In Act 1, Scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice, explain:"If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men's cottages princes' palaces. It is a good divine .............Is it not hard, Nerrisa, that I cannot choose one, nor refuse none?"
Portia play a crucial role in The Merchant of Venice and the theme of (filial) loyalty (loyalty towards family) is stressed in her attempts to do the right thing despite her obvious independent spirit as "the will of a living daughter (is) curb'd by the will of a dead father." (I.ii.20) Portia is trying to rationalize her father's conditions in his will.
Knowing what to do is one thing but actually doing it quite another. If men always do the right thing, the scale of things would be much grander and "poor men's cottages (would be) princes' palaces," with a better lifestyle for all . A good "divine" - teacher - could follow his own teachings but Portia admits that she may find it easy enough to teach others but not to be one of the followers "to follow mine own teaching." Portia knows that the "brains" or so-called wise people devise laws that restrict family but it only takes one "hot-temper" to defy "a cold decree" as a young person may not stop to think about the consequences and may rush into something like a "hare." That may be madness and would not be good advice - "counsel" -but to even suggest that she should do her father's bidding, restricts her from being able to actually "choose."
It is necessary for Portia to control her own free spirit as "this reasoning is not in the fashion to choose me a husband."In other words, Portia knows she needs to stop thinking like this if she is to find a husband in terms of her father's will - and despite not being able to "choose" or "refuse. " She asks Nerissa whether she agrees that it is harsh that she should be in this predicament.
It is Portia's ability to manipulate the seemingly unfair wishes of her father for her own good that helps develop her character and ensures a pleasing outcome.