The Caskets In The Merchant Of Venice

Essay, Research Paper

In Shakespeare?s play The Merchant of Venice, the nature of man is shown on the

inscriptions of the caskets. The gold casket represents what men desire, the silver casket

represents what men deserve, and the lead casket represents a man?s duty in marriage.

The gold casket represents the desires of many men. Its inscription reads, ?Who chooseth

me shall gain what many men desire.? Any man, who only desires Portia, will not get his desire.

The Prince of Morocco says that many women find him handsome. He desires Portia because

she is beautiful, just like he believes he is. He learned that his vanity and greed will not gain him

her hand in marriage. His vanity is shown when he decides to go straight to the caskets, before

getting to know Portia better. Greed is shown when he chooses the gold casket because it is ?ten

times? more valued than the silver or the gold.

The silver casket represents what many men deserve. Its inscription reads, ?Who

chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.? A man is not deserving of Portia until he has

gotten to know her first. The Prince of Aragon learned that stupidity and always wanting to take

the safe road will earn him nothing in life. Like Morocco, he is stupid for not getting to know

Portia before he chooses the casket. He takes the safe road by not choosing the gold casket

because it is too showy, and by not choosing the lead casket because he does not want to give


The lead casket represents a man?s duty in marriage. Its inscription reads, ?Who chooseth

me must give and hazard all he hath.? In order to receive a gift as precious as Portia, he must

learn how to give everything to her. Bassiano was the only smart suitor. He realized that the

only way to receive is to give of himself. He asks himself if maybe the caskets are, ?Hiding the

grossness with fair ornament?? Therefore, he chooses the lead casket. Silver and gold are

nothing but ornaments to hide the true ugliness inside. Lead, though ugly, is only covering up

the true beauty inside.

The three caskets are perfect representations of what men desire, deserve, and their

responsibilities. They remind the suitors that they cannot always have what they desire, they

cannot always get what they deserve, and sometimes in order to receive you must first give.


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