What plan did Portia's father invent for Portia to choose a suitable husband?

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Portia's father invented a game, or a riddle, whereby potential suitors would be required to choose from three caskets made from three different materials. One was gold, one silver, and the other was made from lead. His will dictated that the man who chose the correct casket would be allowed to marry his daughter. Consistent with the theme of greed, avarice, and lust for money that runs throughout the play, it is, of course, the lead casket that contains the portrait of Portia that indicates the choice is correct. Bassanio chooses the right casket, recognizing that, in his words, "the outward shows be least themselves," and that the "world is still deceiv'd with ornament." He chooses "meagre lead" due to its "plainness." He is guided toward this decision by the words to music that Portia orders to be sung as he makes his choice.


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