• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Merchant of Venice - Discuss how Shakespeare presents Portia to the audience at the beginning of the play (up to Act 2 scene 1)

Extracts from this document...


Discuss how Shakespeare presents Portia to the audience at the beginning of the play (up to Act 2 scene 1) In the Merchant of Venice Shakespeare presents his female lead 'Portia' to the audience in a variety of ways. Bassanio, Antonio's friend, is deeply in love with her yet, he and the rest of Venice clearly view her as untouchable. This becomes evident when Bassanio says, "Had I but the means, to hold a rival place with one of them (her suitors)". This is the first hint that Bassanio's quest for Portia will not be easy and we will meet many other suitors before Bassanio is allowed to marry Portia. Bassanio also uses classical references to praise her. He compares her to "Cato's daughter, Brutus' Portia", who was the daughter of Cato, a famous Roman politician and wife of Brutus, one of Julius Caesar's assassins. ...read more.


We quickly learn of the will as Portia tells her lady in waiting "that she is weary of the world", because as the will stipulates, she is not allowed to decide for herself who to take as a husband. Instead, Portia's various suitors must choose between three chests, one of gold, one of silver and one of lead, in the hopes of selecting the one that contains her portrait. The man who guesses correctly will win Portia's hand in marriage, but those who guess incorrectly must swear never to marry. This first introduction is very significant. On one hand we see a near prisoner, feeling herself absolutely bound to follow her father's strange dying wishes. As Nerissa points out, it is a "lottery" as the man who picks the right casket may not be the one she loves. ...read more.


Instead, rather ignore the stipulations of her father's will, she simply watches her stream of suitors go by, happy to see them leave, but sad that she has no choice in the matter. Thus, she emerges as a rare combination: a free independent spirit, who abides rigidly by the rules. Overall by the end of Act 2 we, the audience know more about Portia and her character. However there are two different sides to her character. One, the wealthy heiress caught up in a fairy-tale , enclosed somewhat like the caskets her future is bound by, an untouchable goddess. Or two, the witty independent strong-willed character whose strict adherence to laws and other strictures is similair to the city of Venice, the centre point of the play. Perhaps Portia is both of these characters but at this point it is too soon to judge. However it is clear already that Portia won't be a "typical" heroine. Katie Taylor 10H 4/28/07 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE The Merchant of Venice section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE The Merchant of Venice essays

  1. The play "The Merchant of Venice" is described as Romantic Comedy. One aspect of ...

    Her brilliant probing attack on Shylock completely destroys his position and this is quite acceptable, given what Shylock actually deserved. However, Shylock is stripped of his wealth for his attempted murder of a Venetian, which in the full balance of things seems harsh.

  2. Merchant of Venice Act 1 Scene 2 - Describe Portia's Suitors, and discuss her ...

    So the suitor who chooses the lead case will have Portia's hand in marriage because he chose the casket that has the least value. Although it is a gamble for the suitor because if he chooses the wrong casket he must promise never to marry, this was set because it

  1. Portia's Three Suitors.

    He receives better treatment than the other two suitors do. Portia plays music in the background perhaps to calm him and soothe him into the right frame of mind so that he may choose correctly. Also the wording could give Bassanio a hint on what to choose.

  2. Shakespeare's play, 'The merchant of Venice' - what do we learn about the character ...

    Bassanio is thinking that outward show must not be trusted and that the eyes must not deceive the heart. This comment shows us how Bassanio actually believes in love and knows that his heart will tell the truth. Bassanio's approach to the caskets is very different to that of the two princes.

  1. 'Is, 'The Merchant of Venice' a racist play? Discuss'.

    Racism is clear from the beginning of this scene. Shylock is made out to be the villain. The Duke, who is supposedly not meant to take sides, nor be biased towards one cause, or against Jews, has clearly quite prejudiced views and influences the court against Shylock. This is shown by the Duke empathizing with Antonio before the trial

  2. The Merchant of Venice is a racist play - Discuss

    Finally, Shylock should be shown mercy, as the Christian characters have not been Christian-like towards Shylock, even though they take every opportunity to boast about their wonderful Christian qualities. The "Christians", feel they can beg for Antonio to be shown mercy.

  1. How does Shakespeare portray character and relationships in Act 1 Scene 3 of 'The ...

    Antonio agrees to borrow money in his name in order to help his friend Bassanio clear his debts, "Try what my credit can in Venice do". This displays Antonio's generous character and confirms their close friendship, "My purse, my person, my extremest means / Lie all unlocked to your occasions.".

  2. Merchant of Venice Act 2 Themes and Characters analysed.

    Love & Friendship To you, Antonio I owe the most in money and in love Bassanio It shows that Antonio's and Bassanio's friendship includes a relationship of dependence between each other. Try what my credit can in Venice do, That shall be racked even to the uttermost To furnish thee to Belmont to fair Portia.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work