In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Portia’s father has left a riddle for any potential suitor. To Win Portia’s hand in marriage the suitors must choose from three Caskets – one of gold, one silver and one lead. (Anyone who has ever read a fairy tale will be able to hazard a guess as to the correct choice – but Portia’s suitors are less well read than we are!)
Caskets is a rather vague term and really could signify a number of different things but whatever is literally used there are a few practical problems to solve. The caskets can’t be too small – they need to be seen by the whole audience. The caskets must be easy to get on and off the stage – as other scenes do not use them at all. The caskets must be able to be opened without being destroyed and they need to be large enough to contain a scroll and the objects mentioned in the script.
It is likely that they where three medium sized objects mounted on pedestals to give the audience a good view of them. But where might they have been? The simple solution is to put them in the discovery space – perhaps slightly forward of that space behind a curtain. The clue to this being a likely solution is found in the text itself here Portia is about to let one of her suitors (The Prince of Morocco) choose a casket
Go draw aside the curtains and discover
The several caskets to this noble prince.
Now make your choice.
So the curtains and drawn and the caskets revealed and the Prince makes his choice. Wrongly. Happily for Portia the man she likes is the only man to make the right choice…