“Shadowed Livery”: Morocco in The Merchant of Venice

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In The Merchant of Venice, Portia seems relieved when the Prince of Morocco chooses the wrong casket—relieved at least in part because Morocco is black. Much textual evidence, however, suggests that Morocco is the worthiest of the three suitors who choose among the caskets in attempting to win Portia. For example, Morocco is the only one of the three who while deliberating on the caskets refers to Portia by name or by reference, and only he uses the word “love” while making his choice. Moreover, unlike Aragon and Bassanio, Morocco bases his choice on what he considers to be Portia’s merits, which he holds in so high an esteem that he mistakenly chooses the gold casket. And while Bassanio’s motives are largely mercenary, Morocco is clearly wealthy and so has no need of Portia’s money. Although Morocco exits in act two, his presence reverberates later via his association with Shylock and the Moorish woman whom Launce impregnates. Sometimes alleged to exhibit anti-Semitism, The Merchant of Venice, as the presentations of Morocco and Shylock demonstrate, actually constitutes one of Shakespeare’s most compelling endorsements of the vibrancy which diversity can impart to any society.

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The Journal of Linguaculture Centre for (Inter)cultural and (Inter)lingual Research, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi

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