The Merchant of Venice: Analysis of Portia

Topics: Shylock, The Merchant of Venice, Marriage Pages: 6 (2067 words) Published: June 24, 2013
Character Name: Portia

Character Traits:

“Oh, me, the word ‘choose’! I may neither choose who I would nor refuse who I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor refuse none? (Act 1 Scene 2 lines 22~25)

“In terms of choice I am not solely led by nice direction of a maiden’s eyes. Besides, the lott’ry of my destiny bars me the right of voluntary choosing. But if my father had not scanted me, and hedged me by his wit to yield myself his wife who wins me by that means I told you, yourself, renowned Prince, then stood as fair as any comer I have looked on yet for my affection” (Act 2 Scene 1 lines 13~24)

- Although Portia wishes to choose the man she loves to marry, she cannot do so, for her father – Cato – had left a will that tells Portia to marry a man that can solve the ‘casket’ game. It is basically where Portia’s suitors have to choose one casket that contains Portia’s portrait amongst the three caskets – one made out of gold, the other two made out of silver and lead. In act 1 scene 2, Portia expresses sympathy for herself, and how she thinks it is a cruel path for her to follow, not being able to marry the man she wishes to spend her life with. Quoting ‘…will of a dead father,’ we can tell that Portia’s father is not alive any longer. Thus, Portia could, at any time of her favor, break her father’s will and make her own decision – there were not a single obstacle in the way. However, as shown in the encounter with Morocco in act 2 scene 1, Portia follows her father’s will with respect, despite the fact that her freedom is limited. These two quotes show respectively how Portia struggles to take in her father’s will, yet oblige to her respectable father’s will. It has not only proven the fact that she is loyal to her own father, but hinted that Portia is capable of providing loyalty for people she respects.

Observant / Picky
"I pray thee, overname them, and as thou namest them I will describe them; and according to my description level at my affection." (Act 1 Scene 2 lines 35~37)

- Although Portia doesn't possess the right, or the willingness to 'pick' her suitor for husband, she still seems to observe her suitors very carefully, and recall many details of them. The quote stated above sums up how she is confident on observing, and judging people based on her careful observation. Further on in the scene, Nerissa, as Portia requested, calls out some of the names of the suitors - Neapolitan prince, the County Palatine, and the French lord Monsieur Le Bon for instance. Portia analyzes each person based on her first impression and the after impression she gets through conversation. The details Portia provided made me reach the conclusion that she is very observing and careful, even picky time to time.

“What, no more? Pay him six thousand, and deface the bond. Double six thousand and then treble that, before a friend of this description shall lose a hair through Bassanio’s fault. First go with me to church and call me wife, and then away to Venice to your friend! For never shall you lie by Portia’s side with an unquiet soul. You shall have gold to pay the petty debt twenty times over; when it is paid, bring your true friend along.” (Act 3 Scene 2 lines 298~308)

- This is when Bassanio and Portia confirm each other’s love, and promise marriage. After confirming each other’s faith, Bassanio tells Portia about his best friend, Antonio, and that he is in serious trouble – trouble that is even related to him. Specifically, he mentions that Antonio is in debt of money from a Jew moneyloaner, and that Antonio is exposed to penalty that might cost his life. To Bassanio’s remark, Portia expresses deep concern and worry, and directly puts out a solution that she will support financially even over the extend of the debt. Quoting ‘before a friend of this description shall lose a hair through Bassanio’s...
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