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Merchant Of Venice Speech Analysis

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In this scene, Bassanio is at Portia's house, and he is trying to choose the casket with Portia's picture in it. If he chooses the right casket, he will get to marry Portia and gain all of her wealth as well. In the beginning of his speech, Bassanio is reacting to the song that is being sung by one of Portia's servants. As he gives his speech, we are captivated by his many metaphors and by the suspense of his words. The entire time he is speaking, we wonder which casket he will ultimately choose. Before this scene, Portia explained that in her father's will, he set her marriage up in a way that men from all over the world will have to travel to Portia's estate. The men would then have to choose between three caskets and if one chooses the right casket with her picture, he will be able to marry Portia and also gain all of her wealth.

In the first line, Bassanio says, "So may the outward shows be least themselves," which means that the outsides of the caskets do not match the insides in value. For example, the gold casket would be the least in value on the inside, since it is the most expensive on the outside. In the second line, Bassanio says, "The world is still deceived with ornament," which means that people still makes choices based on mainly fancy appearances. In the next three lines, he says, "In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt // But, being seasoned with a gracious voice // Obscures the show of evil?" In these lines, Bassanio is comparing the current situation to a "tainted and corrupt" plea in court that doesn't seem as corrupt because a "gracious voice" is the one stating the plea. The "tainted and corrupt" plea is the fact that he has to choose between the caskets, and the "gracious voice" that "obscures the show of evil" is the possibility of being able to marry Portia and gain her wealth. Continuing from the second part of the last line into the next three lines, Bassanio says, "In religion // What damned error, but some sober brow // Will bless it and approve it with a text // Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?" In these lines, he is saying in religion, what person other than a very serious person would bless the religion and quote from it to prove its truth, while hiding the religion's "grossness" with a fancy outside. He is also comparing religion to his current situation, and he is basically saying that Portia's father is a "damned error" because he set up this situation of having to choose a casket and making it look good instead of just being able to marry Portia. In the next two lines, Bassanio says, "There is no vice so simple but assumes // Some mark of virtue on his outward parts." He is saying that there is no form of pure corruption without some deception of "virtue" on the outside. In the next six lines, Bassanio says, "How many cowards, whose hearts are all as false // As stairs of sand, wear yet upon their chins // The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars // Who, inward search'd, have livers white as milk // And these assume but valour's excrement // To render them redoubted." Bassanio is comparing cowards' hearts to "stairs of sand," which are weak and unstable. However, these cowards still have the audacity to compare themselves to Hercules and Mars. Bassanio then brings up "livers white as milk," and back then, white livers were thought to be the sign of a coward. In the last two lines of this section, Bassanio is saying that cowards only pretend to be brave so that they can get respect in return. Continuing from the last line to the next three lines, Bassanio says, "Look on beauty // And you shall see 'tis purchased by the weight // Which therein works a miracle in nature // Making them lightest that wear most of it." Bassanio is saying that if you look at beautiful things,

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