Tell me the dialogues which show appearance vs reality in The Merchant of Venice.

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The scenes where this theme is most obviously explored are those involving the caskets.  These are Act 2, Scenes 1, 7, and 9; and Act 3, Scene 2.  

Portia is an heiress.  Her father, before he died, stipulated in his will that his daughter's husband should be chosen...

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The scenes where this theme is most obviously explored are those involving the caskets.  These are Act 2, Scenes 1, 7, and 9; and Act 3, Scene 2.  

Portia is an heiress.  Her father, before he died, stipulated in his will that his daughter's husband should be chosen by a trial of caskets.  Each hopeful suitor is shown three "caskets" (small chests) and is asked to choose one to open.  If he opens the one that contains the picture of Portia, he can marry her.  One casket is of lead, one of silver, and one of gold, and each has a cryptic riddle that goes with it.  

In Act 2, Scene 1, the prince of Morocco arrives to try his luck.  With his first words, he asks Portia not to dislike him because of his dark skin, pointing out that he has blood as red as any white man's. 

In Scene 7, the prince chooses the gold casket, only to find it is the wrong one.  Inside it is a poem that contains the famous line, "All that glisters is not gold." 

In Scene 9, the prince of Arragon arrives to make his choice.  He chooses the silver casket, which is also the wrong one.

In Act 3, Scene 2, Bassanio makes his choice.  He and Portia love each other, and in fact Portia urges him to wait a while before choosing a casket so that they can enjoy each other's company.  But Bassanio feels that until he knows whether they can marry, he "live[s] upon the rack."  Bassanio picks the leaden casket, which of course turns out to be the right one.  Before he picks it, he gives a long speech about how appearance and reality often differ. This speech begins,

So may the outward shows be least themselves;/The world is still deceived with ornament.

Other notable scenes in which appearance and reality differ are:

  • Act 2, Scene 2, in which Old Gobbo does not recognize his own son, and his son (Launcelot Gobbo), pretends to be someone else in order to have a joke on the old man.  When Launcelot finally reveals himself, he has some difficulty in getting his father to believe it's really he.
  • Act 2, Scene 6, in which Jessica dresses up as pageboy to run away with Lorenzo.  
  • The courtroom scene (Act 4, Scene 1), in which virtually nothing is as it seems.  Portia arrives dressed up as the young lawyer Balthasar and is not recognized by her own husband.  Shylock, who seems to have the law on his side, ends up being condemned by the law.  And so on.
  • Act 4, Scene 2 and Act 5, Scene 1, in which Portia and Nerissa play a trick on their husbands Bassanio and Gratiano.  
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