The Merchant of Venice is a play set in a very male and Christian dominated society where other religions and women rights weren’t very well accepted by the community. However Portia, a rich woman who had previously been controlled by men, triumphs as she manipulates tricks and saves the lives of the men.
We see how she is manipulated by men through her father, who though dead, still manages to control who she marries from his will. He states in his will that from three different caskets the suitors will have to chose, in each of which will contain either a letter to the suitor or a picture of Portia. In one of the three caskets, either the lead, silver or gold casket, there will be a picture of Portia the suitor picking the casket containing the picture will be the suitor who will get to marry Portia. ‘I may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike, so is the will of living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father’ this shows that Portia would rather have a say as to who she gets to choose rather than being told who she has to marry. She overcomes that after two suitors who she wishes not to marry choose the wrong casket letting her know which casket contains her picture, so that when Bassanio becomes a suitor and she falls for him she is able to hint to him which casket to choose:
‘Tell me where is Fancy bred,
Or in the heart, or in the head?
How begot, how nourishèd?’
She uses her linguistic knowledge to lead him to the lead casket by rhyming the words at the end of each line with ‘lead: bred, head & nourishèd’.
Throughout the rest of the play we see Portia fight back not only through giving herself control of who she marries but also through deceiving the Duke into believing that she is a clever, young lawyer named Balthazar by writing a letter that the Duke receives from, supposedly, Bellario telling him that he cannot make the court hearing but he has sent a young man, a disguised Portia, called Balthazar to take his place....
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