The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

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What were the inscriptions and contents of the three caskets, and what significance do they play on the course of the plot in The Merchant of Venice?

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The first of the three caskets is gold. The inscription on the outside reads:

Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.

On the inside is a skull with the following inscription:

All that glisters is not gold—
Often have you heard that told.
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold.
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been inscrolled.
Fare you well. Your suit is cold—
Cold, indeed, and labor lost.

On the most basic level, the gold casket is about how shallow it is to favor the surface alone. Many suitors have come to vie for Portia's hand due to her wealth and her beauty alone, ignoring her heart and intelligence. In the larger play itself, many characters place more value on money and valuables than anything else, commenting on society's obsession with materialism.

The silver casket's outer inscription reads:

Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.

When opened, the casket contains an image of a...

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