A Lifelong Masquerade

They relied on men to provide all of their daily needs, so they Sistine and agreed to everything that they had to say. Rich heiress Portia, on the other hand, does not adhere to those expectations and rules. Through irony and pun, Portia proves herself to be an intelligent and witty woman who is not afraid to challenge traditional social norm. She is a heroine with refreshing Initiative that displays great knowledge of how to use her rare Intelligence to her advantage, to help the people that she cares about and to gain power.
Jessica, Shylock daughter, also shows the traits of a strong woman who is willing to leave her avaricious father Enid for a new life as an accepted Christian rather than a hated Jew. Shakespeare contradicts the common role of women in the 17th century by making Portia, among other women, Instrumental in the plays development due to her intelligence, confidence and silent power. Portia, Jessica and Unreels all Juxtapose the traits of most Elizabethan women; they are witty, powerful and zealous rather than obedient, silent and motivated by blinding love.
Portia shows dominance from the moment she is introduced in the play, which juxtaposes the passiveness of women in the Elizabethan era. She respects herself and knows that she is smart; she believes that men are her equals rather than her superiors. She is an educated woman who looks for a husband that values meaningful things, such as intelligence. Many men in the 17th century had superficial values, placing beauty and wealth over wit. Luckily, Portrait’s late father has devised a plan to find her the best husband, avoiding a loveless marriage. Despite the strict rules, she has found a way to manipulate her father’s “lottery (1. . 29), providing a clue to help her suitors choose the correct asset. Portia has many opportunities to show her dominance, including when speaking to Inertias about possible suitors. Inertias asks about Monsieur El Bon, and Portrait’s reply Is Insolent; “God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man” (1. 2. 56-57). She Is not afraid to show her dominance by Insulting a man, which would be unruly for any other Elizabethan woman. She is also not afraid to step out of her comfort zone in order to save someone’s life. Walking into a courtroom full of people in disguise as a young male is not something any woman would do.

