Act II - Scene VII


Enter Portia with [the Prince of] Morocco, and both their trains.

Go, draw aside the curtains, and discover
The several caskets to this noble prince:—
Now make your choice.
The first, of gold, who this inscription bears:
Who chooseth me, shall gain what many men desire.(5)
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.
How shall I know if I do choose the right?(10)
The one of them contains my picture, prince;
If you choose that, then I am yours withal.
Some god direct my judgment! Let me see.
I will survey the inscriptions back again:
What says this leaden casket:(15)
Who chooseth me, must give and hazard all he hath.
Must give—For what? for lead? hazard for lead?
This casket threatens: Men that hazard all
Do it in hope of fair advantages:
A golden mind stoops not to shows of dross;(20)
I'll then nor give, nor hazard, aught for lead.
What says the silver, with her virgin hue?
Who chooseth me, shall get as much as he deserves.
As much as he deserves?—Pause there, Morocco,
And weigh thy value with an even hand:(25)
If thou be'st rated by thy estimation,
Thou dost deserve enough; and yet enough
May not extend so far as to the lady:
And yet to be afeard of my deserving,
Were but a weak disabling of myself.(30)
As much as I deserve!—Why, that's the lady:
I do in birth deserve her, and in fortunes,
In graces, and in qualities of breeding;
But more than these, in love I do deserve.
What if I strayed no further, but chose here?—(35)
Let's see once more this saying grav'd in gold:
Who chooseth me, shall gain what many men desire.
Why, that's the lady: all the world desires her:
From the four corners of the earth they come,
To kiss this shrine, this mortal, breathing, saint.(40)
The Hyrcanian deserts and the vasty wilds
Of wide Arabia, are as through-fares now,
For princes to come view fair Portia:
The watery kingdom, whose ambitious head
Spets in the face of heaven, is no bar(45)
To stop the foreign spirits; but they come,
As o'er a brook, to see fair Portia.
One of these three contains her heavenly picture.
Is't like that lead contains her? 'Twere damnation
To think so base a thought: it were too gross(50)
To rib her cerecloth in the obscure grave.
Or shall I think in silver she's immur'd,
Being ten times undervalued to tried gold?
O sinful thought! Never so rich a gem
Was set in worse than gold. They have in England,(55)
A coin that bears the figure of an angel,
Stamped in gold; but that's insculp'd upon;
But here an angel in a golden bed
Lies all within.—Deliver me the key;
Here do I choose, and thrive I as I may!(60)
There, take it, prince, and if my form lie there,
Then I am yours. [He unlocks the golden casket]
O hell! what have we here?
A carrion Death, within whose empty eye
There is a written scroll? I'll read the writing.(65)


All that glisters is not gold,
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold,
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.(70)
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been inscroll'd:
Fare you well; your suit is cold.
Cold, indeed; and labour lost:(75)
Then, farewell heat; and welcome frost.—
Portia, adieu! I have too griev'd a heart
To take a tedious leave. Thus losers part.


A gentle riddance:—Draw the curtains, go;—
Let all of his complexion choose me so.(80)



  1. By "complexion" Portia either means Morocco's disposition or his skin color. In hoping that everyone of Morocco's complexion choose the gold casket, and therefore not be able to marry her, Portia reveals her discrimination against Morocco. Blatantly characterizing Portia in this way demonstrates that these racist sentiments are ubiquitous across Venice and this play.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. The scroll suggests that choosing the golden casket reveals that the suitor is fooled by something's outward appearance and therefore is too bold and unwise. What is interesting about this test, is that Morocco did not choose this casket because of it's appearance as the scroll suggests, but because of what was written on the casket; he reasoned through his decision. While the test appears to show someone's inner character, it seems that its intention and execution are askew.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. There is literary evidence for this proverb that pre-date Shakespeare's play. However, The Merchant of Venice made this saying universally recognized. "All that glitters is not gold" accurately sums up the theme of the play: external appearances often belie the internal state of something.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. A "carrion Death" is a colloquial term used to refer to a rotting human skull. Notice that the inside of the chest does not correspond to what is written on the outside, since men do not desire rotting skulls. The caskets emphasize one of the play's themes of something's appearance not matching its content.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Morocco shows that he is not a pompous man because he does not automatically assume that he deserves Portia. This is his reasoning to pass over the silver casket.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Morocco notes the purpose of the casket test: the choice each suitor makes should reveal their inner most character.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff