In Act 3 Scene 2, from the extract 'Now he goes, With no less presence, but with much more love, ............ Go Hercules.
What are 'the rest aloof' referred to in the extract And what were the wives doing in the scene when Alcides was saving the Virgin tribute?
This extract from Act III, Scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice, which covers lines 53-60 continues the allusion to Greek mythology with the metaphor of Bassanio as the hero Hercules who can rescue the virgin-victim Portia as Hesione if he selects the casket with the scroll in it.
In the Greek legend, Hercules intervenes in order to rescue Priam's sister who has been offered as payment to the sea-monster sent by Poseidon as punishment for King Laomedon's having cheated him and Apollo after they had city walls constructed. As the sea-monster approaches, there are bystanders, "the rest aloof," who watch from afar, as well as the "Dardanian wives," [Greek women], who cry in sympathy as Hesione is offered to the sea-monster. These women act much like the Chorus of a Greek play.
This allusion to the mythology of Greece certainly intensifies the emotional power of Portia's words, lending a strong dramatic tone to the scene of the predicaments of both her and Bassanio.