Why does Portia lie to Lorenzo and tell him that she is going to a monastery in Act three, Scene 4? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Portia has decided to travel to Venice disguised as a lawyer in order to defend Antonio. This means she has to dress up as a man and also that she has to come up with some explanation for her disappearance that won't reveal where she is really going and what she is really doing. As she is bringing Nerissa as her clerk, also disguised as a man, she has to account for her absence as well.

Therefore, she tells Lorenzo that she and Nerissa are going into a monastery to pray for a few days, and he will have to run the household.

On one level, this is simply a plot device that accounts for any questions the audience might have about how Portia could wholly disappear without people raising alarms about her safety. Beyond that, however, there is humor or irony in Portia saying she going into a monastery—a completely reclusive and modest activity—when in fact she is doing the opposite, asserting herself in the world in a forceful and creative way.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Act three, Scene 4, Lorenzo praises Portia for being noble and understanding in regards to her husband's friendship with Antonio. Portia responds by saying that she never regrets doing a good thing and proceeds to tell Lorenzo that she will be leaving him in charge of her household until Bassanio returns. Portia lies to Lorenzo by telling him that she has made a secret vow to God to live in prayer and contemplation alone until her husband returns. She also says that she and Nerissa will be staying at a monastery two miles away and nobody is to bother them while they are there. The reason Portia lies to Lorenzo is because she plans on traveling to Venice where she will dress up and impersonate Doctor Balthazar in order to influence Antonio and Shylock's court case. Portia does not want Lorenzo or anybody else knowing that she is leaving Belmont, which is why she tells Lorenzo that she needs to be alone in the monastery.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial