In The Merchant of Venice, what is Portia's response when Bassanio tells her about his real life?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act 3, Scene 2 of Merchant, after Bassanio has chosen the correct casket and won the right to marry Portia, he receives a note from Venice speaking of Antonio's serious troubles with his lost ships and Shylock.  As Portia and Bassanio feast, Bassanio confesses to Portia that when he told her that he was a gentleman, he was speaking truthfully, but that he is a gentleman in manner and class only.  He goes on to admit that he had to borrow money from his friend (Antonio) so that he could travel to Belmont and attempt to win Portia's hand in marriage.

Portia's response to Bassanio's admission is interesting.  She first asks how much money Bassanio owes Antonio and is shocked that it is such a low amount (in her opinion); she then tells him just to pay the amount, even triple what is owed if that is what will solve the problem (she implies that she will pay the debt).  Immediately after her simply solutions, Portia commands,

" 'First go with me to church and call me wife, / And then away to Venice to your friend! / For never shall you lie by Portia's side / With an unquiet soul. You shall have gold / To pay the petty debt twenty times over' " (3.2.316-320).

Because Portia is such an independent, quick-thinking character, her response is not surprising. She gets right to the root of Bassanio's problem and takes matters into her own hands in regards to a solution. However, some critics have argued that Portia's response does not fit her character because such a clever woman would most likely not be attracted to a dependent man like Bassanio.

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The Merchant of Venice

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