Shakespeare Merchant Of Venice Essay, Research Paper
Portia is Definitely a Man s Name
Why must we label some women s jobs while men s aren t? A basketball team needs to be changed to the women s basketball team when women participate. Women operate as the other in society, many being unacknowledged and treated as such. Judging by some of Shakespeare s works, it seems this same social placement existed in his time. Through examination of Jessica s escape from her father and Portia s conceding to her royalty in Shakespeare s Merchant of Venice, social construction and biological determinism for females can be acknowledged in their time.
Jessica faces a relationship with her father that is far from being pleasurable and plans to leave the old man s house when she can. Not only does her sex trouble her in placing her in the powerless position under her father, but her Jewish background burdens her as well. Jews were the normative unappreciated ones, just as the female population. She feels humiliated to be Shylock s daughter as these encumbrances are laid on her to put her near the bottom of the constructed society. Our house is hell Alack, what heinous sin it is in me/To be ashamed to be my father s child! (45-47). When Jessica explains the situation of her house, she is not only expressing her sorrow for Lancelot s departure as their servant, but she gives an idea about her relationship with her father and her desire to leave. She calls it a sin to be in her position because she not only needs to live in her father s patriarchy, but she has to deal with being mistreated as a female and a Jew. Jews and females were the normative other , cutting her off from any credit as a woman or a person. Being Shylock s daughter, she is a subject in the system of the power that is in her father s hands. Her issues are more deep-rooted with being Shylock s offspring. the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children (107). Jessica agrees with Lancelot she was molded from the same clay as Shylock, although she refuses be the same. She is led to believe her life has been biologically determined as the child of this money lending Jew. To her, becoming a Christian with marrying Lorenzo would perhaps save her soul, but she fears her father s sin is too perplexed to be cleansed from her. Not only can she not escape her place as a woman, but she also feels that her father s sins cannot flee her. There is but one hope in it that can do you any good, and that is but a kind of bastard hope neither That were a kind of bastard hope indeed (107-109). Jessica and Lorenzo use the word bastard in a sense that can have two meanings. She can either literally become a bastard with the death of her father, or her escape from her father will free her from her entrapment. Her elopement with Lorenzo sparks a new love within her, washing away her family-bound guilt. As opposed to escape from her struggle, Portia gives into the system of power and finds happiness within it.
Portia feels trapped in her royalty, so she finds a way to work out her sadness with the suitors. Portia is also a subject of her family s power, especially her father s reign as king. Because Portia cannot escape her body as a female, she is subservient to the fact. 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 (13). Instead of taking a stand as a strong-willed woman, she falls under her dead father s command that helplessly floats in the air, yet controls her. Her father would forever bend her every decision and would control her entire life. The patriarchy in her family was so strong it existed after the power of the father died with him. And yet a maiden hath no tongue but thought Beshrew your eyes! They have o erlooked me and divided me: One half of me is yours, the other half yours Mine own, I would say: but if mine then yours, And so all yours (81). When trying to persuade Bassanio to select the right casket, Portia spills not only her obvious love for him, but also how she is a slave to the male s power. As a maiden, she has no say in anything over a man; she only thinks to herself with the mouth that is sewn shut by man s speech. As she has already accepted this, she wants the one man she loves who will speak well for her. She speaks of Bassanio overlooking her that symbolizes all males putting themselves in front of females and not giving them credit for their work. Portia continues to give Bassanio full possession over her. She subsided to the whole propriety of royalty, and now she puts all her soul in his ownership.
Portia and Jessica exemplify the position of women in Shakespeare s time, whether it is trouble with the social construction or their biological place in their lives. Their actions that either submitted to or escaped from the system of power over females are the basis of many females who still partake in the refusal to stop the system and find freedom. So will this man power prevail forever? If a female reads this, thou shalt decide.