William Shakespeare's Portia As A Powerless Woman

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Shakespeare’s language and choice of words portrays one of the most vital characters of the play, Portia, as a powerless woman to a large extent… but only in a certain way. Being ‘powerful’ has three meanings, one is “having great strength”, two is “having control over people and events”, and lastly three is “having a strong effect on people’s thoughts and feelings”. The two latter definitions are similar yet very different in this context. Making it possible for Portia to seem like a powerless woman, but surprisingly remain one of the most important characters.

The reader’s first impression of Portia is through Bassanio’s description during his conversation with Antonio. The words “richly left” paints an image of her having complete freedom with her money. Her luck continues to escalate, she is also said to be “fair” (beautiful) as well as having “wondrous virtues”. Emphasis is placed on Portia being even more beautiful internally, through Shakespeare’s figure of speech, “fairer than that word”. But this takes a turn as the “lady richly left... [with] wondrous virtues” does not seem to be happy. Infact she is "aweary" and melancholic, making the audience curious as to why.

In the following scene the audience’s curiosity of Portia’s misery is quenched. The conversation between Nerissa and Portia gives the first glimpse of her power, or the lack of it. This is shown by her inability to make a life changing decision of picking her suitor. She can not change who picks which
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