Q. How does Shakespeare make this moment in the play a dramatic one?
The aforementioned text has been derived from the very renowned play ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by the much celebrated playwright William Shakespeare. The following extract is based on one of the suitors, the prince of Morocco, while subsequently Shakespeare introduces the Casket Plot for the very first time. The moment in the play has been made dramatic by Shakespeare with the aid of diction, style of writing, metaphors and the soliloquy of the prince of Morocco.
The scene begins where the curtains are drawn and Portia asks the suitor to ‘discover’ what lay beyond. This however is directed at the audience as Shakespeare wants the audience to know what the Casket Plot was, as discover literally means to find something unexpectedly. This makes the scene dramatic as she amplifies the importance of the moment while highlighting the uniqueness of the idea as she wishes he would ‘discover’ her in the casket. This also acts as a cue of warning for Morocco as she makes him more wary of his choice and proves this choice of prime importance, making the scene much more dramatic. She further refers to him as ‘noble’, which yet again highlights her moral values and her faith in her fathers will. However, this contrasts to her feelings for him as mentioned before, as she internally wants riddance of him.
Further in the scene, the ‘dull lead’ shows his prejudice about the worthlessness of the casket and foreshadows how he will exempt this casket from his choice. He reads all the engravings but refers to the one on the leaded casket as a ‘warning’. This suggests how he feels the toxic lead is hostile and further reveals his materialistic nature as doesn’t consider it of the same importance and hence makes the scene dramatic. Here he feels cowed by his own statement as intellect plays an important role here rather than the strength he claims to posses when he flaunts about his ‘scimitar’ that widowed many. Morocco then asks a question to mark time and delay the choosing of the casket, building up to the moment in order tor make it more dramatic, while it subsequently show his hollow confidence that is sure to be shattered.
Morocco then dramatizes the scene as he fakes his appeal to ‘god’, in order to convince Portia of him having true love for her. This is further heightened when the audience sees him facing towards the sky and wailing as he requests the almighty for guidance. Repetitive ‘?’ and ‘!’ suggest how he was bewildered and confused, consequently depicting his helpless and eager nature. He then uses ‘golden mind’ to amplify the level of his wisdom, however fails to understand the true value of the reason for the lead box, the reason behind him using words like ‘hazard’ and ‘dross’ in order to devalue it. He yet again tries to please her when he examines the ‘virgin’ silver casket, as he refers to her purity and admires her beauty, waiting for a hint by Portia if his thought is true of this casket containing her picture.
The Morocco blatantly manipulates the audience of him judging all the caskets with an ‘even hand’, while the audience is constantly exposed to his materialistic nature, making it dramatic as the actors may believe what he says. There is a repetition of ‘I’ and ‘deserve’ by Morocco depict how he tries to assure/console himself as he is baffled and doubts himself and his choice making it much more dramatic as he is perplexed in a very critical situation. While not being able to substantiate the cause of his choice, irrespective of it being a materialistic outcome, he praises Portia when he states how men come ‘To kiss the shrine’. This amplifies Portia’s beauty and greatness, however the majesty of gold clouds his vision and fails to understand how ‘all that glisters is not gold’. This idiom suggests how finding the purest and the shiniest of the all isn’t the main motto behind it, but it is the pursuit of true love that has abided her to her father’s will, which can not be intervened by Morocco’s feigned love, giving the scene a much more dramatic outlook.
The inquisitive yet edgy mind of Morocco leaves him no alternative other than to melt Portia by his diction in order to win her. He uses ‘fair’ to describe her, which contrasts to his complexion, showing his passion and love for her but yet again is hindered by his materialistic mindset. He also may have used ‘fair’ to remind Portia to be unbiased and seeks for a hint as he deserves an equally ‘fair’ chance. He views her as an ‘angel’, however drama here efficaciously is portrayed as his dark complexion may analogize himself to a devil who wants to woo an ‘angel’ to fulfill his malicious intensions of materialistic gain. This inevitably makes him say ‘sinful’ showing how he was totally inclined towards gold, as mentioned above due to his devilish character, while the ‘!’ and ‘?’ shows his varying expressions on stage as he jumps between thoughts making the scene dramatic.
As Morocco opens the Golden Casket his statements are succeeded by varied punctuations such as ‘!’ and ‘?’. This delineates how there is sudden change in tone an pace, making the scene dramatic as it thunderbolts Morocco while the audience was preconceived to face a happy ending as they desired Morocco would chose the wrong casket. This is astonishing, both for Morocco making the scene much more dramatic as various actions follow on the stage making the audience more absorbed as Morocco further scrutinizes the moment for an apt justification of his defeat. The scroll reads ‘judgement old’, showing how even tangible things were aware of Morocco’s materialistic nature, subsequently mocking at his intellect making the scene dramatic.
The pace then seems to slow down as Morocco finds it hard to accept his defeat and uses words like ‘cold’ to express his melancholic mood. He wishes ‘farewell heat’, conveying his love and passion for Portia that has been taken over by the bitter ‘frost’ of his vanquish. This anti-thesis between ‘cold’ and ‘heat’, although shows that changing of seasons is very time consuming, however here it is sudden. This aids Morocco to convey his true feelings and sentiments impact fully through these extreme temperatures, making the scene a whole lot dramatic. The ‘,’ and ‘;’ when he departs from Portia suggest how he pauses when he talks as was emotionally moved and it is difficult for him to say farewell. On the other hand, Portia’s statement after his leave is marked by an ‘!’ suggesting how jovial she was after his defeat while her prejudice is yet again highlighted when she doesn’t wish to woo anyone of his ‘complexion’.
We see Morocco’s biased opinion towards the Golden Casket, which Shakespeare keeps highlighting through out the scene. Shakespeare repeatedly sheds light on the materialistic nature of the Elizabethan men, as showed in Shylock too. Shylock’s quest for money leads to Jessica abandoning him, justifying how Morocco will end up choosing the wrong casket, as he also posses the similar worldly pursuit, while this supports the choice of Portia, making the audience happy. Morocco’s soliloquy is one of the longest dialogue written by Shakespeare, as I believe he wishes to dramatize the scene as he intends to make the introduction of the Casket Plot a memorable one. I think this also portrays how Shakespeare’s main aim is to keep the audience engrossed while keeping them informed, in order to aid them to view the play from the same perspective he wishes to portray.
Thus, by the aid of diction, style of writing, metaphors and language, Shakespeare makes the soliloquy of the prince of Morocco a dramatic one.