2 April 2013
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
Sight Passage Analysis – Prince of Morocco’s speech (Shakespeare 2.7.37-59)
The Moroccan Prince makes his decision on which casket to choose, he clearly revises his decisions. Explaining why he does not choose the other two and why he chose the one he wanted for a reason which is ironic.
The speech starts off with saying what the inscription is on the golden casket, ‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire’. What many men desire he thinks it means Portia, as the whole world desire her, “Why, that’s the lady: all the world desires her;” (Shakespeare 2.7.31), they are all coming from all directions, “from the four corners of the earth they come,” (2.7.38), they come to kiss this shrine, mortal breathing saint, religious allusions. Princes and high class suitors travel across the Hyrcanian deserts, other deserted lands of wide Arabia to see her. The desires are so much that crossing a large great river seems like a cross between a small stream, its seems like the travel is nothing, it is all worth it. He then follows up that one of the caskets contains her heavenly picture, this provide background information, if you choose right you will see a portrait of Portia in the casket. He now asses the leaden casket, the Prince thinks it is a sinful thought to just even think of putting her in such a low casket, even if it was her casket of her death, lead is too invaluable for her. The Moroccan Prince thinks the same with the silver casket, “shall I think in silver she’s immur’d / Being ten times undervalu’d to tried gold? / O sinful though!” (2.7.52-54), ten times lower than gold, not worth Portia. The Prince then describes Portia as many things, valuable currency, a gem and angel, saying she should not be undervalued as anything under than gold, so that’s why he picks the gold casket. This is ironic because when the Prince first came to scene, he asks Portia to not judge him by his complexion, yet the basis of his decision on which casket to pick is on appearance. This reintroduces the theme appearance vs. reality, not to judge by a book’s cover.