In The Merchant of Venice, discuss the meaning of the extract "Now he goes,... Go Hercules" in Act 3 Scene 2. mwestwood, you had answered my question about why Portia says Go Hercules to...

In The Merchant of Venice, discuss the meaning of the extract "Now he goes,... Go Hercules" in Act 3 Scene 2.

mwestwood, you had answered my question about why Portia says Go Hercules to Bassanio and what was she going to do in the meantime? It was an excellent answer, but can you please simplify it for me and make it high school level.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the basic plot of Act III, sc. 2, Portia expresses worry over Bassanio's choice of casket.  His choosing and actions have a direct impact upon her.  Portia has strong feelings for Bassanio and wants him to choose correctly.  She also feels helpless because she cannot tell him which casket to choose.  She is excited about the prospect of him succeeding in the challenge so that he can marry her. At the same time, she is scared that his mistake is going to doom her.  The emotions make her someone who is deeply invested in his actions, but also a bystander to them.

It is in this light where Portia's use of language is effective in conveying her emotional state.  In the opening lines of the extract, it is clear that Portia sees Bassanio as a Herculean- type of hero, one who must exercise the right muscle in order to make a good choice:  

Now he goes
With no less presence but with much more love
Than young Alcides, when he did redeem
The virgin tribute paid by howling Troy
To the sea monster.
For Portia, the task of choosing the right casket carries with it as much weight as Hercules defeating the "sea monster."  In using Hercules as a comparison, it is evident the high regard with which Portia sees Bassanio, and the stake she has in his actions. 
 
From this point, Portia brings out the idea of "sacrifice."  When she says, "I stand for sacrifice," it shows that Portia clearly understands the implications of Bassanio's choice.  His choice will make a sacrifice out of her.  Either she sacrifices herself for true love, if he chooses correctly, or with a poor choice, she becomes a sacrifice for it.  The allusion to Troy with the "Dardanian wives" emphasizes that she is deeply invested in his choices.  It emphasizes the wide level of implications that Portia sees in Bassanio's choice.  When she tells him to "Go Hercules," it is a call that the time has come for a choice to be made. Portia recognizes that at this time, at this instant, her fate will be decided. This is where it has to happen, no different than Hercules having to undertake a heroic feat where many benefit as a result, Portia sets Bassanio in the same category with the action he must undertake.
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