Act II - Scene I


Enter Morocco a tawny Moor all in white, and three or four followers accordingly, with Portia, Nerissa, and their traine.

Flour[ish] cornets.

Mislike me not for my complexion,
The shadowed livery of the burnish'd sun,
To whom I am a neighbour, and near bred.
Bring me the fairest creature northward born,
Where Phoebus' fire scarce thaws the icicles,(5)
And let us make incision for your love,
To prove whose blood is reddest, his, or mine.
I tell thee, lady, this aspect of mine
Hath fear'd the valiant; by my love, I swear,
The best-regarded virgins of our clime(10)
Have lov'd it too: I would not change this hue,
Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen.
In terms of choice I am not solely led
By nice direction of a maiden's eyes:
Besides, the lottery of my destiny(15)
Bars me the right of voluntary choosing:
But, if my father had not scanted me,
And hedg'd me by his wit, to yield myself
His wife, who wins me by that means I told you,
Yourself, renowned prince, then stood as fair(20)
As any comer I have look'd on yet,
For my affection.
Even for that I thank you;
Therefore, I pray you, lead me to the caskets,
To try my fortune. By this scimitar,—(25)
That slew the Sophy, and a Persian prince,
That won three fields of Sultan Solyman,—
I would o'erstare the sternest eyes that look,
Outbrave the heart most daring on the earth,
Pluck the young sucking cubs from the she-bear,(30)
Yea, mock the lion when he roars for prey,
To win thee, lady. But, alas the while!
If Hercules and Lichas play at dice
Which is the better man, the greater throw
May turn by fortune from the weaker hand:(35)
So is Alcides beaten by his page;
And so may I, blind fortune leading me,
Miss that which one unworthier may attain,
And die with grieving.
You must take your chance;(40)
And either not attempt to choose at all,
Or swear, before you choose,—if you choose wrong,
Never to speak to lady afterward
In way of marriage; therefore be advis'd.
Nor will not; come, bring me unto my chance.(45)
First, forward to the temple; after dinner
Your hazard shall be made.
Good fortune, then! Cornets.
To make me bless'd, or cursed'st among men.



  1. Alcides was Hercules's birth name. Morocco repeats this reference to Hercules to show that chance and luck take fortune away from those who deserve it.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Sophy was the former ruler of Persia under the Safavid dynasty. Sultan Solyman was the longest reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Under his rule, the Empire was at its height. Morocco uses these references to show his own strength and military prowess: he claims to have won against the greatest rulers on Earth.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Lichas was Hercules's servant who gave him a poisoned shirt that eventually killed Hercules. When Hercules realized what Lichas had done, he used his strength to throw him into the sea. Here, Morocco uses this story to show that if left to luck, symbolized by dice, it would not have mattered who was stronger in this fight. In this way he touches on a main theme of the play: whether one's fate should be decided by fortune and luck or skill and ability.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. This means "confined me in his wisdom." Portia's language in these lines demonstrates her frustration with the suitor's test and her lack of control over her destiny.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. In this context, "scanted" means constricted or restrained. Using this language, Portia paints herself as a prisoner within her father's will.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Portia refers to her fate as a "lottery" because it is up to chance; she has no control over her fate. She is not ruled by "maiden's eyes," which can be wooed, she is constrained by her father's test.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Red blood was a symbol of manly courage and virility. Morocco seems to be making a case for himself as a worthy suitor, even though Portia has no say in who gets to marry her.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Phoebus is another name for Apollo, the Roman god of the sun. Morocco references Roman mythology when he refers to light skinned suitors of the north in order to show off his education. Like all of her other suitors, Morocco has been educated in ancient stories.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Morocco is a Moor, a resident of northern Africa generally with light brown skin. Morocco begins his courtship excusing his skin color, which suggests that Portia has not received this suitor well and he believes it is because of his race.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. The trial of the three caskets is taken from an ancient myth in which a princess must choose correctly from a gold, silver, and iron casket to marry her prince. The gold chest has the inscription, "whoever chooses me shall find what he deserves"; the silver chest reads, "whoever chooses me shall find what he desires"; the lead says, "whoever chooses me shall find what God intends for him." The gold contains bones, the sliver contains worms, and the iron contains jewels. The princess chooses the iron casket and is allowed to marry the prince.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff