Why is Portia uninterested in marrying the Neapolitan prince in The Merchant of Venice?

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Act 1, Scene 2 of Merchant, Portia--who is conflicted about the casket test that her deceased father designed for her suitors--tells Nerissa to name her potential husbands so that she can describe her feelings for each. When Nerissa mentions the Neapolitan Prince, Portia responds,

"Ay, that's a colt, indeed, for he doth nothing but talk / of his horse; and he makes it a great appropriation to his / own good parts that he can shoe him himself: / I am much afraid my lady his mother played false with a smith" (1.2.37-40).

Thus, Portia does not care for the prince because he talks only about horses and takes pride in the fact that he can perform a common laborer's task (shoeing a horse). Portia even insults the prince's mother by saying that the prince might be so interested in horses because his mother had an inappropriate relationship with a blacksmith.

In Scene 2, as Portia continues with her critique of each of her suitors like the Neapolitan Prince, the audience obtains a clear perspective on Portia's wit and independent spirit as well as what type of man she desires to marry.

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