Portia's father died, leaving 3 caskets. Her portrait is in one. The suitor who picks the casket with her portrait in it gains her hand in marrige., Gold, "Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire", The prince of Morrocco picks this casket, he thought Portia was what many men desired., Silver, "Who chooseth me shall gain all he deserves", The prince of Aragon thought Portia what what he deserved so he picked this casket, again, it was the wrong one., Lead, "Who chooseth me must hazard all he hath", Bassanio picks this casket as he is not prepared to judge based on outward appearences alone. He wins Portia's hand in marrige.
Portia has many suitors come to pick her portrait out of the caskets. One such suitor was the Prince of Morrocco. To his face she was very pleasant but once he choose the incorrect casket and left, she is revealed to the audience as a very racist character., "Let all of his complexion choose me so", Portia is basically saying, any more black guys, please let them choose incorrectly because she doesn't want to marry someone who looks like that. This shocks the audience as she is primarly revealed as a very pleasant, kind young woman.
Portia and Nerissa hear of Antonios life being in danger in Venice at the hands of Shylock. They decide to go to Venice to try to save his life. In order to pull this off, they dress up as men and go to court and end up saving his life., "They shall think we are acomplished with what we lack", In order to recieve the respect they need to save Antonio, they have to dress up as men and go to court. In Shakespere's day, women did not, in anyway, recieve the same respect as men. This is a strange concept to this audience as we in New Zealand have the same respect for women and men. Our country is run by a woman, so the means Nerissa and Portia go to in order to recieve this respect that we take for granted wakes us up and shows us not to take our lives for granted as we live in a special and very fair country and not everyone is as lucky or priveledged as we women in New Zealand are.
Bassanio-chooses the casket not based on the outward appearence of it. He was successful in his choice. This shows the audience that to be successful in life, outward appearences are not the be all and end all of life., "So may the outward shows be least themselves", Basically he is saying, I don't believe in outward appearences, so may this lead casket's inside not be the same as its outside. He wins Portia's hand in marrige.
Whites vs Black, Portia vs Prince of Morrocco, We see a new side to Portia when the Prince of Morrocco arrives in attempts to win Portia's hand in marrige., When he arrives, she is very pleasant and respectful, which is what the audience knows her as., "Noble Prince", This is what Portia calls both the Prince of Aragon and the Prince of Morrocco. We now know that she was being two-faced. This surprises the audience as we have not previously known Portia to be racist. This again calls us to question her christian values., "Let all of his complexion choose me so", After we hear Portia say this quote, we know that she is very racist and two-faced. Combining her and Antonio, makes the Christians out to the 'evil' religion
Christians vs Jews, Antonio vs Shylock, When Antonio approaches Shylock to borrow the money (3000 ducats), the relationship between the two is made very obvious. Sylock hates Antonio., "I hate him for he is a christian", The harshness of this quote shocks our audience and immediatly we sypethise for Antonio for having to deal with, what looks like, a christian hating jew., But after this quote that shocks the audience because of its harshness, we hear in Shylocks aside:, "You call me mis-believer, cut throat dog and spit apon my jewish Gaberdene", After we hear this, our sypathies transfer from Antonio to Shylock, even more so when we hear Antonio say:, "I am as likely to call thee so again, to spit on thee, to spurn thee to", This causes the audience to question who is the victim here and think of the christians as hypocrites. They expect Shylock to show mercy in the court scene (Act 4 scene 1) and also when he is creating the bond (Act 1 scne 3) and yet they show no mercy towards Shylock throughout the whole play.