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From The Merchant of Venice, describe the lottery system referred to in Act I scene...

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honey235 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 21, 2013 at 3:02 PM via web

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From The Merchant of Venice, describe the lottery system referred to in Act I scene ii.


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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 22, 2013 at 5:05 AM (Answer #1)

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The Merchant of Venice revolves around the "bond" of "a pound of flesh" owed to Shylock by Antonio who took out a loan or bond to help Bassanio, his very dear friend. Bassanio wants to win the so-called "lottery" which is to choose the correct casket containing a picture of Portia in order to "win" her hand in marriage. Portia has been forced into this situation by her late father as the "will of a living daughter (is) curb'd by the will of a dead father" (I.ii.21) who stipulates in his will that she must find her husband by making suitors chose from three caskets, containing cryptic clues. The punishment for choosing incorrectly is harsh.

Each casket leads the potential suitor towards a choice. "All that glisters is not gold"(II.vii.65)  is revealed to the Prince of Morocco when he opens the gold casket and his fate is sealed as, having chosen unwisely he must never marry. He unfortunately chose "what many men desire"(II.vii.5) as they come from "the four corners of the earth" (39)for a chance.

The prince of Arragon, an arrogant man and most undeserving, so full of his own importance, chooses the silver casket and is equally defeated as “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.”(7) He mistakenly believes that he deserves Portia's hand.

Bassanio, initially only desiring Portia because of her great wealth, deliberates before making his choice and realizes that Portia's beauty goes far beyond material wealth. “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath” is the inscription on the lead casket and Bassanio chooses the lead casket as "The world is still deceiv'd with ornament" (III.ii.74).  


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