Lars Engle writes a particularly interesting essay called, “Thrift is Blessing”: Exchange and Explanation In The Merchant of Venice, where he exposes a woman who takes advantage of homosexual desires to protect her financial endowment and prove herself as the presiding individual in her marriage. Continue reading
The will of Portia’s father immediately surfaces as the central obstacle to the comedic plot-line of The Merchant of Venice. It is a clear example of a patriarch’s legal posthumous authority. Portia’s role as the central female protagonist leads most critics to focus on the restrictions that the will sets on her freedom. Much less discussed is the will’s control over Portia’s numerous male suitors.
Is Portia the hero of The Merchant of Venice? Can a woman considered a hero at all? Can Portia even be viewed positively? Julie Hankey, in the essay Victorian Portias: Shakespeare’s Borderline Heroine, reviews how the reception and subsequent performance of Portia evolved through the Victorian era from a disparaged, under appreciated woman to a valued and celebrated character.
In The Merchant of Venice, Portia, an affluent and quick-witted heiress from Belmont, aids in rescuing Antonio from his legal plight with Shylock. The fates of people around Portia shift constantly, while her situation generally improves without problem. Portia’s actions through the play embody Fortuna’s whimsical interest in humanity. Continue reading
It is difficult to know whether it was Shakespeare’s intent to make his character Shylock in The Merchant of Venice a sympathetic character or a Jewish villain to satisfy an anti-Semitic audience. Clues to this debate can be gathered if we carefully consider Shakespeare’s treatment of Shylock in the courtroom. A conflict of mercy vs. vengeance and between the spirit and letter of the law become apparent in the courtroom scene of Act IV. Mercy is a central theme to both Christianity and Judaism and is used by Shakespeare to make larger claims about such religions. Continue reading
Shakespeare’s Portia is not a feminist; rather she is a ‘radical’ feminist—understanding gender as the cause of her oppression.