Merchants Of Venice: Portia Essay, Research Paper
Portia: The Best Female Shakespearean Part?
Portia is one of Shakespeare?s best parts for an actress as, apart from being one of the central characters within the main plot of the play; she displays great wit and intelligence. These are assets which none of Shakespeare?s other female roles ever had as women who lived around the same time as Shakespeare, were not considered to have such honourable traits.
Portia has many lengthy speeches, and in almost all of theses she displays her great intelligence and wit, either by insulting her hapless suitors or saving her new husband?s friend with her extensive knowledge of the Law and the way in which a court-room works.
There are few scenes in which Portia is not involved. These are mainly the opening scene, and the scenes involving the signing of the bond. This seems to show that she has no need to borrow money, therefore it strengthens the fact, which we have already been told, that she is wealthy. We are told this in the opening scene, ? In Belmont is a lady richly left?. This is also reflected in the scene in which Bassanio tells her of the loan and the bond involved. She says ?What, no more?? when she is told of the sum that is to be paid back and tells him to ? Pay him six thousand, and deface the bond; double six thousand and then treble that?. This not only shows her to be well off, but generous and kind as well.
Portia gets to prove her wit and knowledge of the Law in the courtroom scene as she dresses as a male lawyer so she may be permitted to enter the court and is instituted as the presiding lawyer in the case. She is allowed to do this as she has letters from another judge which say that she is his trainee and is well learned. She would not be allowed to do this without a decent amount of knowledge of the Law. She proceeds by seeming to side with Shylock and accepting his claims for his rightful forfeit as is stated in the bond. ?Why this bond is forfeit; and lawfully by this, the Jew may claim a pound of flesh? Is the section at the start of the scene in which you feel she is going to side with Shylock. Then, at the critical point in which Shylock is just preparing to claim his pound of flesh, appearing to just notice that there is no mention of blood in the bond and casually mention that the bond is void. She brings the whole proceedings to a stop with a quiet, ?Tarry, a little?. It is obvious that she knew about this through the whole scene and was just stringing Shylock along. She then carries on the charade by not telling her husband, Bassanio, who she is and asks for the ring (which she made him promise not to give to anyone after their wedding) for a reward. She says, (when he offers her a reward for saving his friends life) ? And (for your love) I?ll take this ring from you.?
She is one of the central characters of the play and is involved in the main plot of the play more than a couple of the male characters are. The whole plot revolves round the loan taken out for Bassanio to woo her in style. Many of her speeches are as long, such as the speech containing, ?The quality of mercy is not strain?d?, if not longer than many of the male characters of the play, and she displays many more desirable traits than either of the two male central characters, Bassanio and Antonio, do. Bassanio appears shallow and reckless with money, ??Tis not unknown to you, Antonio, how much I have disabled mine estate by something showing a more swelling port.? He is obviously only wanting to marry Portia for her money as he has only seen a glimpse of her before yet feels he is already in love with her. ? Sometimes from her eyes I did receive fair speechless messages.? Yet it is obvious towards the end of the play that he is becoming more considerate and Portia is having a good effect on him. Antonio appears generous and considerate also, but he does not show any of the wit and intelligence that Portia does. ?My purse, my person, my extremest means lie all unlock?d to your occasions,? shows Antonio to be munificent.
Portia would have been seen as an inspirational figure to young ladies at the time at which it was first published as it showed that women could be learned and interesting without appearing dowdy and men still liked her.
I felt at first when I read the script, that Portia was too perfect a character, but then I considered the fact that she had no say in whom she married or who came to stay at her house and woo her, ? I may neither choose who I would refuse nor who I dislike.? This would have made her life very tense, as she would not have known who would choose the correct casket. I feel that this experience would have been quite stressful, although she does not seem to find it so as she is able to make jokes about her suitors and does not seem too worried when someone decides to choose a casket. This could mean that she has already resigned herself to her fate, or that she has a very strong character and is not of a nervous disposition.
I did like Portia?s character, but felt that she was a little too self-centred and aware of her beauty and attraction for me to feel that she was completely likeable and for her to be my favourite character. I preferred Portia?s maid Nerissa in terms of character. Yet I still felt that I would like to play the part of Portia above anyone else as she undoubtedly was the best part for an actress in the play, and was the best part that Shakespeare ever wrote for a woman.