Briefly

Porcia's chests

Porcia's chests

Porcia, the protagonist of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, is forced by his father, to marry that suitor who, between three chests (one of gold, another of silver and another of lead), choose the one that contains his portrait.

Porcia has the following inscriptions engraved on the chests in order to marry his beloved, who is the most intelligent of the suitors.

  • The inscription of the golden chest is: The portrait is in this chest.
  • The inscription of the silver chest is: The portrait is not in this chest.
  • The inscription on the lead chest is: The portrait is not in the gold chest.

Porcia explains to the suitors that only one of the statements is true,

What chest contains the portrait of Porcia?

Solution

The inscriptions of the gold chest and the lead are contradicted by what one must be false and the other true. Since they tell us that we have only one true statement, the encrusting of the silver chest must be false so the portrait will be in the silver chest.