Portia In The Merchant Of Venice Essay

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While reading The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, the character of Portia caught my eye and stole my heart. As a woman of power, wealth and beauty, she is seen as the ultimate prized possession for many suitors from widespread nations. It seems, based of in-class discussions, that women in Shakespearean times usually were not highly educated or considered elite in any manner. The exception to this is women of royalty who gained their title through marriage or when the male of the household dies. Portia, the heiress to the throne after the death of her father, is a complex character portrayed beautifully through the eloquent writing of Shakespeare. Portia is first introduced in Act 1, Scene 1 in a conversation between Antonio and Bassanio. Bassanio begins describing a fair woman who is wealthy beyond reason. He states, “For the four winds blow in in from every coast, renowned suitors; and her sunny locks hang on her temples like golden fleece.” She is the one with golden hair that everyone desires to call his or her own. She is then compared to Portia, the beautiful and wealthy daughter of Cato and wife of Brutus from Roman times. Bassanio wishes to marry her, but needs money to compete against the richer men, which is the reason he borrows money from Shylock on Antonio’s “credit”. This one scene sets up the entire plot of the play from Bassanio needing money to him successfully wooing Portia to Antonio’s failure to repay Shylock and the court fiasco to the ending where Bassanio’s true love for Portia is put to the test when she asks for his ring as payment for saving his best friend’s life. In Scene 2, Portia is engaging in a private conversation concerning her future in regards to marriage with Nerissa, her servant. R... ... middle of paper ... ...ves he may be more dedicated to Antonio as a friend than he is to her as a husband. Even though Bassanio is hesitant to give the ring up, he still does, and Portia feels distraught that he values Antonio over her. She truly cares for Bassanio and understands the importance of a close friendship, but also believes he should not have disrespected their love and promise by giving away her ring. The court scene is extremely long, but is one of the main sections of the play in which Portia is portrayed as something other than a beautiful queen. Shakespeare chose to develop Portia into a rounded character with multiple facets, from beauty and brains and power and passion. Her presence in the play contributes greatly to the plot, as without her, Antonio would have died, Bassanio would be left without a wife and Shylock would still be the nasty old Jew he has always been.
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