Merchant Of Venice-Portia
& Bassanio’s Indifference To Wealth Essay, Research Paper
“How little is the cost I have bestowed in purchasing the semblance of my soul,”(3.5.19-20) is where the heart of this play is in my eyes. Portia doing what she can for her one true love, Bassanio. Money is of no importance to her especially when it comes to the happiness or unhappiness of Bassanio.
There are many places in the Merchant of Venice that show Portia and Bassanio’s indifference, and what seems to be apathy toward wealth. Many are hidden and many are as clear as day to the reader. I found that reading into The Merchant of Venice was a fun and interesting experience. The way Shakespeare wrote his plays makes people really think about what they are reading; it reminded me of a maze.
Portia, an unspoiled Princess to riches, a Princess that doesn’t need to think or worry about money. It is something she has an unimaginable amount of, yet it doesn’t change who she is or what her values are. Her father seemed to instill in her that money isn’t everything to everybody; how you care about people and values are what matter the most in life. When we first see Bassanio, he is telling Antonio of a secret trip he plans to take to win the heart of Portia; yet he has no means to get there due to his extravagant living which has left him in debt to others. At first money seems to be of some importance to Bassanio, but towards the middle of the play his thoughts seem to change.
Although Portia’s father does not have a so-called character in The Merchant of Venice; his presence is definitely felt through Portia’s character, as well as the scrolls on the caskets. In doing this, Portia’s father in a way still had a hand helping to choose the right husband for his daughter. When each of the princes come to woo Portia and go into the casket room, they look for what would be the most creative answer in picking out the casket.
The gold casket scroll reads “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.” (2.7.4-5). When the reader first sees this, he thinks the gold casket would make the most sense. Portia’s father would have put her picture in there, because it is gold and full of riches as is Portia.
Reading into this the reader might think that Portia’s father would not put her picture in this one, because love is richer than gold. The prince that would pick this one is not interested in love only Portia’s wealth.
The second casket made of silver states “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.” (2.7.7) I have yet to think why any Prince with half a brain would pick this casket over gold or lead. To pick this, deep inside, they did not want to marry Portia. Apparently, the gold wasn’t intriguing enough for them yet the lead was too poor.
The lead casket would be the most appealing to the Prince who really wants to win Portia’s heart and not her riches. This scroll reads “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” (2.7.9) When Bassanio and Portia discuss his choices she asks him to think about his choices carefully because it will determine their future forever.
Bassanio although deeply in debt to moneylenders, can see past the gold and silver of the first two caskets, and hazards his chance with the lead casket. The scroll inside this casket proves this point;” You that chose not by the view, Chance as fair, and choose as true: Since this fortune falls to you, Be content, and seek no new. If you be well pleas’d with this, And hold your fortune for your bliss, Turn you where your lady is, and claim her with a loving kiss.”(3.2.130-138)
From the beginning of the play, Portia seems for those times more or less of a free spirit. She has been in Belmont all of her life and knows little about Venice and its residents lifestyles. Portia’s father seemed to have instilled values and love in Portia from a very young age. She was taught to love and to be kind and that money could not buy love and happiness.
Earlier in the play Bassanio borrows 3,000 ducats from Shylock on Antonio’s word that it will be paid back in full. Shylock is a stereotypical Jew who is a moneylender that insists on charging interest on monies loaned out. He needed this money to go to Portia in Belmont. If Antonio does not pay back the ducats to Shylock in due time; Shylock will be able to cut off a pound of Antonio’s flesh anywhere on his body. In 3.2 of the play, Bassanio receives a letter written by Antonio regarding the money that is owed to Shylock. Portia being concerned about Bassanio asks what the letter is about. Bassanio explains, “When I told you my state was nothing, I should then have told you that I was worse than nothing; for indeed I have engag’d my friend to his mere enemy, to feed my means.”(3.2.258-263)
Bassanio then tells Portia of the whole deal and the conversation goes on:
Por: What sum owes he, the Jew?
Bas: For me, three thousand ducats.
Por: What, no more? Pay him six-thousand, and deface the bond; double six-thousand and treble that, before a friend of this description shall lose a hair through Bassanio’s fault.”(3.2.297-302)
Portia realizes that who Bassanio may have been in the past and how he dealt with his money is nothing like he is now. This is why she doesn’t care how much he needs to call of Shylock.
The fact that Portia is willing to pay three times the amount owed to Shylock to spare Bassanio’s friend proves how unimportant money is to her.
In this next portion of Merchant of Venice, Portia tells everyone around her of the unimportance of money and the value of true love and friendship and how that is the most important thing and how Bassanio’s happiness and the life of his friend Antonio are so important:
Por: I never did repent for doing good, nor shall I now: for in companions that do converse and waste the time together, whose souls do bear an egall yoke of love, there must be needs like a proportion of lineaments, of manners, and of spirit; which makes me think that this Antonio. Being the bosom lover of my lord, must needs be like my lord. If it be so, how little is the cost I have bestowed in purchasing the semblance of my soul, from out the state of hellish cruelty. (3.5.8-21)
Portia really pours her heart and soul out in these words. How strong she is and how willing she is to make the ones that matter happy, no matter what the cost.
Shakespeare really had the world’s most perfect woman in mind when he developed the character Portia. As many have said she is definitely one of his strongest female characters. She is the ideal daughter, following her father’s wishes, the ideal friend, princess, and wife. Portia was the smart, strong and loving woman that anyone would be honored to know.
Throughout the play, we see many sides of Portia, but all remain the same when it comes to riches and values. She proves it many times over. I believe she even taught Bassanio the importance of love and friendship over money.
The moral of William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, is not how you earn your money, nor how you spend it, but, how you keep your money, friends, loved ones, and most of all values all at the same time. Choose from the heart and continue down the path of love and wisdom.
THe Merchant of Venice Riverside Shakespeare Book