"Behold, there stand the caskets, noble prince:" (2.9.4)
"Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves. / I will assume desert. Give me a key for this, / And instantly unlock my fortunes here" (2.9.49-51).
"What's here? the portrait of a blinking idiot, / Presenting me a schedule! I will read it. / How much unlike art thou to Portia! / How much unlike my hopes and my deservings! / ...Did I deserve no more that a fool's head? / Is that my prize? are my deserts no better?" (2.9.53-59).
The second suitor is the arrogant Prince of Arragon. He immediately disregards the lead casket, claiming it needs to be better-looking before he would risk anything for it. He then rules out the gold casket as something that would only appeal to those deceived by appearances.
"With one fool's head I came to woo, / But I go away with two. / Sweet, adieu. I'll keep my oath, / Patiently to bear my wrath" (2.9.74-77).
After some thought, Arragon selects the silver casket. Arragon, a snob, has absolutely no doubts about what he deserves, and since his nobility is inherited. he feels that he can chose the silver casket. He reviews his worth and decides that he "will assume desert", meaning he feels that he rightfully deserves Portia.
"I pray you, tarry, pause a day or two / Before you hazard; for, in choosing wrong, / I lose your company: therefore, forbear awhile" (3.2.1-3).
When he opens the silver casket, he finds within "the portrait of a blinking idiot" — a picture of a fool's head and a poem that condemns him as a fool.
"And here choose I: joy be the consequence!" (3.2.107).
The Prince of Arragon realizes that he is a fool for choosing the silver casket - he arrives a fool and is leaving that much more a fool. He says good-bye and promises to keep the agreement to never marry.
Finally, Bassanio enters. Portia, who has taken a likening for Bassanio, tries to dissuade him from choosing. Bassanio, however, is determined to make his selection.
When it is time for Bassano’s ‘test’, he is surprisingly rational. It seems as though his love for Portia has brought a maturity that allows him to think critically.