In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, what are Portia's comments on the different suitors (besides Bassanio)? What does this reveal about her character?
In Act 1, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Nerissa asks Portia what she thinks about all of the different suitors who have come to try their luck to win her hand in marriage. Portia has her lady-in-waiting name off the different men and she comments on each. The list of suitors is as follows: Neapolitan prince, County Palatine, Monsieur le Bon, Falconbridge of England, a Scottish lord and a German, the Duke of Saxony's nephew. Portia has something sarcastic to say about each man's annoying habits and hopes none of them win her hand in marriage.
First, the Neapolitan annoys her because he only talks about his horse and the fact that he can shoe the animal himself. Next, the County Palatine never smiles. Portia feels as though he will become a "weeping philosopher when he grows old," which does not excite her. Then, the French Lord is bad because he has the bad habits that both of the first two suitors have: he frowns more than the County and he speaks of his horse as well. Not only that, but the Frenchman is also crazy enough, or cowardly enough, to fence with his own shadow, so of this Portia has no respect.
The Englishman only speaks English, which Portia does not, though she speaks Latin, French and Italian; so, marrying him would be a quiet venture. The Englishman also has a bad sense of fashion because his clothes aren't properly fitted. His clothes are so bad that she feels he bought each piece of clothing from a different country.
Then the Scottish lord threatens the Englishman when they come in sight of each other, but he made friends with the Frenchman on this matter. Finally, there is the German who is constantly drunk, who Portia says "is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst he is little better than a beast" (I.iii.73-75).
From Portia's descriptions, one might say that she is picky, or selfish, and should be willing to marry any of these men. However, she is young and intelligent as well and values her happiness. Rather than picky or selfish, Portia can be considered wise because she knows with whom she will be compatible or not. She also knows that she wants to marry for love, not for status or money. Portia is witty because she cleverly mocks each suitor, but she is also strong-willed and knows what or whom will make her happy. She is much distressed over the fact that her father's game must be played in order to determine her lifelong mate, and wishes that she could choose him for herself.