Book Notes Act 2, Scene 7 Notes from Merchant of Venice

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Merchant of Venice Act 2, Scene 7

This scene opens at Belmont in Portia's house. Again, cornets play to announce the entrance of Portia, the Prince of Morocco and their Trains. Portia presents the Prince with the Chests. He examines the chests, trying to decide which would be the best to choose. He reads the inscriptions: "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.'" Act 2, Scene 7, lines 4-9

The Prince tries to decide which chest is the correct one. He first dismisses the lead casket, sure that it isn't worth risking hazard to gain lead. He then considers exactly what it is that he deserves. Given his feats, birthright, and fortunes, he concludes that he does, in fact, deserve Portia. He then wonders what it is that 'all men desire'. Of course, the answer is Portia - leaving him confused. He tries to judge which is correct based on the quality of the metals used in the chests. He decides that gold is the only one valuable enough to contain a picture of Portia. He opens the gold chest, and finds a skull with a scroll stuck into its eye socket. The scroll tells him he has chosen poorly.

The Prince exits with his train. Portia then make a telling comment to her train: "A gentle riddance. Draw the curtains, go. Let all of his complexion choose me so." Act 2, Scene 7, lines 78-9

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