The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare
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Why does Morocco not choose the lead casket in The Merchant of Venice?

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The Prince of Morocco has two objections to the lead casket when it comes time for him to make his choice in Act 2. The lead casket’s inscription says that anyone who chooses it “must give and hazard all he hath”, and Morocco immediately decides that the risk is not...

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The Prince of Morocco has two objections to the lead casket when it comes time for him to make his choice in Act 2. The lead casket’s inscription says that anyone who chooses it “must give and hazard all he hath”, and Morocco immediately decides that the risk is not worth it: “Must give – for what? For lead? Hazard for lead?” Like many characters in the play, Morocco is used to sizing up investment risks, and this looks like a bad deal. He also doubts that a prize as valuable as Portia could be contained in a worthless metal box – he puts a lot of value on appearances (he even immediately makes apologies for his skin color on his first entrance, a telling moment in a play obsessed with race and pedigree) and believes that appearances offer reliable clues about worth. The casket puzzle is designed to weed out exactly that kind of appearance-based, investment-obsessed thinking, and it weeds out Morocco very quickly.

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