What evidence from Act 1, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice tells us that Portia is intelligent and witty?

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Act 1, scene 2 of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is when Portia and Nerissa discuss the different suitors who have come to court to play the game of chance for Portia's hand. Portia has not been impressed with anyone so far. Nerissa names them off in this scene, and Portia gives witty and informative reasons as to why she doesn't like each one. She is witty because she can joke about each suitor's character and personality to make Nerissa laugh, but she also shows her intelligence because she can peg each one exactly.

In fact, Portia is so good at categorizing each man that by today's standards, she might be considered prejudiced because she pokes fun at their stereotypical vices. For example, when Portia criticizes the man from England, she makes fun of the fact that he doesn't know any other language than his own. The English would conquer a nation and force everyone to speak English, so Portia plays on that with her comments. Of the Frenchman, she says that he is so drunk all of the time that he would "fence with his own shadow" (I.ii.52). Basically, she is saying that the French are always drunk. Then, when discussing the Scottish man, she jokingly says that he offered to punch the Englishman based on their history of violence with each other. Portia describes the German as follows:

"Very vilely in the morning when he is sober, and most vilely in the afternoon when he is drunk. When he is best he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst he is little better than a beast" (I.ii.72-75).

Thus, Portia proves herself to be eloquent, as she is intelligent, and funny, as she is witty. She mocks manhood by nationality and pegs the stereotypes of her day in the process. This scene helps to support the feasibility of her disguise as a doctor of law later, in the court scene with Shylock, where she proves her intelligence and wit on a more serious level.

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The Merchant of Venice

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