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Portia And Bassanio In William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice

1150 words - 5 pages

Portia and Bassanio in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

“The Merchant of Venice” is a Shakespearean play based on the themes
of friendship, racial prejudice, deceptive appearances and love, of
which the most romantic is the love between Portia and Bassanio. In
contrast, the other two couples - Lorenzo and Jessica, Gratiano and
Nerissa – exhibit playful or down-to-earth love.

Portia is as faultless as one could imagine. She is blessed with
beauty, heavenly qualities surpassing all other women on Earth and
moreover “richly left”. Portia’s image is consistent as a goddess, an
angel. However, she is by no means the “unlessoned girl, unschooled,
unpractised” which she claims to be, but is on the contrary
“sophisticated, educated and intelligent”. Throughout the play, she
exhibits wit, resourcefulness, complete love for Bassanio and
generosity towards friends. Her prejudice towards Jews and foreigners
is probably one of the only blemish to her otherwise perfect
character.

Compared to Portia, Bassanio is only a normal citizen in Venice who
has “disabled mine estate/by something showing a more swelling port”.
However, his dashing and daring character complements his romantic
role as a chivalrous suitor to the fair Portia. He is a spendthrift
that as soon as he gets the money he needs, he immediately organises
expensive evening’s entertainment for himself and his friends. His
lavishness and carefree personality is also evident from the way he
agrees to help Gratiano (“You have obtained it”), without knowing what
the favour is. However, to view him as shallow is probably harsh,
unfair and also inappropriate as it was not uncommon for young
gentlemen during Elizabethan’s times to be too free with money with
their main “occupation” being to seek pleasure, fortune and the
fairest lady available. Although Bassanio is not wealthy, it does not
diminish his social aspiration.

To marry Portia, Bassanio must first challenge the casket test and
choose one out of three caskets correctly. Portia’s love for Bassanio
is obvious and she makes little attempt at neutrality. She
intelligently commands that music be played whilst Bassanio makes his
choice. Fortunately, Bassanio is smart enough to interpret the message
of the song -- not to look on the surface, but what lie beneath, and
chooses the correct casket containing Portia’s picture. His choice is
not based on ego or self-delusion but a combination of intuition and
practical wisdom. His reaction to his success is not arrogant and
domineering but modest and respectful. This proves that he is a
deeper, more thoughtful and sensitive character rather than a shallow,
mercenary socialite which we are led to believe at the beginning of
the play.

Portia’s wit is again shown in the trial scene, where she cleverly got
Shylock to...

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