In The Merchant of Venice, in Act 5 Scene 1, was Portia really angry with Bassanio when she discovered he had given away his ring?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It can be confusing the first time you read Shakespeare, but Portia, in The Merchant of Venice, is not really angry with Bassanio when it is revealed in Belmont that he no longer has the ring she has given him The reason she is not angry is that (1) the lawyer was really Portia dressed up in a disguise as a lawyer, (2) Portia had taunted Bassanio into giving up the ring as gratitude for saving Antonio.

The idea seems to have been a spur of the moment thought because Bassanio insisted on giving the lawyer something as a gift of gratitude after the lawyer refused to accept payment. The idea may have been fuel by the earlier conversation in the same scene (Act 4, Scene 1) in which Bassanio declares that he would give up everything he loved including his wife to save Antonio's life. But even so, Portia's taking the ring from Bassanio was not an act of animosity or ill will, though it may have been a test to see how far meant what he had said earlier, so she is not angry when he has to disclose that he doesn't have it.

In the next scene, Nerissa concocts a plan to get her husband's ring back and then they contrive a plan to taunt their husbands a little before returning the rings. This phase of the plan, once Nerissa gets involved in it, may very well have been to pay the men back for saying in Act 4 Scene 1 that Antonio ranked above their wives.

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The Merchant of Venice

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