In The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, women were suppressed by the societal ideals of the Elizabethan era. In this play, the female characters Jessica and Portia stray away from the expected stereotypical passive role of women in society, and show rather dominant and powerful traits that men were expected to have. Portia, the heroine of this play is bound to a lottery set up in her father's will, which gives male suitors the chance to choose between three caskets made up of gold, silver, and led in order to win her hand in marriage. Portia’s scheming throughout the whole process caused Bassanio to have a better chance in choosing the correct casket, while also allowing her to ...view middle of the document...
She already has financial support from her father, and she does not have to make drastic changes in her life in order to achieve her goals. Jessica, on the other hand is active in her rebellious role in society, because she has to abandon her heritage and her father in order for her to be considered dominant and strong. Nevertheless, the actions of both these characters earn them praise for their feminist actions. However, while both Portia and Jessica show admirable feminist actions, they both lose the opportunity to be noteworthy when they return to the act of submission that they must play to the patriarchal society. This is due to the fact that as soon as they both end up with their lovers, they end up letting them have some sort of control over them. Jessica gives up her religion to join Lorenzo's religion in order to break away from her father, and Portia agrees to let Bassanio take over her money when he marries her. This indicates that even though both these women take on strong roles in society, they both have a source of submission to their husbands.
With Portia's passive role in her rebellious actions as a woman in The Elizabethan Era, she shows both the characteristics of a submissive woman or wife, and a powerful woman. In the beginning of the play, Portia starts off as an intelligent and controlling woman. During the process of potential suitors taking the test of choosing the correct casket, she takes on a scheming, rebellious role. During Bassanio's time of completing the test of winning her heart, she helps him choose the right casket, but very discreetly. She indirectly told Bassanio which casket to choose in order for him to be able to marry her. In this scene, Portia has a song playing that helps Bassanio with his choosing. This song goes as follows:
Tell me where is fancy bred,
Or in the heart or in the head?
How begot, how nourished?
Reply, reply. It is endangered in the eye,
With gazing fed, and fancy dies
In the cradle where it lies.
Let us all ring fancy's knell.
I'll begin it.-- Ding,dong,bell.
This song provides a large hint to Bassanio in which casket to choose, because most of the words in it rhyme with the word 'lead'. This is...