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In The Merchant of Venice, Portia must marry the man who correctly solves the lottery devised in her late father’s will. Such laws are not realistic but they set up revealing dramatic situations.Portia’s speech in The Merchant of Venice (4.1) reflects her notion of freely granted mercy; Portia’s lines are run on. Portia’s sentences also begin and end midline, creating strong midline pauses (caesuras). Portia’s sentences vary greatly in length, reflecting the quality of mercy. Portia’s father’s will displays a genuine concern of fathers. The casket plot contrasts the three suitors. The prince of Morocco is a man of heroic exploit and reputation. His love is merely the desire to have what every other man desires. The prince of Arragon is a snob. He assumes that he deserves Portia. Like Morocco, Arragon essentially chooses himself rather than Portia. Bassanio is a problematic hero since the plot does not allow him to do anything heroic. This is a difficulty that recurs in high comedy, which tends to stress not the manly and heroic values of courage and strength, but the more womanly values of wit, grace, and civilized behavior. Thus, the leading protagonists of high comedy tend to be women. Bassanio has been described as a fortune-hunter out to gain Portia’s money in order to repay his debts. Shakespeare describes Bassanio as a knight on a romantic quest. He displays generosity in small matters. Bassanio’s heroism emerges in his choice. The song that precedes his choice distinguishes between desire (“fancy”) and love. Bassanio is aware of this distinction. The casket labels reveal the risk in love. Bassanio’s great generosity is to leave the choice to Portia.
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