Why is Portia uninterested in marrying the Neapolitan prince in The Merchant of Venice?
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.
Portia tells Nerissa that she does not want to marry the Neapolitan prince because she claims that he only thinks about his horse. Naples was famous at the time for horsemanship, and the prince embodies the stereotype of a Neapolitan man, who is interested in the growing sport of horsemanship. Portia says of the prince, "he makes it a great appropriation/ to his own good parts that he can shoe him himself" (Act I, scene 2, lines 38-39). In other words, the prince's major accomplishment is that he can shoe a horse. Portia also says, "I am much afeard my lady his mother played false/with a smith" (I.2.40-41). She alleges that the prince's mother had an adulterous affair with a blacksmith, maligning his mother as an adulteress (which was a serious offense at the time). When choosing her future husband, Portia exercises more independence than her father had anticipated, and she is not swayed by the suitors' high positions in society.