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Three Caskets of Interpretation

186 pages2 hours


Hamlet forces the sanguine Gertrude to regard herself in the mirror of his understanding and to compare two sovereigns. She is deeply affected by what she is made to see. Such an experience Shakespeare would have his audience undergo when he presents a Silver casket of Christian zeal to their representative in The Merchant of Venice. Like Gertrude, the Prince of Arragon is so particularly confident that he deserves all that he desires (not least, the consummation of his suit for the heiress Portia) that he fails to notice that a silvered casket is, primarily, a box with a reflective surface. Had he but observed the vain man mirrored there, he might have been saved the embarrassment of finding the idiot inside.

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