In this scene, Bassanio is at Portia's house, and he is trying to choose the casket with Portia's picture in it. If he chooses the right casket, he will get to marry Portia and gain all of her wealth as well. In the beginning of his speech, Bassanio is reacting to the song that is being sung by one of Portia's servants. As he gives his speech, we are captivated by his many metaphors and by the suspense of his words. The entire time he is speaking, we wonder which casket he will ultimately choose. Before this scene, Portia explained that in her father's will, he set her marriage up in a way that men from all over the world will have to travel to Portia's estate. The men would then have to choose between three caskets and if one chooses the right casket with her picture, he will be able to marry Portia and also gain all of her wealth.
In the first line, Bassanio says, "So may the outward shows be least themselves," which means that the outsides of the caskets do not match the insides in value. For example, the gold casket would be the least in value on the inside, since it is the most expensive on the outside. In the second line, Bassanio says, "The world is still deceived with ornament," which means that people still makes choices based on mainly fancy appearances. In the next three lines, he says, "In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt // But, being seasoned with a gracious voice // Obscures the show of evil?" In these lines, Bassanio is comparing the current situation to a "tainted and corrupt" plea in court that doesn't seem as corrupt because a "gracious voice" is the one stating the plea. The "tainted and corrupt" plea is the fact that he has to choose between the caskets, and the "gracious voice" that "obscures the show of evil" is the possibility of being able to marry Portia and gain her wealth. Continuing from the second part of the last line into the next three lines, Bassanio says, "In religion // What damned error, but some sober brow...
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