In The Merchant of Venice, what is your personal opinion on the suitors described by Portia?
In The Merchant of Venice, Portia must satisfy the terms of her father’s will and feels that she has been "curbed by the will of a dead father," as she says in Act I, scene ii. She struggles to accept that she cannot "choose" for herself. Nerissa reminds her that her father was a wise man, "ever virtuous," who has tried to act in Portia's best interests, making the "lottery" of the caskets so cryptic that only the one who "you shall rightly love" will interpret the meaning of the gold, silver, and lead caskets and so choose correctly (line 30).
The suitors are from various countries and are fairly typical of what Portia, or a lady of her standing, might expect. Appearances do deceive, and as Portia is very astute and quite particular and opinionated, she has recognized flaws in them all. The Neapolitan prince has an unusual affinity with his horse, not expected of a gentleman, and he would certainly not be a good choice for her. The County Palatine is very serious, even when he hears "merry tales" (line 43). He too would be a poor choice. Portia is alarmed at the very thought of being married to Monsieur Le Bon, the French lord who is apparently eccentric. Falconbridge, a baron from England, and the Scottish lord can only speak English, so they would be doomed from the start, and the Duke of Saxony's nephew is a drunk. It is a relief to Portia that none of them is prepared to take the risk and suffer the consequences laid down by Portia's late father and so must leave.
The Prince of Morocco is not a good choice for Portia because he has too many insecurities. Although he is confident of his official status, he has to persuade himself that he does “deserve her” (II.vii.33). The Prince of Arragon chooses the silver casket because it promises “as much as he deserves” (line24). This reveals his self-centeredness, showing that he would not be a good choice.
When Bassanio arrives, Portia’s concerns become apparent. She thinks he will be a good choice but is worried that he will not choose correctly. Therefore, she stalls and tries to guide him to the right choice. Bassanio is a good choice for Portia because, even though he was initially attracted to Portia’s wealth and not to Portia, he will prove himself to be a far better person that he might at first seem. He will bring out the best in Portia and she in him, whereas, in my opinion, the other suitors would have brought out the worst in Portia, as she was able to find fault with each of them.
My first opinion of the suitors is that they each are decent choices for a future husband. As much as Shakespeare wrote about true love and marrying the person that you love, the truth is that most marriages were still arranged by the parents that long ago. The parents obviously wanted their children to marry somebody tolerable, but it was of the utmost importance that the daughter marry "up" when possible. That would allow for the daughter to be well taken care of financially. First security in life, then love. Each of the suitors described by Portia can offer her security and financial stability. They are mostly wealthy dukes or princes.
On the other hand, if Portia can be trusted, each of the suitors appears to want Portia as a status symbol and trophy wife. One guy is more interested in talking about his horse than in talking with Portia. Another guy doesn't even care that he and Portia don't speak any of the same languages. All of the men are there to snag a wife. When the men learn that if they guess the wrong casket, they are forfeiting any chance to get married at all. At that point, they all leave. They are not willing to risk anything for Portia. They want a wife more than they want Portia.