Discuss the theme of disguise in the play.Please consider the function of disguise beyond the fact that Portia and Nerissa wear a disguise when they go to court.

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Disguise has much to do with appearance, and disguise can, by changing the appearance of things, hide the reality of them. Through disguise of Portia and Nerissa, the play makes a point about gender, suggesting gender identity is in part constructed by clothes, meaning that it is surface rather than the real identity of a person. Disguise (the festival) earlier allows Jessica to escape the house of Shylock. The "reality" of Jessica--if she is really a Jew because she is "at heart" a Gentile--(within the value system of the play) is also tied to appearance vs. reality and the issue of disguise.  Does Jewishness disguise a deeper humanity?  Can we not see a person as a human being because he is on the outside a Jew?  Or does Jewishness (again, in the value system of the play) go through and through a person, so that it is his reality, not just something on the surface.  In all of these ways the play uses disguise as a way of considering the difference between who a person appears to be and who she/he really is.

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The Merchant of Venice

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