William Shakespeare – The Merchant Of Venice Act 2 (Summary)

The Prince of Morocco arrives at Belmont to win over Portia and marry her. He tries to woo Portia but, she puts down his advances, explaining to him that he will not have any disadvantage because of his colour, and has an equal opportunity to win her over for marriage. On the other hand, in Venice, Bassanio is planning a dinner and a masque for his friends before he sets out on a journey to Belmont to win over Portia. Launcelot, who is indecisive of whether he should leave services at Shylock’s place, finding Bassanio in a good mood, offers him his services. Meanwhile, Gratiano comes and announces his will to accompany Bassanio to Belmont, to which Bassanio hesitantly agrees on the condition that he will mend his “wild behaviour”.

In another scene, Jessica, daughter of Shylock, speaks to Launcelot, and feels sad that Launcelot has decided to leave the services of her father. She hands him a letter, to be delivered secretly to her lover Lorenzo, in which she has explained her plans to elope with Lorenzo and convert from Jew to Christianity. Launcelot arrives when Gratiano, Lorenzo, Salarino, and Salanio are discussing the plans for the party, and of their inability to finish all the preparations. Launcelot delivers the letter to Lorenzo, which reveals Jessica’s plans to dress up like a page and run away with Lorenzo.

Shylock finally accepts the invitation to the party, which is delivered to him through Launcelot. Shylock also exclaims that the reason he has accepted Bassanio’s invitation is his hatred for him, and that he is right in hating him as something bad is going on in the mind of Bassanio. Finally the time comes for Lorenzo and Jessica to elope. Jessica throws down a small chest full of money and jewels to Lorenzo, and tells him that she’s ashamed of running away, but Lorenzo finally reassures her that they will not be discovered. Jessica goes back inside to do two last tasks before leaving, to lock the doors, as his father wanted her to do, and to get more money.

Bassanio decides to sail for Belmont on the night of the party and tells everyone that the masque has been cancelled due to that reason. In Belmont, the suitors are asked to choose from three caskets in order to win over Portia. All the three caskets had inscriptions on them, on the lead casket it was written, “who chooseth me shall give and hazard all he hath”; on the silver one, “who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves”; and on the golden one, it was written, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire”. Portia tells the Duke of Morocco that the right casket has a picture of her. Morocco chooses the casket made of Gold, but finds a skull inside it with a message inside it, “All that glitters is not gold… gilded tombs do worms unfold”, and Moroccon prince exits, sad and defeated.

Shylock finds out about his daughter and claims that she fled in Bassonio’s ship, but Antonio intervenes and tells the Duke of Venice that Jessica and Lorenzo were not on the ship. In Belmont, the Prince of Aragon arrives and chooses the Silver casket, which in turn, also proves to be the wrong one, and finds inside a portrait of the head of an idiot. Portia feels relieved that the suitor chose the wrong casket, all the while praying for the arrival of Bassanio as a suitor. Meanwhile a Venetian ambassador’s arrival is announced Portia unmoved by the boasting about him asks Nerissa to lead the man inside.

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