The Merchant of Venice
How we cite our quotes:
Your father was ever virtuous; and holy men at their
death have good inspirations: therefore the lottery,
that he hath devised in these three chests of gold,
silver and lead, whereof who chooses his meaning
chooses you, will, no doubt, never be chosen by any
rightly but one who shall rightly love. (1.2.3)
Nerissa insists that Portia's father had good intentions when he devised the casket contest as a way to determine Portia's husband. (Whoever picks the correct casket gets Portia and all of her dead dad's money.) Yet we can also read the casket contest as a way for Portia's dad to control where his wealth goes. By orchestrating his daughter's marriage from beyond the grave, Portia's father is able to transmit all of his wealth to the man of his choosing, which is why Portia complains that she is a "living daughter curbed by the will / of a dead father" (1.2.3).
In Belmont there is a lady richly left
And many Jasons come in quest of her. (1.1.6)
As we see here, Bassanio is interested in courting Portia because her father has left her a ton of dough. This would be great for Bassanio, who's completely broke. What's also interesting is the fact that Bassanio refers to Portia's suitors as a bunch of "Jasons" in "quest" of the Golden Fleece. (In Greek mythology, Jason and the Argonauts went after the golden fleece of a winged ram, which landed Jason the throne of Iolcus.) Bassanio's reference to the Greek myth turns his courtship of Portia into an exciting and lucrative conquest.
Try what my credit can in Venice do:
That shall be rack'd, even to the uttermost,
To furnish thee to Belmont, to fair Portia.
Go, presently inquire, and so will I,
Where money is, and I no question make
To have it of my trust or for my sake. (1.1.10)
When Antonio gives Bassanio the financial assistance he needs to woo Portia in style, Portia becomes the medium through which Antonio can strengthen his relationship with Bassanio. Since Bassanio will be further indebted to Antonio, the two friends will become that much closer and Bassanio will reap the financial rewards of being married to Portia. In other words, marriage is less about the relationship between husband and wife than it is an opportunity for Antonio and Bassanio to strengthen their bonds.