What line of reasoning is followed by the Prince of Arragon in making his choice of caskets?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Prince of Arragon, as his title communicates, was born a royal and has lived all his life with that unearned privilege. We can imagine he has been flattered and catered to all his life and that this has created his sense of importance and inflated self worth. The silver casket says the owner will get what he deserves. The prince's line of reasoning is that he should pick that casket because he deserves the best.

He rejects the gold casket because he thinks that one is too obviously a trick, and the lead is beneath his dignity.

Ironically, the prince, before choosing the silver casket, gives a long speech about merit or worth. If people succeeded based on their merit or skills alone, not the accident of being born to a privileged position, the world would be a different place, he says. Those who give orders would have to take orders. Many of the "low peasantry" would be honored. Yet the prince never stops to thinks that maybe his own sense of deserving the best and being entitled to whatever he wants comes not from his own merit but is just because he was born a prince.

The prince is sure he deserves Portia, but has a rude awakening when the silver casket shows:

The portrait of a blinking idiot
Presenting me a schedule! I will read it.—
How much unlike art thou to Portia!
How much unlike my hopes and my deservings!

The casket calls him a fool and tells him to go away.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Prince Aragon is a somewhat conceited character who thinks he is Portia's most suitable match for a husband. He does not choose the gold casket because he thinks there is some sort of trick behind the outward appearances, and it seems to him that gold must be the most obvious choice. He thinks gold is pleasing to "the multitude" who only choose things for show. He immediately dismisses the lead casket, because he is not willing to give or hazard anything.

The silver casket says that the one who chooses it will get what they deserve. Since he believes he is the most deserving of Portia's suitors, because he thinks he has so many fine qualities, he feels certain this is the right one. But the casket contains only a portrait of a blinking idiot. He learns that he is getting what he deserves and that he deserves this lesson in humility for thinking he deserved Portia's hand without first wooing her or being worthy of her. "Let none presume to wear an undeserved dignity" he says, but obviously his dignity is indeed undeserved.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial