The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

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Why does Bassanio select the lead casket in The Merchant of Venice?

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In thinking about the reasons Bassanio chooses the lead casket over the gold or silver one in The Merchant Of Venice by William Shakespeare, it is also worth considering the qualities of lead. As well as being clever to work out the "trick element" of the test by using his rationality and common sense, Bassanio also shows how down to earth he is by picking something that has day to day value. For ordinary people, lead has useful attributes - it is heavy and very valuable in waterproofing and sealing roofs. we must also remember Shakespeare's using the association with death - it is used to line coffins!

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The reason that Bassanio selects this casket over the gold one and the silver one is because he thinks that you cannot judge a book by its cover, essentially.

He thinks that, these days, people are too concerned with appearances.  They think that what looks good really is good.  But Bassanio is not fooled.  He thinks that it must be the lead one because no one would really expect that.

He says that both the gold one and the silver one look too valuable.  They are just tricks.

Because he figures this out correctly, he gets to be the one to marry Portia.

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What happens when Bassanio chooses a casket in The Merchant of Venice?

In act 3, scene 2, Bassanio decides to finally choose from three caskets in the hopes of winning Portia's hand in marriage. Bassanio spends a considerable amount of time contemplating each casket before making his selection. He analyzes each casket and refuses to pick the golden or silver casket because he is aware that appearances can be deceiving. Upon picking the lead casket, Bassanio opens it to discover a portrait of Portia and a letter congratulating him on choosing the correct casket. Immediately after Bassanio chooses the correct casket, Portia vows to love and support him. She then proceeds to give Bassanio a valuable ring as a token of her love and he promises to never remove it from his hand. Gratiano and Nerissa congratulate Bassanio and Portia and then confess their love and express their desire to get married at the same time. Lorenzo, Jessica, and Salerio then enter the scene and Salerio gives Bassanio a letter from Antonio regarding his dire situation at home. Bassanio then elaborates on Antonio's situation and Portia allows him to return to Venice after their wedding ceremony.

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What happens when Bassanio chooses a casket in The Merchant of Venice?

In Act 3 of the play, Shakespeare resolves the casket plot.  By this time in the play's action, the Prince of Morocco has already chosen the gold casket--based on appearance--and the audience knows that his is an incorrect choice. Similarly, the Prince of Aragon chooses the silver casket, insulting Portia in the process,and leaves Belmont emptyhanded.  By the time Bassanio travels to Belmont from Venice, the audience knows which casket he needs to choose.  Portia does help hint at the right box by playing a song which alludes to the correct choice, and Bassanio does indeed choose the lead casket, winning Portia's hand in marriage.

After the hero reads the casket's riddle, he asks Portia to marry him, and she bestows upon him literally all her worldly goods and her heart.  Their happiness is short lived, though, for at this point in the play, news arrives that Antonio is serious trouble in Venice.  After a quick wedding with Portia, Bassanio hurries to Venice to help his friend to whom he is indebted, so there is no time to revel in his correct choice.

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