Portia's Deceptiveness In Othello

1499 Words6 Pages
Disguising herself as a legal doctor named Balthasar, Portia continues to evidence her deceptiveness, as she physically alters her appearance to achieve her ultimate goal of absolving Antonio. Proclaiming that she will “wear [her] dagger with the braver grace,/And speak between the change of man and boy/With a reed voice, and turn two mincing steps/Into a manly stride, and speak of frays,” Portia informs the reader of both her intent and her capacity to deceive (3.4.65-68). By impersonating such a prestigious judicial figure, Portia is able to disguise her personal agenda as an objective opinion, a notion that precludes her from equitably judging Shylock. To frame her logic as unbiased, Portia mirrors the biblical conception of Satan and his…show more content…
Portia’s persistence in deceitfully compelling Bassanio to part with his ring reflects her belief that self interest warrants deceptiveness. Following Bassanio’s stern refusal to give his ring to the disguised Portia, she argues “if your wife be not a madwoman,/And know how well I have deserved this ring,/She would not hold out on the enemy forever/For giving it to me,” thus persuading Bassanio to send his ring to her (4.1.443-446). Remaining persistent despite Bassanio’s prior rejections, Portia both demonstrates her inclination to submit to her insecurities, and resembles the Devil in the biblical account of Jesus’ forty days in the desert. Through Portia’s persistence, Shakespeare seems to invoke the story of when Jesus “was in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan,” as Portia incessantly asks Bassanio to depart with his ring, and even remarks that only a madwoman would chide the act (Mark 1:12-13). By aligning Portia with Satan because of her desire to test Bassanio, Shakespeare subtly prompts the audience to perceive her as flawed and self interested, thus insinuating that she is unfit to judge equitably. Vocalizing her desire to humiliate Bassanio and Gratiano, Portia claims “We shall have old swearing/That they did give the rings away to men;/But we’ll outface them,…show more content…
Portia, by punishing Shylock instead of offering some retribution for Antonio’s default, indicates that she understands that Shylock will not rescind his bond immediately, and will instead credulously fall into her rhetorical trap. Reflecting both her proclivity for lying, and her desire to manipulate those in the court, Portia claims that she has “within [her] mind/A thousand raw tricks of these bragging Jacks,/Which [she] will practice,” a notion which is later substantiated by her deception of both Shylock and the Duke (3.4.76-77). By conceding that she is proficient at lying, Portia signifies the act of lying to the audience, thereby drawing their attention to any inconsistencies between her language and actions. This speech compels the viewer to perceive the dissonance between Portia’s initial demand to Shylock, and her subsequent refusal to treat Shylock mercifully. Considering a later point in Halio’s contention, it appears that Portia was not candidly agreeing to the legality of Shylock’s bond, but was instead enacting one of the tricks that she describes earlier. Portia seems to describe the legitimacy and legality of Shylock’s bond to merely establish herself as unbiased and to thus seduce Shylock into believing that she is a proficient judge. Succeeding in her
Open Document