This is the exact text (The Merchant of Venice, Act 2 Scene 9):


The fire seven times tried this,

Seven times tried that judgment is,

That did never choose amiss.

Some there be that shadows kiss.

Such have but a shadow’s bliss.

I have no problems in understanding the text before and after this but I can't seem to 'get' the meaning of this particular extract. I think that these lines roughly translate to :

The following has been tested seven times:

People who consider their judgement seven times

Are never wrong (?).

There are a few people who chase illusions(without digging deeper) and such people only have illusory bliss , ie, they think that they're happy when truly, they're not.

I don't know if that's correct. I would really appreciate it if someone could explain to me, where I'm going wrong.

Plus, I would really like to know what the deal about the number 'seven' is.


3 Answers 3


The passage alludes to silver, purified by smelting seven times, as in Psalm 12:6:

The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Silver does double duty here, both as the color of the box, and as the surface of a mirror. The box warned that “Who chooseth me shall have as much as he deserves”. His desert is a "portrait of a blinking idiot".

The box suggests that he should kiss it ("Some there be that shadows kiss"), as a narcissist kissing their own image in a mirror. And that's the only kissing he'll be getting today.

There is a third image of silver a few lines down:

There be fools alive, iwis,
Silvered o'er—and so was this.

Which is to say, "There are certainly fools with too much money, and you're one of them". Silver, like gold, and unlike lead, represents money.


Silver is tried or put seven times on the fire ; so as to , furnish it (or make it glow) in its silvery colour. (1st line)

Similarly a judgement should also be tested seven times (just a number;Which means anything should be judged much carefully) (2nd line)

A judgement which is tested several times is never wrong or amiss. (3rd line)

Some people kiss shadows (pull illusions (believe that a thing is true but it is actually not)).For e.g. Here, Arragon chooses silver just because it is unique from gold(what many men desires) and lead(which is considered as inferior); moreover, silver was inscripted with "as much as he deserves " so just to show his nobility to Portia he chooses that he actually deserves, the silver casket :and becomes happy as he had given a vivid description of the casket he chooses and arrogantly Arragon believed the portrait or picture of Portia is contained in the silver casket as silver was also unique from others as he knew his deserving and was not trying to cozen or cheat his deserving to get higher. Thus, he had a wrong thoughts against the casket as one does give all his hazards or affections for getting his love: but a deserved or arranged love doesn't last forever : as the man is only getting the lady due to his qualification and birth religion; and not by his love.Hence he was just choosing his quality and nobility but not love... Thus, he got a shadowy thought or illusion (not true) that a man who has enough quality(high wisdom and rich birth) to woo a woman are made for each other.....but not love.

And finally will get a appearance of happiness(before opening it) due to his reasoning ; but not the real happiness(after opening the casket) .(bliss means blessing)

(3rd and 4th line)


There be fools alive I wis;
Silvered over and so was this;

This means that there are many fools who are reputed wise because the are silvered over (have grey hair, representing wisdom with age). "The fire seven times tried" - this means that silver was tested by fire 7 times to get its color and lustre. When making judgement,we should also think something through 7 times to make an accurate decision.

Some there be that shadows kiss;
Such have but a Shadows bliss;

This means that some people only run after things that are imaginary and unreal so the happiness that they get is also imaginary and unreal.

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