From Act 3 Scene 2, from the extract " there is no vice so simple but assumes Some mark of virtue on his outward parts: ...........to render them redoubted! How can vice assume the external show of...

From Act 3 Scene 2, from the extract " there is no vice so simple but assumes Some mark of virtue on his outward parts: ...........to render them redoubted!

How can vice assume the external show of virtue?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Perhaps the greatest feature of Shakespeare's plays is the eloquent language. In this particular scene of Act III, there is much beauty of language, to be sure, and it enhances the meaning of Bassanio's deliberation over the caskets. In fact, his reflection about the blurring of vice and virtue is suggested in another of Shakespeare's plays, Romeo and Juliet, in which Friar Laurence soliloquizes in Act II, Scene 3 that taken to a certain point, there is a thin line between virtue and vice.

Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,
And vice sometime by action dignified. (2.3.21-22)
Because of vice and virtue's capability of being "misapplied," Bassanio is cautious and deliberate in his choice among the three caskets because appearances can be deceiving:
There is no vice so simple but assumes
Some mark of virtue on its outward parts. (3.2.81-82)
Bassanio is aware that wicked intentions can be disguised if spoken with a beautiful voice; sinners can defend their sinful acts by citing Scripture, and cowards can wear the beard of Hercules, appearing brave and bold, and "rendered redoubted," or respected. Thus, Bassanio wisely recognizes that the outward appearance of the caskets may be meant to deceive, or at least, lure the shallow person with its apparent beauty and quality.
Thus ornament is but the guiled shore
To a most dangerous sea, the beauteous scarf
                                     ...in a word
The seeming truth which cunning times put on
To entrap the wisest. (3.2.97-101)
He, therefore, approaches the caskets carefully and uses his reason to determine which to select, knowing that those things which appear valuable may not be so.
 
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