Act 2 Scene 1
The Prince of Morocco meets with Portia and tells her that he regarded as very handsome on account of his black skin. She states her husband will be chosen by her father, as he created three caskets from among which each suitor must choose. Portia warns the Prince that if he chooses the wrong casket, he must swear to never propose marriage to a woman afterwards. The Prince of Morocco agrees to this condition and joins Portia for dinner before attempting to choose.
Act 2 Scene 2
Lancelot (often regarded as a clown) is the servant to Shylock. Despite this he cannot make up his mind about whether to run away or not because his conscience makes him guilty when he thinks about leaving Shylock, despite referring to him as the devil.
Gobbo (Lancelot’s father) is nearly completely blind and cannot see Lancelot clearly. Gobbo asks which way leads to the Jew’s house (Shylock’s house). He states that he is searching for his son Lancelot. Lancelot decides to have some fun with his father, and so he pretends to know a ‘Master Lancelot’ (a term for a gentleman’s son). He informs Gobbo that ‘Master Lancelot’ is deceased.
Gobbo is heartbroken, Lancelot feels bad and tell his dad he’s alive. Gobbo, not convinced feels his head and recognises him. Lancelot tells his father that he is wasting away serving Shylock and that he will turn into a Jew himself if he continues to serve him. Gobbo has brought a present for Shylock, but Lancelot instead tells his father to give it to Bassanio, whom Lancelot hopes to have as his new master. Bassanio arrives and accepts the gift of doves and tells Lancelot that he may leave Shylock and join his service. He then orders one of the men to get Lancelot a new uniform to wear and sends Lancelot away.
Graziano later arrives and tells Bassanio that he wants to join him on the trip to Belmont, where Bassanio plans to go and win over Portia. Bassanio believes that Graziano is too loud and rude and asks him if he will be able to act more appropriately. Graziano says that he can so Bassanio then agrees to take him to Belmont.
Act 2, Scene 3
Jessica (Shylock’s daughter) meets with Lancelot and tells him that she will miss him after he leaves to go work for Bassanio. She hands him a letter to give to Lorenzo ( who’s supposed to be a guest of Bassanio’s that night). After Lancelot leaves, Jessica informs the audience that she is in love with Lorenzo ( who’s a Christian). She intends to meet him soon and run away from her father’s house in order to marry Lorenzo.
Act 2 Scene 4
Scene 4 begins with the entry of Lorenzo, Graziano, Salerio and Solanio, as all are preparing for a masque that night. Lancelot arrives with the letter from Jessica and hands it to Lorenzo. Lorenzo reads it and tells Lancelot to inform Jessica that he will not fail her. Lancelot leaves to tell the good news to Jessica, and also to invite Shylock to Bassanio’s house for dinner.
After Salerio and Solanio leave, Lorenzo shows Graziano the letter from Jessica. He tells his friend that he and Jessica plan to steal away from her father’s house that night, along with a great deal of her father’s gold and jewels.
Act 2 Scene 5
Scene 5 opens with Shylock informing Lancelot that he will have to judge for himself whether Bassanio is a better master. He shouts Jessica and hands her the keys to the house. He explains he must leave for dinner that evening. Lancelot tells Shylock that there will likely be a masque that night. Shylock orders Jessica to lock up the house and not look out the windows. As Shylock prepares to depart, Lancelot privately tells Jessica that Lorenzo will come for her that night. She is grateful for the message and talks to herself upon Shylock’s departure.
Act 2 Scene 6
Scene 6 begins with Salerio and Graziano partying through the street of Venice. They stop and wait for Lorenzo as he requested them me him. Lorenzo arrives and thanks them for their patience. He calls out to Jessica, who appears in the window of Shylock’s house dressed as a man. She throws out a casket to Lorenzo filled with her father’s gold and jewels. Jessica then goes back inside and steals even more ducats (golden coins) before joining the men on the street.
Everyone departs except for Bassanio, who unexpectedly meets Antonio. Antonio tells him to get to the ship heading for Belmont, because the wind has started blowing the right way and the ship is ready to depart.
Act 2 Scene 7
The Prince of Morocco is brought into a room containing three caskets, gold, silver and lead. Portia tells him to make his choice. The Prince reads the inscriptions on all the caskets. Gold reads: ‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire’ .The silver casket has : ‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves’. Finally, the dull lead casket bears the inscription ‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’
Portia tells the Prince that the correct casket, or the one that will allow him to marry her, contains a miniature picture of her likeness. The Prince looks over all the inscriptions a second time, and decides that lead is too threatening and not worth risking anything for. He also spurns the silver, which he feels is too base a metal to hold such a beautiful woman as Portia. The Prince therefore chooses gold.
Portia hands him the key, and he opens the casket to reveal a golden skull. The skull holds a written scroll that poetically indicates that he chose superficially. The Prince departs after a hasty farewell. Portia watches him go.
Act 2 Scene 8
Scene eight begins with Salerio and Solanio meeting and discussing the sudden departure of Bassanio and Graziano for Belmont. They tell the audience that Shylock returned home and discovered his daughter had run away with Lorenzo. Shylock immediately wokes up the Duke of Venice and tries to stop Bassanio’s ship, which had already set sail. Antonio assured Shylock that Jessica was not on board the ship, but rather had been seen in a gondola with Lorenzo. However, Shylock continues to blame Antonio for the loss of his daughter and his money.
Solanio informs Salerio that Shylock was later seen in the streets crying. Solanio is worried about Antonio, he demands he repay his bond with Shylock on time, because Shylock is furious about losing his daughter and his money and blames Antonio for it. Salerio indicates that a Frenchman mentioned a Venetian vessel had sunk in the English Channel the day before. Both men desperately hope that it is not Antonio’s ship.
Act 2 Scene 9
The Prince of Aragon arrives in Belmont and decides to choose from among the three caskets. Portia takes him into the room, they recite the oath never to reveal which casket he chooses, and further to promise never to marry should he choose the incorrect casket. The Prince of Aragon agrees and starts to read the inscriptions.
He rejects lead because of the ominous warning, and thinks that gold refers to the foolish populace. Instead he chooses silver which indicates he will receive what he deserves. The Prince takes the key and opens the casket to reveal a ‘blinking idiot’. The scroll indicates that those who are self-loving deserve to be called idiots, and would not make good husbands for Portia.
The Prince is upset with his choice, but is forced to leave. Portia is happy that the Prince has chosen the wrong, her messenger comes into the room at that moment and informs her that a young Venetian has just arrived. Portia eager to see, goes to find them, while Nerissa secretly wishes that it might be Bassanio.
Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, but it remains deeply controversial. The text may seem anti-Semitic; yet repeatedly, in performance, it has revealed a contrasting nature. Shylock, though vanquished in the law-court, often triumphs in the theatre. In his intensity he can dominate the play, challenging abrasively its romantic and lyrical affirmations. What results is a bitter-sweet drama.