The Merchant of Venice | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Merchant of Venice | Act 2, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

The Prince of Morocco greets Portia upon his arrival at Belmont, saying "Mislike me not for my complexion" and telling her his blood is the same as the most fair-skinned man. He goes on to tell her how much the women of his own land desire him, but Portia assures him that she is not driven to choose a suitor by his appearance. She is not driven to choose her own husband at all because of her father's "lottery," so the Prince of Morocco has as much chance as any other man who seeks her hand. The prince agrees to the terms of the challenge, even though he must swear "never to speak to lady afterward in way of marriage" if he loses. They agree he will undertake the challenge after dinner.

Analysis

The Prince of Morocco's choice of introductory words hints at a fear of rejection based on his obvious difference from Portia and his separation from European society. He talks of his people living close to the sun, so his skin is dark. Hailing from Morocco, a Muslim country, he is probably not a Christian, so he has been subject to prejudice in his interactions with European society just as Shylock has. His boasts about his desirability in his home country make him appear confident on the surface, but it is the kind of confidence that seeks to compensate for insecurity. When the audience sees Portia in Act 1, she laments her father's arrangement, but she now uses the same arrangement to create distance between herself and the Prince of Morocco, which indicates she does in fact "mislike" his complexion—a sentiment she will confirm when he loses the challenge in Act 2, Scene 7.

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