How would you contrast Portia in The Merchant of Venice with Portia in Julius Caesar?

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Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Portia in Julius Caesar are both admirable female characters who display many of the same traits of courage, intelligence, loyalty, and ingenuity. They are some of the more attractive female characters in Shakespeare and seem intended as positive role models for women. Both are members of the upper classes. There are, however, several differences between them:

  • The women lived in different eras. The Merchant of Venice is set in Renaissance Venice; Julius Caesar, in ancient Rome. Thus, although both plays were set in what would eventually become Italy, a region Shakespeare never visited, The Merchant of Venice is set in Shakespeare's own period (around 1600 CE) and Julius Caesar over 1,500 years before he was born.
  • Julius Caesar's Portia is the wife of Brutus and mother of his children, while The Merchant of Venice's Portia is initially an unmarried young woman being courted by various suitors. Thus, The Merchant of Venice's Portia is likely much younger than the already married Portia.
  • Although both show a strength of character thought to be unusual for women in their time periods, in The Merchant of Venice Portia acts in a far more unconventional fashion by dressing up as a man and arguing a case at court.
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