The character is in a room in Portia’s house. Portia and her trains are there. This scene is the first of the popular casket scenes. In this scene, The Prince of Morocco tries to choose the right casket but fails to do so.
Why does the speaker say, ‘This casket threatens’? Why doesn’t he choose this casket?
The casket inscription is in the form of a threat. He rejects it because it says, ‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’ This means, the one who chooses the lead casket should be ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of love.
Explain the meaning of ‘shows of dross’ and silver with her virgin hue’? Which of the three is the right casket to choose?
‘Shows of dross’ means worthless shows and the silver casket is pure white. The one with Portia’s portrait is the right one.
What does the silver casket say? Why doesn’t Morocco choose this one?
The silver casket says, ‘who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves1. He doesn’t choose this one as he feels that he deserves much more because of his breeding, reputation, noble birth and his love for her. By settling for the less noble silver, he may be distrusting his own merits and that is a weakness. He deserves the lady as his worth is equal to hers.
What is the inscription on the golden casket? Why does the speaker choose this one?
The inscription on the golden casket is ‘who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire1. He feels that Portia is desired by many men, as they have come to win her hand from all the corners of the world. The Persian desert and vast ocean are unable to prevent men from coming to Portia’s place to have a glimpse of her.
Lead is too base to contain the picture of such a worthy lady and silver is many times inferior to Gold and the lady is pure gold. This makes Morocco choose the Gold casket.
3. Prince of Morocco :
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 stray’d no further, but chose here ?
Let’s see once more this saying grav’d in gold :
‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire’.
Why, that’s the lady : all the world desires her;
From the four corners of the earth they come,
To kiss this shrine, this mortal breathing saint:
The Hyrcanian deserts and the vasty wilds
Of wide Arabia are as throughfares 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.
Who is the fair lady? What’s the condition to win her hand in marriage? Who has made this condition? Why?
The fair lady is Portia, the beautiful and rich lady of Belmont. The condition is that the suitors should choose the right casket from the three displayed. The casket that contains Portia’s portrait, is the right one and whoever chooses that, will win her hand. Portia’s father, before his death had willed that his daughter’s husband should be the one who chooses the right casket with his daughter’s portrait. He was a wise man and wanted Portia to get the right husband who would love her for herself and not for her money. He was ensuring that a wise and prudent person who would understand the cryptic comments on the casket would ultimately win her hand.
Why does the speaker say ‘all the world desires her’?
Many princes and nobilities from various corners of the world are travelling through deserts and oceans to meet this fair lady. It’s like a pilgrimage to kiss the holy saint within Belmont. According to Prince Morocco the whole world is desirous of having her.
Explain the meaning of ‘The Hyrcanian deserts to come view fair Portia’
Morocco says that the dry deserts of Hyrcania and the immense wilderness of Arabia have become like main roads. The dangerous areas do not deter the gallant men who travel through them as though they are streets, used every day by common men.
What is the watery kingdom? What does it do in the face of heaven? Why is this expression used here?
The watery kingdom is the ocean. Its high waves spit on heaven. This expression is used here to show that the gallant men who come to Portia don’t even care for the high waves.
What is meant by ‘foreign spirits’? How do they treat the watery kingdom?
Foreign spirits refer to the gentlemen from abroad who are coming eagerly to meet Portia. They treat the ocean as though it is a stream.
4. Morocco :
They have in England
A coin that bears the figure of an angel
Stamp’d in gold, but that’s insculp’d upon;
But here an angel in a golden bed
Lies all within. Deliver me the key :
Here do I choose, and thrive I as I may!
Why does Morocco say these words?
Morocco has decided to choose the golden casket. He is sure that a portrait of Portia must be in the golden casket as a gem like her cannot be set in any other metal than gold. He remembers that there was a coin in England stamped in gold with the figure of an angel. In the same way, Portia’s portrait will be found inside the golden casket.
Bring out the meaning of, ‘that’s insculped upon’ and ‘angel in a golden bed’
‘Insculped upon’ means engraved upon; ‘an angel in golden bed’ is the portrait of Portia inside the casket.
Why should the key be delivered? Explain the meaning of ‘thrive I as I may’.
The key should be given to open the golden casket. Morocco has decided to open the golden casket and the rest; he is leaving fate to decide.
What does he find in the Golden casket?
In the golden casket, Morocco finds a skull with hollow sockets. The scroll along with it chides him by saying that ‘All that glitters is not gold’. Many a man has given his life seeing its outward glitter, but one should remember that gold cover tombs have worms inside, eating of the dead body inside them. If he had been as wise as he was brave, he would have not have been deceived by the glitter of gold.
How does this scene end?
The scene ends with the Prince of Morocco feeling disappointed. He leave Portia by biding her a simple farewell. He is too sad to speak a more formal speech. As he goes out with his train accompanied by the sound of trumpets, Portia says that he is a gentle fellow but she is glad to get rid of him. She hopes that all suitors like he, should make a similar wrong choice as he has done.