Discuss Shakespeare's portrayal of women in Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice.

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In both these plays, as in many others, Shakespeare portrays women as being quite strong, with influence over their husbands or lovers, and often very critical of them. It seems likely that Macbeth might not have gone through with the murder of Duncan had not Lady Macbeth egged him on, although it is true that neither of them are ultimately able to cope with the consequences of this crime. Similarly Lady Macduff, although she only appears in one scene is shown to speak out quite strongly against her husband, blaming him for deserting his family. In The Merchant of Venice Portia, the leading female character is depicted as being a very resourceful and clever woman when she takes on the disguise of a lawyer to save Antonio's life; she also is seen to be strong and decisive in choosing her own husband, Bassanio. Likewise her maid Nerissa is exercises a measure of dominance over her lover Gratiano.Jessica, daughter of the villainous Shylock also shows herself to be strong-willed in going against her father to marry the man of her choice.