Can you explain what happens in Act 3, Scene 4 and 5 of The Merchant of Venice?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act 3, Scenes 4 and 5 of The Merchant of Venice, first Portia hatches her scheme to follow after Bassanio and pretend to be a lawyer. She puts Lorenzo in charge of her home and estate as her steward and sends a servant with a note to her cousin who is a lawyer in Padua asking him how to successfully plead Antonio's case and to send the robes of a young lawyer and a lawyer's scribe so she and Nerissa can disguise themselves and save Antonio from Shylock's court suit.

In Scene 5, Jessica, Shylock's daughter who has run away with the Christian Lorenzo, and Portia's court Jester, a Shakespearean fool who specializes in word play as in his ramblings about "Moor" and "more," are engaged in a pseudo-serious conversation about her spiritual fate as Shylock's daughter. Launcelot is alluding to a statement that appears several times in Scripture, such as in Exodus, Number, and Deuteronomy, in which it is declared that children to the third and fourth generations will be punished for the sins of their forebears (elsewhere it is also declared that forgiveness can be had if children pray for their sins and those of their forebears).

frizzyperm | Student

Portia is informed of Antonio's problems by Lorenzo. She tells Lorenzo he is in charge of her house and lands until Bassanio comes home and says she is going to a nunnery.

Infact, as she then explains to Nerissa, she sends a letter to a famous lawyer for lawyer's clothes and advice. She plans to dress like men and to go to Venice to rescue Antonio