The significance of the caskets inscriptions in the play, The Merchant of Venice were that each message on the outside of the caskets left clues to which one is the casket that will win Portia and her fortune. There were three caskets: one filled with gold, one filled with silver, and one filled with lead. The inscriptions are written in riddle-like verses that require hard thinking to under- stand them. The inscriptions on the inside of the caskets are poems that teach a little sort of life lesson and then tell the suitor if he is right or wrong in the choosing.
Once he opens the casket, he finds a scroll that reads,
All that glitters is not gold-
Often have you heard that told.
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold.
Gilded tombs do worms infold.
Had you been as wide as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been enscrolled.
Fare you well, your suit is cold.
The silver casket has an inscription that says; Who chooseth me shall get what he deserves. Arragon, the second suitor, chooses the silver casket. Once he opens the casket, a scroll reads,
Seven times tried that judgement is
That did never choose amiss.
Some there be that shadows kiss;
Such have but a shadow s bliss.
Take what wife you will to bed,
I will ever be your head.
So begone; you are sped.
He was also wrong. If he read it carefully, he would have realized that it would have been so easy to add, You should have chosen the lead. Arragon misunderstood the exterior inscription because he thought that he deserved Portia.
The lead casket has an inscription, Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath. Bassanio chooses the lead casket. He opens the casket and finds the scroll that tells him that he chose correctly.
You choose not by the view
Chance as fair and choose as true.
Since this fortune falls to you,
Be content and seek no new.
If you be well pleased with this
And hold your fortune for your bliss,
Turn you where your lady is,
And claim her with a loving kiss.
I guess Bassanio chose the lead because he was willing to hazard everything he had to be with Portia (and her fortune).
Each casket inscription hinted that the lead casket was the winner. The suitor just had to do some deep thinking.