Is Portia the most appealing character in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice? If so, why?  

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While this is a subjective question that completely relies on the reader's opinions, interests, and taste, there are numerous reasons as to why one would consider Portia to be the most appealing character in Shakespeare's classic play The Merchant of Venice. Portia is the play's heroine, who is initially lovesick, ends up marrying the man of dreams, and saves Antonio's life from the unscrupulous, vengeful Jewish usurer, Shylock. As a wealthy heiress, one would expect Portia to remain comfortable in her palace at Belmont and not intervene in Antonio's case. Instead of remaining aloof and distancing herself from the situation, Portia cleverly disguises herself as a young lawyer named Balthazar and presents a moving argument that saves Antonio's life. In doing so, Portia displays her loyalty, courage, intelligence, and wit. Portia's numerous positive qualities and risk-taking behavior certainly make her an appealing character. One could also argue that Shylock is the most appealing character in the play. Even though Shylock plays the role of antagonist and villain, the audience can sympathize with his character because of his difficult life. One could make the argument that Shylock is justified in his treatment of Antonio after suffering public humiliation and living an oppressed life as a second-class citizen.

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The answer to this question depends upon the reader's subjective opinion. However, there are quite a few reasons to find Portia appealing, and so it is certainly possible to see her as one of the most appealing characters of the play. She uses her wealth for good, for instance, by offering to repay Antonio's loan. When that doesn't work, Portia shows true ingenuity by disguising herself as a lawyer and outsmarting Shylock in court. Indeed, it would appear that, when compared to most of the men in the play, Portia proves herself to be truly superior, as she wields intelligence and a vast store of resources with confident authority. As such, one can't help but assume that it will be Portia, and not her husband Bassanio, who will be in charge. In recognizing these admirably feminist qualities, one can't help but regard Portia as one of the most appealing characters in the play.  

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