I would love to write a critical essay about the role of Portia in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice,” hailing her as one of Shakespeare’s greatest contributions to the society of the sane; however, I find this impossible after re-reading the text. At first, I hung on her every word and was amazed at her wit, but later I found her to be just another Shakespearean psycho. Basically, I understood Portia to be nothing less than an obedient daughter obeying the whims of her dead, over-protective father. She speaks in terms of respect about the coffin ritual, and the reader believes her to be sincere.Order now
Later as her character is unfolded, the reader sees a wife in love with the husband who was wise enough to earn her love (and consequently her fortune! ). Beware, gentle reader! Do not fall under the spell of Portia the control freak! The following scenerios must be proof that this woman is not to be trusted! First of all, let’s evaluate the scene where Portia and Bassanio are before the caskets where Bassanio must make his choice. The dialogue directly preceeding the finding of the casket is basic lover’s speech, but wait! Listen carefully to what Portia says: “If you do love me, you will find me out” (III ii 41).
Portia leads Bassanio to believe that the choice he makes in the caskets is his own. She leads the reader to believe that Bassanio’s love for her is the only force which leads to the discovery of the correct casket. However, earlier when Portia is speaking of the preparations for the casket choice, she speaks of music which is to be played while Bassanio makes his choice. Ok, this seems innocent enough; but examine the song–the first two lines of the song rhyme with lead! It doesn’t take long for the subliminal message to be absorbed in Bassanio’s brain, and the lead casket is chosen.
This manipulative device is an indication to me that Portia has a need to make things go her way. She is afraid that Bassanio will make the wrong choice, and therefore assists him. Point #2. Portia creates a way of controlling the future of the relationship between herself and Bassanio. Portia gives Bassanio a ring with the words, “I give you this ring, which when you part from, lose, or give away, / Let it presage the ruin of your love”. Of course, Bassanio gives away the ring first chance he gets. Portia later makes known that the man he gave the ring to was her, and she proceeds to cold Bassanio for his lack of love.
Bassanio is trapped! No matter what he does for the rest of their relationship, in his mind will remain the idea that Portia is watching! This is a clever device invented by Mr. Shakespeare; however, it does display a certain obsessive, manipulative air about Portia. Hmmmmm…. Lastly, I would like to take a venture. I was wondering earlier while reading the “Merchant of Venice” why Shakespeare used the doppel- ganger technique in his presentation of Nerissa and Portia. Nerissa follows Portia about and makes the same decisions Portia does. Nerissa s not as bright as Portia, and yet she meets the same ultimate fate as Portia.
I am wondering if Shakespeare could have used Nerissa to point out the manipulative characteristics of Portia. It is true that one way that manipulative people feed is through weaker people who uphold them and their values. If anyone has any insight on this thought, let me know! Well, there you have it. My true feelings on Portia. Sure she is to be admired in some aspects, but perhaps as all great archetypes she has her foibles and faults. If anyone finds anything about the aforementioned aspects of Portia’s character, please let me know.