Does Portia like the Prince of Morocco? Why?

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scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

While Portia does not seem to dislike the Prince of Morocco as she does the foolish Arragon, she certainly did not want to marry him.  Her comment after he chooses the incorrect casket demonstrates this.  She says in an aside:

"A gentle riddance! Draw the curtains, go. / Let all of his complexion choose me so" (2.7.86-87).

Shakespeare's use of the word "complexion" could be interrupted in several ways.  Many take it to mean that Portia is prejudiced and that she does not want to marry someone of a different race.  However, there is not any other evidence in the play to support this view of her, and since Shakespeare presents Portia as an admirable character, it is difficult to argue that he would paint her as a racist (since he often berates prejudice in his plays).

A second interpretation of the word is that it refers to Morocco's "type." The audience knows from his speech to Portia at the beginning of Act 2 that Morocco has a high opinion of his effect upon women.  We also know from Portia's conversation with Nerissa in Act 1 that Portia has a very specific list of qualities that she does not like in men, and Morocco has some of those characteristics (for example, he thinks highly of himself and his culture differs greatly from hers, something that she criticizes in one of her other suitors because she is afraid that they will have nothing to talk about).

Thus, Portia seems to be rather ambiguous about Morocco.  She has already stated her preference for Bassanio and most likely never thought of Morocco seriously as her future husband. 

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It is hard to say what her real feelings are toward the prince.  One answer to this can be based on what she says in Act II, Scene 1, but another answer is possible if you base it on Act II, Scene 7.

In Scene 1, the prince asks Portia not to judge him based on his skin color.  She says that she does not judge him and that she likes him well enough.

At the very end of Scene 7, though, she is glad that he has picked the wrong casket.  She says she hopes everyone else of his color does the same.

I think I'd go with this second attitude.  You can argue that she's just being polite in Scene 1.  In Scene 7 she's talking to herself and not to him so she's more likely to be showing her true feelings.

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