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Shakespeare’s three women characters – Portia, Nerissa and Jessica – are portrayed as typical women of their time. Discuss

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Introduction

Shakespeare's three women characters - Portia, Nerissa and Jessica - are portrayed as typical women of their time. Discuss The story of The Merchant Of Venice looks at very typical attitudes of the day on many subjects such as the treatment of Jews and the way women should have acted towards men (mainly their fathers and husbands). After studying the Merchant Of Venice I have decided to discuss weather Shakespeare's three women characters are portrayed as typical women of their time. In The Merchant Of Venice Shakespeare's three women characters - Portia, Nerissa and Jessica - are portrayed in very different ways but all have certain similarities, which link the characters. There are certain key scenes in the play where we get a really good look at the characters of the three women and I am going to look at these and see if their attitudes match to the typical attitudes of the day. From this I should be able to tell whether Shakespeare meant them to be typical of the era or rebels without a cause. All three of the characters are portrayed completely differently but have certain similarities like short courtships, they all marry friends of Antonio at about the same time and are all involved in making a mockery of Shylock. ...read more.

Middle

Portia and Nerissa dressed as men so that they could go into the court and humiliate Shylock. I don't think this practice would have been normal in these times but Shakespeare used this in a lot of his plays. I think he did this because it would have sold, as it probably would do today, because it is a scandal. Portia and Nerissa dressing as men comes back to the point of women having very few rights. In the era it would have been strictly forbidden for a women to hold a position of power such as lawyer and unless they were involved in a case it also would have been forbidden for them to enter a courtroom. That was one of the purposes of dressing up as men. The other was to play some games with their husbands. We know this because Portia used the opportunity of being offered a gift to take the ring she had given Bassanio from him. When she gave him the ring she told him that he, "should neither sell, nor give, nor lose it." She however pressures him for it and then plays a game with it. Jessica did some very controversial things that even today would be considered slightly strange and very rebellious. ...read more.

Conclusion

I think Shakespeare's intentions were to create three entirely different characters, which would have appealed to an audience in the late 1500's. I believe this meant making them rebellious in certain ways. If you look at films today a lot of the female characters are rebellious for instance Liz Hurley in Bedazzled or Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. Both of these characters are designed to be different to what is expected of women during the 21st century, this is what makes them appealing. I think Shakespeare's three women were 16th century versions of modern film heroines because this play would have been popular entertainment and his characters had to appeal to both men and women. Women liked them because they idolised them and wanted to be them and men liked them because they were naughty girls and wanted to be with them. Shakespeare builds a character people can relate to and then uses that character as a literary device to tell his story. If the characters were totally normal the story wouldn't be worth telling because nothing interesting would happen, and if the characters didn't have a normal background or something the audience could relate to then the story would be implausible. So Shakespeare had to create a balance between the two. Thus the characters are both typical women of the day and rebels without a cause. By Martha Ricketts Martha Ricketts 1 ...read more.

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