The Merchant of Venice Essay

841 Words 4 Pages
In the comedy, The Merchant of Venice, the roles and responsibilities of women is a significant social issue proposed by Shakespeare. This theme is communicated by the only three female characters in the play: Nerissa, Portia and Jessica. For example, in Act 4 during the trial between Antonio and Shylock, Portia and Nerissa disguise themselves as Balthasar and Bellario to free their friend. However, Jessica also plays a minor role in portraying the independence of Jewish women in a Christian and Elizabethan society, by successfully betraying her father, Shylock. These characters portray Shakespeare’s overall opinion on women, as well as a modern audience’s view on Elizabethan society in many significant ways by accentuating themes, ideas and contextual links in the form of the play itself.
An example of Shakespeare’s view of women is that they were perceived as over-fastidious and pompous individuals in Elizabethan society. This is conveyed by Portia’s remarks “Let all of his complexion choose me so” (2.7) when the Prince of Morocco choses the golden casket. In this statement there is no remorse for her racist accusation, not even by the idea that she has criticised a Prince, who is as equally powerful as she is. From this, it can be argued that she is cruel, even though this is fuelled by her anxiousness to find the perfect husband, as well as using this as a metaphorical warning for other potential suitors. Shakespeare uses Portia’s arrogant and arduous personality to…