In what way is Portia from The Merchant of Venice a perfect Shakespearean heroine?In what way is Portia from The Merchant of Venice a perfect Shakespearean heroine?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some critics describe Portia from The Merchant of Venice as Shakespeare's ultimate tribute to Queen Elizabeth. As such, Portia is seemingly a perfect heroine. She's witty, powerful, wealthy, logical, and yet is a romantic at heart. She wants to marry someone who interests her and to whom she is attracted, but she also desires to fulfill her deceased father's wishes.

In contrast to her husband Bassanio, Portia does not share any of his tendencies toward wasteful spending or giving in to one's emotions. In fact, she does not possess any major character flaws.  The only problem some readers have with Portia is that she unnecessarily entraps her husband with the ring subplot, but others view this scene as a demonstration of Portia's cautiousness--she is newly married to Bassanio and knows very little about him; so Portia's enthusiasts would argue that the ring subplot enables her to test Bassanio's loyalty to her.

Unlike other Shakespearean heroines like Desdemona or even Beatrice from Much Ado about Nothing, Portia--at no time--allows herself to be manipulated by others. She is entirely independent, and the trial scene in Act 4 illustrates her ability to command the attention of all in a room.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just to strike a discordant note (which is always fun), if she is so perfect, why does she marry such a loser as Bassanio? He is clearly motivated by self-interest and marries her for her wealth rather than for who she is as a person. She shows herself to be his superior in every way but then at the end of the play settles down to being his subordinant in terms of accepting the role of wife. Yes, she is a superior Shakespeare heroine, but I think she has shocking taste in men.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Shakespeare didn't really have many flattering portraits of women. Heroine or not, a women who is represented in a Shakespeare play as smart has a big advantage. Most of them seem stereotyped or one-dimensional. At least Portia is interesting and multi-dimensional.
coryengle | Student

-Portia's racist (see: Prince of Morocco)

-Portia breaks her father's will (see: song she sings during Bassanio's casket scene)

-Portia marries a gold-digger........


nah really though she's cool, just thought I'd throw that out there :p

I think her speech about her suitors in 1.2 is hilarious lol

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The Merchant of Venice

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