The Portrayal of Portia in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

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The Portrayal of Portia in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

In the merchant of Venice, Shakespeare portrays Portia to be a person of mixed characters, her attitude and mood seems to change with every scene. However, she is always seen by us as being pleasant and polite. Shakespeare portrays Portia’s character through other characters as well as directly, Nerissa is used almost as a comparison to which we can judge Portia, and by observing other character’s references to her, we can also build up a more detailed mage of her personality.

Portia is first introduced to us by Shakespeare in Scene 2, This scene gives us a basic idea of her personality, and through her speeches, Shakespeare
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But however keen to follow her fathers will, she is very blatantly judgemental, and she talks openly about how she remembers him favourably. Shakespeare often includes indirect compliments towards Portia through other characters, and nearing the end of this scene, Nerissa remarks, “True madam, he of all men that ever my foolish eyes looked upon, was the best deserving a fair lady”.

The intelligence that Shakespeare adds to Portia’s character at the beginning

of the play is again used nearing the end of the play, and although her character is consistently presented as witty by Shakespeare, this wittiness is presented in a far more prominent manner in this scene. This wit and ability to trick others is presented most strongly when she puts a twist on shylocks bond. First Shakespeare makes Portia lull Shylock into a false sense of security by ‘accepting’ that by law shylock is indeed entitled to the taking of 1 pound of Antonio’s flesh, and she then finds a loophole in the law by which not only to spare Antonio’s life, but also to criminalise shylock. This shows incredible wit and her ability to think on the spot and is shown by this paragraph;

“Tarry a little, there is something else.

This bond doth give thee here no jot of
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