If you had to choose a casket in Merchant of Venice, which would it be?casket choice

9 Answers

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Definitely I agree with others. Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight, which means that we find it very hard to consider this decision objectively. To be honest, I would have prefered to have not chosen a casket and therefore not run the risk of having to promise to live a celibate life! However, I would find it difficult to come to the conclusion that lead would be the right one. As a father, wouldn't you want to prize your daughter through symbolising her as a precious metal?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Of course, Bassanio chooses the lead casket, which is the right choice, and I'd like to think I'd make that choice too. But then again, if I had to choose, I'd wonder if a father wouldn't want a son-in-law who makes wise financial decisions instead of one who was indifferent to pecuniary interests. Again, this wouldn't necessarily make me choose the gold or silver, but it would make me think, which, as others have said, is the genius of this plot device on Shakespeare's part.

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Like some of the others, I like to think that I would choose the casket of lead.  Here would be my reasoning: the gold and silver seem better choices than the lead, but then, why have a contest if the choice seems relatively easy or straightforward? I would therefore assume that the lead casket is the truly worthy one and was offered as a way of testing my values and perceptions.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I always think that lead is the right choice, but I agree with mwestwood, it seems too simple. Does the gold suggest that she is not worth something of great value? Does silver suggest she is something less than gold?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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I would like to believe that I would pick the lead casket, but the truth be known, sometimes we are simply too greedy. I have always loved the idea of the use of the caskets in Merchant. It really shows the father's understanding of humanity.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Since Portia's father has devised this method of selecting a husband for his daughter in absentia (he is deceased), as a suitor, one would wonder if the lead casket were but a disguise as the greedy suitor may believe the unsightly facade of the casket a mere ruse.  For, if the father is clever enough to devise this method for his daughter to become engaged, other tricks could also be utilized.

Therefore, the choice is more of a dilemma than one would first think.  As in playing the nutshell game, I might go for the obvious, the gold one, believing that the father figures the suitor would believe it is a decoy to get the man to choose the lead and prove himself humble.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I agree with the previous post.  I would like to think that I would pick the lead casket simply because it would mean that I was not caught up in material things.  But I would worry about that.  Just because I'm not caught up in material things doesn't mean others aren't.  So what if Portia's father was a shallow man?  If I really wanted Portia, that would worry me and I would wonder if I shouldn't pick gold instead.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Much of The Merchant of Venice is concerned with how grasping after superficial things such as money corrupts both the individual soul and the community. The theme of usury opposes Christian values (it being more likely that a camel will get through the eye of a needle than a rich man into heaven) against commercial ones. The three caskets serve as a test of whether a lover is interested merely in surface characteristics, such a beauty and wealth, or enduring values. Both gold and silver represent external riches; therefore, one should choose lead, signifying that Portia is valued for her character and intellect rather than beauty and wealth.

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beefheart | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 3) Honors

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"who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire." - gold "who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves." - silver "who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath." - lead Definitely NOT silver. "If we all got our just desserts, then who should 'scape whipping" I really can't choose between lead and gold. Ok, I know the answer's lead, but if I pretend I don't know, I can't see a way to logically separate them. Toss a coin!