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SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
ACT II, SCENE 6
Outside Shylock's house, Gratiano and Salarino wait for Lorenzo in their disguises. Lorenzo is late. When he finally arrives, he apologizes, saying that business has kept him. He calls up to Jessica's window, and she appears dressed in boy's clothes. She throws down a casket filled with jewels and money. She is ashamed of her thievery but reasons that love is blind. Lorenzo urges Jessica to come down quickly for they are expected at Bassanio's house. Jessica replies that she will join them with more ducats as soon as she locks all the doors. Lorenzo describes her as beautiful and faithful and vows his love for her. Jessica joins them and hurries off with Lorenzo and Salarino. Left behind, Gratiano meets Antonio, who arrives with the news that the masque is to be canceled. Bassanio must sail at once for Belmont since the winds are favorable.
Lorenzo's friends are surprised at his lateness since lovers are usually impatient to meet. Salarino draws an elegant comparison between the eagerness of new lovers and the weariness of the routine of married life. Gratiano compares the joys of novelty to the indifference caused by experience. He likens this analogy to a new ship setting off jauntily on a voyage only to return home a prodigal, in a weather-beaten condition. Lorenzo finally arrives and finds Jessica to be "wise, true, and fair." The charming and simple dialogues between the couple show their love to be pure and sincere. Ashamed of her boy's clothes and of the imminent betrayal of her father, she is not yet ready to "hold a candle" to her shames.
When Gratiano see Jessica in disguise, he exclaims, "Now, by my hood, a gentle, and no Jew." While calling Jessica gentle, he is also punning on the word "gentile," referring to Jessica's intention and longing to become a Christian. Ironically, by her action, Jessica has broken two of the Ten Commandments honored by both Jewish and Christian religions: to honor one's parents and to never steal.
Time becomes a factor in the scene. There is a discrepancy between the times of the evening's schedule as outlined earlier by Lorenzo and the actual time of the events taking place. It is really much later than earlier planned, and no reasons are given for the discrepancy. But all the plans have to be canceled because of time. Antonio arrives with news that the masked parade must be canceled. Bassanio must sail at once to Belmont or miss the winds.
ACT II, SCENE 7
In Belmont, Portia and the Moroccan have dined, and he has sworn in the temple to the conditions of pursuing Portia. It is now time for the Prince to face the caskets, each of which has an inscription on the outside to be read. The prince pauses over each casket to guess which contains Portia's portrait. The first casket made of lead reads, "Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath." He thinks that lead, being a base metal, is surely worthless and deserves nothing. The next casket, made of silver, says, "Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves."
Over this, the prince hesitates. He concludes that his birth, breeding, fortune, and grace make him deserving of Portia, not the silver. He passes on to the last casket, made of gold, which tells the suitor, "Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire." He believes that this is the casket that contains the portrait of Portia since the lady is sought by all the world. He concludes that gold is the only metal worthy of being associated with the portrait of Portia. As he opens the casket, he finds a skeleton's head with a message in its eye socket. It reads, "All that glistens is not gold." The Moor is saddened that his mission has failed and bids Portia a hasty farewell.
In this scene, the Moor's egoistic sense of his own value comes to the fore as he looks at the silver casket. For all his royalty, he is a man of commerce. He exaggerates his own value, and his manner, bearing, and worth make him unworthy of Portia. He is concerned with outer appearances and so makes a superficial choice. He opens the gold casket and finds the skeleton's head. The death's head and its message underline the impermanence of earthly wealth. The play revolves around friendship and celebrates things of the heart and soul, which endure, while things of the flesh perish. It is ironic that he makes his choice solely by appearance while he has earlier asked Portia not to make the same mistake. Portia is delighted at his failure.
As the dejected Prince leaves, Portia remarks, "Let all of his complexion choose me so." Here, "complexion" can mean disposition or temperament, as well as color of skin. What her father wanted for Portia is a husband with a gentle and humble temperament and inner nobility.