The Merchant of Venice Quick Write 1

  1. Examine the Prince of Morocco’s opening lines. What issues does he address? Look at the language he uses in ll.1-12 and 22-38. How does the imagery in his speech reflect the Elizabethan perception of Moors?
        In the Prince of Morocco’s opening lines, he firstly addresses the possible fear or mistrust Portia may feel regarding his appearance, culture and ancestry: being Moors. During the Elizabethan period, the English treated the Moors with an uneasiness stemmed from a lack of knowledge of their culture and type of religion. He starts off with, “Mislike me not for my complexion”, then goes into detail with imagery describing his appearance and saying that he’s more trustworthy than even “the fairest creature northward born, where Phoebus’ fire scarce thaws the icicles”. This most likely means that the Prince of Morocco is saying he’s more trustable than even the most handsome white men. This can be inferred since he described the “fairest creature northward born” as living in a place where Phoebus’ fire is scarce, likely referencing the sun, saying the people there would have a lighter complexion. He then goes on to further prove his worthiness by saying, “And let us make incision for your love To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine”, showing a sense of loyalty towards Portia in that he would draw blood from his own flesh to show that despite his Moors heritage, he is more trustable and worthy of her hand in marriage than others who may be light skinned.
The Prince of Morocco continues by recounting his multiple accomplishments, and boasting his strengths and bravery. He says, “By this scimitar That slew the Sophy and a Persian prince, That won three fields of Sultan Solyman”, which shows how he has had experience in battle, killed the Shah of Persia, a Persian prince and defeated the Sultan Suleiman three times. Additionally, he uses unique imagery to explain how he is the bravest of them all, “Outbrave the heart most daring on the earth, Pluck the young sucking cubs from the she-bear, Yea, mock the lion when he roars for prey, to win thee, lady”. The imagery used illustrates how he would be brave enough to take the cubs from a scary mother bear, mock a starving lion, all in an effort to have Portia to himself. Following this, the Prince of Morocco addresses the issue of the nature of the way he is to obtain her hand in marriage, being that of luck and chance. He states, “But, alas the while! If Hercules and Lychas play at dice Which is the better man, the greater throw May turn by fortune from the weaker hand;”, which shows how he compares himself to Hercules, a son of God, and his servant Lychas rolling their hand at dice to see who would be the one to marry Portia. By explaining it in such a way, the Prince of Morocco both further shows his superiority to other competitors as well as makes clear that the way in which the “game is played” has issues in itself as it is all up to chance and “blind Fortune”.

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