"Merchant of Venice" - Feminist Perspective.

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The feminist critical perspective examines the roles that women play in literary works and their true significance to the text. Their roles are usually decided on by the society or time period in which the story is set. In "The Merchant of Venice," females were suppressed by the societal ideals of Shakespeare's Elizabethan era, which is portrayed through the characters of Portia and Jessica, who could not establish their own powerful identities because they were women. Portia and Jessica are the main female characters in the play. If they had been given a chance to show their skills, they undoubtedly would've been extremely strong women. However, they had to mask their abilities in order to appeal to their male counterparts. Their…show more content…
The suitors lasciviously desired Portia for her beauty and wealth. If they could win her as a wife, their reputations and futures would be set. The first suitor to try his luck at the riddle of the caskets was the Prince of Morocco. He chose the gold casket which had an inscription that read: "Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire" (II.vii.5). This shows that Morocco was a greedy man who desired Portia for materialistic reasons, just like many other men who would desire the gold too. The second suitor to attempt the riddle was the Prince of Arragon, who chose the silver casket. Like Morrocco, Arragon was quite superficial. "I will assume desert. Give me a key for this / And instantly unlock my fortunes here" (II.ix.52). He saw Portia as merely a free ride to financial security. He didn't want her because he loved or cared for her. He only wanted her for her money and power. Women were a prize which men displayed and flaunted. A woman had no true value as a person.

A recurring event in the play was the women disguising themselves as men. This is symbolic of the suppression of the women by their male counterparts. They had to mask their true abilities under the guise of men. There was no way in Elizabethan society for a woman to be successful in any field other than wifehood or motherhood. In Act II, Jessica was finally rebelling against the strict rules of Shylock. She was taking extreme measures in order to elope with Lorenzo.
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