Shakespeare/Merchant Of Venice term paper 12504

Shakespeare term papers
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When William Shakespeare wrote, The Merchant of Venice, he included a female

character that influences the play dramatically. In most of Shakespeare's plays,

the women have little power and intelligence. In The Merchant of Venice,

however, Portia is a woman that saves the life of a man with her wit and

intelligence. Another woman created by Shakespeare that posses qualities similar

to Portia is Beatrice, from Much Ado about Nothing. Both women add to the main

themes of the play because of their ability to use their intelligence and witty

remarks as well as having a loving heart. The women share many similarities as

well as many differences which seem to be inevitable because Portia seems to be

put on a pedestal that very few can reach. Portia is one of Shakespeare's great

heroines, whose beauty, lively intelligence, quick wit, and high moral

seriousness have blossomed in a society of wealth and freedom. She is known

throughout the world for her beauty and virtue, and she is able to handle any

situation with her sharp wit. In many of Shakespeare's plays, he creates female

characters that are presented to be clearly inferior to men. The one female,

Shakespearean character that is most like Portia would be Beatrice, from Much

Ado about Nothing. Both of the women are known for their wit and intelligence.

Beatrice is able to defend her views in any situation, as does Portia.

Shakespeare gives each of them a sense of power by giving their minds the

ability to change words around, use multiple meanings and answer wisely to the

men surrounding them. By adding a loving heart to both of these women,

Shakespeare makes their intelligence more appealing. Even though Beatrice hides

the loving side of her character for most of the play, she still expresses her

kindness and love in other ways. Like Portia, she is a dear friend and an

obedient daughter. In the fourth act, after Portia has saved the life of

Antonio, she uses her wit, just as Beatrice does to test Benedict's love, to

convince Bassanio to surrender the ring that he vowed he would never part with.

After simply asking for it and being unsuccessful, she decides to use her

intelligence and says, "I see sir, you are liberal in offers. / You taught

me first to beg, and now methinks / You teach me how a beggar should be answer'd"

(IV.ii.438-440). The only main difference between the two women is the way they

are perceived by the other characters. Portia is thought of as a perfect angel

possessing no flaws, which is shown when Bassanio describes her to Antonio and

says, "In Belmont is a lady richly left, / And she is fair and, fairer than

that word, / Of wondrous virtues… Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth,

/ For the four winds blow in from every coast / Renowned suitors, and her sunny

locks / Hang on her temples like a golden fleece, / Which makes her seat of

Belmont Colchis' strond, / And many Jasons come in quest of her"

(I.i.161-172). Portia displays all the graces of the perfect Renaissance lady.

She is not ambitious, she is quiet rather than restrictive. She is modest in her

self-estimation. Her generous spirit makes her wish she had more virtue, wealth,

and friends so that she can better help those she loves. Beatrice, on the other

hand, is not described as beautiful and even though she is well liked in her

society, she is not thought of in the same godly way as Portia is. Besides

saving the life of Antonio, Portia is also used to convey the theme of deceptive

appearances. Throughout the play, Shakespeare uses his characters to show the

audience that a person cannot be judged by how they appear to the eye and that a

person can truly be identified by their inner soul. Bassanio chooses the lead

casket and proves that even though the other caskets appeared to be beautiful

and trustworthy, the treasure was found in the casket of lead. Shakespeare

foreshadows the theme of appearances when Portia says to her new husband,

"You see me, Lord Bassanio, where I stand, / Such as I am… But the full

sum of me / Is an unlesson'd girl, unschool'd, unpractic'd, / Happy in this, she

is not yet so old / But she may learn; happier than this, / She is not bred so

dull but she can learn" (III.ii.149-164). After saying this to her husband,

she later dresses up as a man and finds a way to release Antonio from his bond

with Shylock, when no one else is able to. She proves to the audience and to her

friends that even though she might have been perceived as an "unlesson'd,

unschool'd, unpractic'd girl," her inner self, posses the strength,

intelligence and experience that enables her to do what she did. When

Shakespeare created Portia's character, he contributed the likeness of Beatrice

and added the elements of a perfect Renaissance woman. Even though Portia is a

woman, she still posses the intelligence to use and manipulate words, the beauty

to woo men, and the soul that stands above many others. Her appearance adds to

her angelic reputation and her wisdom allows the audience of the play to

acknowledge the theme of deceptive appearances.


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