What can I write for Portia's epitaph and what symbol can be used to describe her?good qualities of Portia in "Julius Caesar" by William Shakespeare

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," Portia, the wife of Brutus, acts as facing silhouette of Brutus [the other side of his profile], as she stays beside her husband, wishing to share with him his burdens: 

Dear my lord, make me acquainted with your cause of grief. (II,i,256)

When Brutus declines her aid, she insists that he tell her why he is so sorrowful since their vows have made them one:

That you unfold to me, your self, your half/Why you are heavy, and what men tonight/Have had resort to you; for here have been some six or seven, who did hide their faces/Even from darkness (ii,i,274-278)

In a further effort to prove her devotion, Portia wounds herself in the thigh:

Tell me your counself, I will not disclose 'em./I have made strong proof os my constancy,/Giving myself a voluntary wound/Here in the thingh; can I bear that with patience,/And not my husband's secrets? (II,i,298-302)

Because she is Brutus's alter-ego, Portia suffers as he suffers emotionally from his well-laid plans having gone badly.  In Act IV, Scene 3, Brutus learns that the anguished Portia has committed suicide, another act that parallels the act of Brutus later on in the play.  The mirrored image cannot exist without the real form and vice versa.

In a marriage of "true minds" as Shakespeare wrote in one of his sonnets, Portia and Brutus do not fare well when the other separates in spirit.  With the conflicts of battle involving his troops and the troops of the triumvirate, Brutus and Cassius argue, they are ineffective, and their well-laid plans fail.  So, too, does Portia fare. With Brutus's absence and lack of communication with her, Portia's reason for being is gone.  Distraught that Brutus has sacrificed his good conscience, Portia withers and dies as the silhouette fades with nothing to balance it.


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Julius Caesar

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