Discuss the theme of disguise in the play.Please consider the function of disguise beyond the fact that Portia and Nerissa wear a disguise when they go to court.

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sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Disguise has much to do with appearance, and disguise can, by changing the appearance of things, hide the reality of them. Through disguise of Portia and Nerissa, the play makes a point about gender, suggesting gender identity is in part constructed by clothes, meaning that it is surface rather than the real identity of a person. Disguise (the festival) earlier allows Jessica to escape the house of Shylock. The "reality" of Jessica--if she is really a Jew because she is "at heart" a Gentile--(within the value system of the play) is also tied to appearance vs. reality and the issue of disguise.  Does Jewishness disguise a deeper humanity?  Can we not see a person as a human being because he is on the outside a Jew?  Or does Jewishness (again, in the value system of the play) go through and through a person, so that it is his reality, not just something on the surface.  In all of these ways the play uses disguise as a way of considering the difference between who a person appears to be and who she/he really is.

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