In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, the Prince of Arragon, who appears in only one scene in the play, is the second of Portia's suitors who submits to the casket test devised by Portia's father to determine his suitability to be Portia's husband.
The Prince of Arragon chooses the second of the three caskets, the silver casket, after the Prince of Morocco chooses the gold casket, and before Bassanio chooses the lead casket, which provides the audience with a contrast in character between the two men.
The Prince of Arragon is arrogant, as his name would lead the audience to believe, but not as arrogant and self-centered as the Prince of Morocco, who constantly boasts about his physical prowess and his superhuman accomplishments.
The Prince of Arragon is considerably more arrogant and self-centered than Bassanio, Portia's own choice to be her husband, but the Prince has some redeeming qualities which make him more desirable for Portia than the Prince of Morocco, but less suitable than Bassanio. The Prince of Arragon makes no boasts as does the Prince of Morocco, and he reveals his character only in his deliberations over which casket to choose, and in his reaction to what is shown to him by his choice.
Although the Prince initially rejects the lead casket out of hand because of its simple, plain appearance—"You shall look fairer" (2.9.21), the Prince says, before he would choose it—he makes his choice among the gold, silver, and lead caskets based solely on the inscriptions.
The Prince of Arragon is more thoughtful and prudent than the Prince of Morocco, but he's no less influenced by his own arrogant personality in his choice of casket. The Prince rejects the gold casket because its inscription, "Who chooseth me, shall gain what many men desire" (2.9.23), implies to the Prince that the choice of the gold casket could be made by anyone in "the fool multitude, that choose by show" (2.9.25), meaning anyone who is impressed by the gold casket itself as a desirable object.
The Prince considers himself above such base desires, and he doesn't want to be considered as one of the lowly, common people, "the fool multitude" (2.9.25), the "common spirits" (2.9.31), and the "barbarous multitudes" (2.9.32) who the Prince believes would make such a choice.
The inscription on the lead casket, “Who chooseth me, must give and hazard all he hath” (2.9.20), is far too ominous for the Prince, and he's simply not prepared to "hazard all he hath," even for Portia's hand in marriage.
The inscription on the silver casket, "Who chooseth me, shall get as much as he deserves" (2.9.35) appeals to the Prince because it speaks to his own self-image as a superior person who deserves the best in life because he represents the best in "dignity" (2.9.39), in "estates, degrees, and offices" (2.9.40), in "honour" (2.9.41), and in his ability to command (2.9.44).
The Prince considers it his fate, his right, his reward, his just deserts—"I will assume desert" (2.9.50)—to be Portia's husband, so he chooses the silver casket. When he opens it, he's stunned speechless to see "a portrait of a blinking idiot" (2.9.53) staring back at him. After a moment, the Prince recovers from the shock, but he simply can't believe that he made a wrong choice:
Did I deserve no more than a fool's head?
Is that my prize? are my deserts no better? (2.9.58–59).
The Prince reads aloud the poem that accompanies the picture of the "blinking idiot." which refers to the Prince three times as a fool, and by his own prophetic words, a member of the "fool multitude" he previously derided as those beneath his own superior qualities.