Thursday, January 3, 2013

Portia in The Merchant of Venice

Portia is a daughter of a wealthy man; she is an intelligent and independent young man, a rare kind of her sex—I believe—at the era when Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice. From her earliest appearance in the play, I could sense a strong will and wise thinking from Portia. Her late father had set up a game competition for her suitors, to decide who would be her husband.

Although Portia thought the game was nonsense—she had had found herself a man she loved—she never disobeyed her father, although he had been died at that time. One by one her suitors came to try their luck, and during those times it was obvious that Portia was much wiser and smarter than all those men. She could see and judge each of their personalities.

Source: Giclee Print by Walter Paget 

Her remarkable intelligence showed when Portia set up a plan to help relieving Antonio—her husband’s (Bassanio) friend—from the wicked Jewish’s (Shylock) debt trap. Alone Portia dressed like a male judge to interfere with the judgment of the case. Without Portia’s help, I believe Antonio would have been died. Here Portia showed her genius way of thinking—I wonder how she learned law, but in fact there were more logic than the law itself in her defense.

Portia & Shylock at the court

In short, Portia was a woman who did not think her being a female as a restriction to her life. She knew what she wanted, and she did everything she could to achieve that. However, with all her advantages, she still respect male’s authority—her father, her husband. She just wanted to do things her own way. That makes me liked Portia very much! The first female character I love from Shakespeare’s plays, maybe because she’s very similar to myself…


  1. I like your statement about her balanced view of men's authority. All of her quality reminds me of Bassanio's description of her, even comparing her to Brutus' Portia.

    1. Yeah, I think it's interesting that Bassanio mentioned Brutus' Portia in this play. Seems that there's something in that name: Portia...

      About the balanced view of men authority, well, it's something difficult to do. Look at how many modern marriage failed because of it. Only wise women can do that without sacrificing their own free will.


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