Act 5, Scene 1 Explain why Portia and Nerissa pretend that the "doctor" and the "clerk" spent the night with them. 

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In the story, Portia and Nerissa pretend that the 'doctor' and the 'clerk' spent the night with them in order to illustrate the importance of faithfulness to both their husbands.

In Act 5 Scene 1, Portia steps in when an argument erupts between Gratiano and Nerissa. Accordingly, Gratiano has given...

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In the story, Portia and Nerissa pretend that the 'doctor' and the 'clerk' spent the night with them in order to illustrate the importance of faithfulness to both their husbands.

In Act 5 Scene 1, Portia steps in when an argument erupts between Gratiano and Nerissa. Accordingly, Gratiano has given away his ring (which was a gift from Nerissa) to a judge's clerk. He claims he doesn't know why Nerrisa is so upset, as it's just a 'paltry ring' with an inscription on it that says 'Love me and leave me not.' Portia maintains that Nerissa is upset because Gratiano broke his word. When Bassanio makes a smart remark in response, Gratiano proclaims that Bassanio is equally guilty of breaking his word.

Somehow, Gratiano studiously maintains that the 'civil doctor' (lawyer) would take nothing less than the two rings in payment for his work. When Portia demands to know whether Bassanio actually gave away the ring she bequeathed him, he tells her that he cannot lie and that he did give it away. At this, both women angrily proclaim that they will never get into bed with their husbands again until the rings are produced.

Portia asserts that if Bassanio had maintained his honor and valued the woman who gave him the ring, he would never have given the ring away. She angrily accuses him of giving the ring to another woman. Bassanio begs Portia to understand how indebted he is to the 'doctor' for helping a good friend and that if she was with him, she might have even begged him to give the 'doctor' the ring. Portia, unmoved, threatens to sleep with the 'doctor' if she is ever left to her own devices. Nerissa, hearing this, chimes up that she will sleep with the clerk if she ever gets the chance to do so.

Both Bassanio and Gratiano are at their wits' end upon hearing this. Their anguish is further amplified when Portia produces a ring and asks Antonio to make sure Bassanio promises to keep it faithfully. When Bassanio proclaims that it is the exact, same ring he gave the 'doctor,' Portia slyly says that she had to sleep with the 'doctor' in order to get the ring back. Nerissa, playing along, also proclaims that she slept with the clerk to get Gratiano's ring back. Now, both men think that they have been cuckolded and are utterly undone at the thought of this.

However, Portia does not let the men suffer long; she soon admits that she was the 'doctor' and Nerissa, the clerk. It looks like both Nerissa and Portia wanted the men to understand the importance of keeping their word to their wives, so they illustrated their point beautifully by couching the lesson in a way that their husbands could relate to. In Shakespeare's day, men most feared the sexual infidelity of their wives. This is because any infidelity was viewed as a thorough repudiation of a man's masculine image in the eyes of society. Playing on these fears, Portia and Nerissa aimed to make their case through the power of suggestion.

 

 

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