This raze act allows Portia to finally seem equal to the men around her because she is just as or even more intelligent. Portia shows her thorough knowledge of the law when she explains Schlock’s predicament, ‘The law hath yet another hold on you. / It Shylock casually sharpen his knife on the sole of his shoe well until she can watch him leave the courtroom, with a sense of satisfaction. Her wit and eagerness to prove herself provide a positive outcome for Antonio, who is perceived as very physically and mentally weak at this point in the trial.
Her dominant role prevails throughout he time in the court because Antonio is helpless in his time of need. Ultimately, it is a woman who devises the plan to save Notation’s life from the “inhuman wretch” (4. 1. 4) that is Shylock. Although the end of the play is meant to provide comic relief, the theme of Portia and Inertia’s power dominates the comedy. Their disguises fool everyone in the court, including Bastion and Granting. Once the women establish that they refuse to sleep in the same beds as their respective husbands until they get their rings back, both Bastion and Granting are desperate.
Bastion pleads with Portia, “Nay, but hear me. Pardon this fault, and by my soul I swear / I never more will break an oath with thee” (5. 1. 265-67). Keeping their composure also shows how obstinate Portia and Inertia’s minds are; they watch their husbands’ beg them for forgiveness, powerless and inferior, Just for that moment. Portia and Inertias both say things intentionally to make their husbands feel guilty and to display the temporary power they have over them. After the men make their promises, Portia and Inertias assume their role as women and kindly forgive the men to resolve the conflict.
An act like this would take a lot of courage on a woman’s art, another Juxtaposing trait that the heroines of this play have that many women lacked in the seventeenth century. Portia shows a confidence and boldness that many Elizabethan women were devoid of. Women in the seventeenth century remained silent and were voiceless because they truly believed that men were their superiors. Portia is assertive and feels like she has the same power as any man. She openly Judges Prince Morocco, “If he have the condition of a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wives me” (1. . 129-31) because of his darker skin color. She will not settle for someone who has superficial values, despite the casket plot, further revealing her confidence and poise when speaking to a man that will not hesitate to objectify her. She does not feel that she has to respect Morocco simply because he is a man. Furthermore, Portia is also confident enough to reverse gender roles; men usually rate women, but in this case, through verbal irony, she reveals that she rates men instead. Lastly, Portia implementing herself in Notation’s trial shows that she knows that she is equal to men.
Even though she is disguised as a young man, her voice is heard. Portia valiantly tries to convince Shylock to show mercy to Antonio through a beautiful speech: ‘Its mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes The thorn©d monarch better than his crown. His scepter shows the force of temporal power, The attribute to awe and majesty Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings; It is enthroned in the hearts of kings; It is an attribute to God Himself; (4. 1 . 194. 201) Portia first tries to persuade Shylock that only the strongest and most noble men show mercy.
She compares the possible sense of empowerment he will feel to God’s likes God’s When mercy seasons Justice. Therefore, Jew, Though Justice be thy plea; consider this: That in the course of Justice none of us Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy, And that same prayer doth teach us all to render The deeds of mercy. (4. 1. 202-08) Again, Portia refers to the power Shylock will have if he chooses not to kill Antonio. She hopes that he can show mercy despite being berated and publicly humiliated “many a time and oft” (1. 3. 116).
This passage reveals that Portia is able to accept that Shylock has been treated unjustly because he is a “Jew’. She is not as callously indifferent as other Christians. She moves the whole courtroom with her powerful words; the only exception is Shylock. Her analysis of mercy and elevated diction do not convince him. Portrait’s morale is emphasized in the courtroom because she is able to confidently win the trial. She helps orchestrate the resolution to the flesh bond plot, not holding back until the Christian’s get what they want.
She demonstrates the true power that women possess but are too apprehensive to show. Even though she has to disguise herself, she proves to the audience that a woman can be beautiful and wise. Shakespeare shines light on the hidden potential of Elizabethan women in The Merchant of Venice; a woman, such as Portia, Inertias or even Jessica would not be depicted as intelligent because that is a trait that was undervalued and underestimated in the seventeenth century. Men were the educated breadwinners that stole the spotlight from women for centuries.
Despite the common notion of women being unintelligent, Shakespeare decides to show a different side of them by portraying Portia as an educated woman who speaks with an elevated diction and Jessica as a woman with a lot of strength and courage. Portia and Jessica obvious wisdom and awareness again Juxtapose against other women in the Elizabethan era because women were tutored at home and were unable to attend university. A woman’s purpose was to get married and one day have children; all of their dreams would be put aside to maintain a good family name and positive reputation.
Portia is aware of her expected role as a woman, but those expectations will not stop her from gaining the confidence to realize that she is a man’s equal. When discussing suitors, she is able to voice her harsh opinion about the Duke of Saxony nephew without gestation, “When he is best he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst he is little better than a beast” (1. 2. 86-90). She knows that she needs to find a husband that lives up to her standards, but by her father’s will. Many men overlook her confidence and focus rather on her beauty and wealth.
The Prince of Morocco even has the audacity to objectify Portia, saying that princes come to “view’ (2. 7. 49) her as if she is a statue. He then places a monetary value on Portia, “Or shall I think in silver she’s immured, / Being ten times undervalued to tried gold? ” (2. 7. 58-59) which Reuters her disdain for him. Afterwards, Portia reveals her quick wit in a new and different way – she puts on an act for Bastion, leading him to believe that she is weak and pathetic, showing a passive yet duplicitous side. She tells Bastion that she him.
The audience is very aware of the fact that Portia does not believe what she is saying due to dramatic irony; she is actually strong-willed and refuses to be directed by a man. She has had power from the moment her father died until now, and she does not intend to lose it. Bastion believes the gimmick, and is left speechless, [Madam,] you have bereft me of all words” (3. 2. 179). Using her intelligence, Portia has found a way to preserve her power, which was rare for Elizabethan women to have in the first place. Jessica is also an example of a woman who is witty and has ambition.
She coordinates her own escape and arranges her elopement free from the watchful eye of her covetous father. Lorenz tells Granting how Jessica “hath directed / How I shall take her from her father’s house, / What gold and Jewels she is furnished with” (2. 4. 33-35). Jessica is smart enough to realize that she will live a teeter life as a Christian without her father or any biological family. Using her wit, she devises a plan to remorselessly steal the money and Jewels that her father treasures and to run away to elope with a Christian man.
She is also aware of her fathers hate for Christians, but carelessly runs away with one because she does not care about her father’s feelings. Both Portia and Jessica are examples of strong-willed women with different motives but a similar drive – they are capable of realizing that they are not inferior to men and that they are allowed to be confident. Often, a man’s Judgment of a woman’s character is clouded by vague ideas based on appearance and/or social status.
In The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare explores the hidden yet beautiful side of women that is not based on any sexist notion. Through characters like Portia, Inertias and Jessica, Shakespeare reveals that women have more to them than Just beauty and wealth, which is a common misconception in Portrait’s case. Many women have a latent confidence, initiative and ability that can be provoked in a positive and accepting environment. Gender inequality has been an issue for many centuries because women are afraid to speak out.
Both men and women should work together rather than try to tear each other down because both genders have incredible ideas to offer the world. Both genders require each other’s help to maintain balance and peace through acceptance and resolutions that will benefit both men and women alike. We were created by God to take care of the earth and each other but without love and equality, this task is virtually impossible. Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. New York: Folder Shakespeare Library, 2010. Print.

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