Portia is a rich and beautiful heiress of her deceased fathers possessions. When he dies he devised a test for any suitor for Portia and asked her to keep to this plan to find the one she would marry. Her father wished to protect her against any gold diggers after her money, he wished for the man to love her for who she is and not what she has. So keeping his promise Portia did as she was told, and three caskets were set out for her suitors, each man must choose one of these three caskets, and the one who chose the casket containing Portia’s portrait would be the one she would spend her life with. If they chose wrongly they must promise to never marry, they must be alone until their death.
The first suitor to visit was the Prince of Morocco, he is immediately ushered into the room containing the caskets and the curtain is drawn back to reveal them. She instructs him to make his choice. He begins by reading through the inscriptions on the outside of each, and continues to study the meaning of each one in great detail. First he turns to the lead casket, which reads, “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” Straight away he says that the lead is not the right one, “This casket threatens” He has no optimism for this casket and quickly moves on to the silver. ” Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.” He talks to himself out loud saying that he does not deserve Portia, but then again due to his rank then maybe he does. He is rich and is aware of etiquette and manner. Then he stops, “what if I stray’d no further, but chose here.”
But his mind is soon changed and he continues to the gold. This seems to be the casket he will chose, he is rich and proud of only this. It seems that, to him, money is everything. The gold casket reads, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.” He immediately sends out positive remarks, “why that’s the lady” and he goes on to say that everyone desires her, from all over the world many, many men adore her. Gold is the only casket worthy to contain her picture. The prince soon demands the key for the gold casket. He unlocks it revealing a skull with a scroll in the eyehole, the casket tells him what he is, gold is not everything. He reads the last line “Fare you well, your suit is cold” He turns to leave, alone for the remainder of his life.
After he has left, Portia exclaims “A gentle riddance. Draw the curtains: go. Let all of his complexion choose me so.” She basically states that she does not like the colour of his skin, this is the reason for her not taking much interest in the Prince, Portia is in love with another.
The next to enter is the Prince of Arragon. Again, he is presented with the three caskets as soon as he can be. She states the rules and leaves him to continue. He promises three things to Portia, he will never again speak of which casket he will chose; he will never again ask a woman to marry him and if he chooses wrongly he will leave immediately so she may continue with her life. He moves on to view the caskets laid out in front of him. The gold is reached first and after a brief statement about this he moves on to the gold chest; he realises the fact that the gold represents moneys worth and only this, gold is just for show, he is not like other men.
He looks at the silver casket; positive words fall from his mouth about this, the Prince goes on to state many good things that men deserve and that Portia is one of these. He asks for the key and unlocks the chest. In the casket he finds a picture of a jester, “a blinking idiot” for that is what he is. He does not deserve Portia, his thoughts about this are only an illusion, and he will be alone for the remainder of his life. Due to his promise he leaves in shame, he is a fool “with one fool’s head I came to woo, but I go away with two.” He, again, promises to keep his oath and exits.
Portia talks to Nerissa, he servant and comments on how their reasoning gives them enough intelligence to make the wrong choice and lose what they think they will win.
Suddenly Bassanio appears at the gate of her house, with his false riches, he comes to woo Portia; this is the man she loves and she is overjoyed.
Portia immediately offers to tutor Bassanio so he may chose the correct casket, but with strong will, he refuses and asks to be shown the caskets. If he chooses the wrong chest then it was meant to be that way, he must take the test fairly. Portia still tries all she can to convince him to take her advice and makes speeches on her plans for them to be together, she gives in, but instructs her servants to play music whilst he makes his choices, it will be best either way, things will run smoothly.
He continues, and studies the caskets, and prays that the outside is not a clue to what is held on the inside. He states that in legal matters, the most rotten case can be presented so well that the presentation conceals the evil, just like bad meat can be covered in spice to hide the real taste. Bassanio says that the Golden locks of hair that hang around a women’s face could be no more than a wig, and thus, fake. Midas is also mentioned, he was a Greek mythological character, wished for everything he touched to become Gold, this wish soon fell to pieces when he could not eat and his family turned to gold also. Eventually he decides on the lead casket, and asks for the key, he opens the casket and he sees her portrait. Bassanio tells Portia the portrait is so beautiful, but none could ever be as beautiful as the real Portia, which he now has, he has won the test.
He mesmerises her with his words of her beauty, her lips so perfect, her hair so entrapping and her eyes so amazing. He reads the scroll; “You that choose not by the view, chance is fair and choose as true! Since this fortune fall to you, be content and seek no new. If you be well pleas’d with this and hold your fortune for your bliss, turn you where your lady is and claim her with a loving kiss.” So he does as the scroll commands, he turns to Portia and kisses her; he is so dazed at his amazing gift of Portia. He cannot believe what he thinks is true. They are stunned by their fortune and pass loving words to one another.
The test of the caskets is very predictable but all the statements that are made by each suitor have great sense and meaning, any of it could have be true, but Portia received what she had been waiting for, for an age.