The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

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Who is the hero of The Merchant of Venice and why?

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Portia is the hero of the The Merchant of Venice. Men create or get themselves into predicaments, but Portia steers them through them successfully.

Her greatest triumph comes when she disguises herself as a male lawyer and is able to save Antonio's life. Antonio has, out of his love for Bassanio, too rashly signed loan papers saying he will give up a pound of his own flesh if he does not repay Shylock's loan within the three-month time limit. When Antonio fails to pay, it is Portia's humane and quick-witted arguments that save him from what most likely would have been a death sentence, given the probable inability of Renaissance medicine to heal his wounds.

Portia also functions as the moral center of the play, as illustrated in her line "the quality of mercy is not strain'd." By this, she means mercy is not overused or overworked in our world, and thus expresses a point of view that says we ought to be more compassionate and merciful towards each other. 

She is a strong woman who can think for herself, successfully impersonate a man, and argue persuasively in court. She also has a sense of humor and a well-developed moral center. Her competence is the glue that brings the play to a successful comic ending, rather than a tragic one.

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Good question! The identity of the title character has been debated for years, and as if that is not enough controversy, the audience has to decide if the hero of the play is even the title character.  Here are several options:

1. Shylock--although the play is a true Shakespearean comedy, some critics have argued that it meets many of the qualifications of a tragedy.  If you think of Merchant as a tragedy, then Shylock is the tragic hero. While Shylock is not respected socially, he is well known as a businessman and experiences a tremendous downfall (he loses his livelihood, his daughter, his pride, and his faith).

2. Antonio--he is an actual merchant because of his venture business and his involvement in trade. The play begins with his moodiness, and Shakespeare never discloses what has caused Antonio to be so melancholy.

3. Portia and Bassanio--together, this couple makes up the hero of the play as a comedy.  All the conflict in the play, including the three plots (the casket, bond, and ring plots) involve Bassanio, and Portia eventually participates in the bond plot when she questions Shylock.  The couple marries in the course of the play and eventually lives happily ever after--a requirement of a Shakespearean comedy.

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Who is the hero of The Merchant of Venice? Discuss.

A hero in literary terms is the main character in a work who fights adversity through bravery, ingenuity, or strength. Regarding this definition, Portia is not a true hero. Although she manages to save Antonio's life, she does not face any danger. She, in fact, uses her privileged position and high-ranking contacts to disguise herself as a lawyer and intervene in Antonio's trial. Her ingenuity saves the day and harshly punishes Shylock for daring to harm a Venetian citizen. At no point in the play does Portia encounter danger or risk.

The one who is indeed at risk is Antonio. Since the play revolves mostly around his situation, which affects the actions of most of the other characters, he is, most certainly, the main character. Antonio takes a huge risk by signing a bond with Shylock, a man he despises and who passionately hates him. Antonio is, however, bold enough to help his dearest friend in spite of the harsh terms of Shylock's loan agreement.

When he defaults on his agreement, Antonio seems to accept his fate and is prepared to die at Shylock's hands after the money-lender refuses to negotiate new terms. It is Antonio's willingness to die and his consequent generosity towards Shylock at the end of Act 4, in spite of the moneylender's failed attempt to kill him, that makes him a real hero.

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Who is the hero of The Merchant of Venice? Discuss.

Portia is the heroine of the play The Merchant of Venice. The wealthy, intelligent heiress from Belmont marries Bassanio and ends up saving his friend Antonio's life at the end of the play.

Antonio had borrowed money from Shylock to fund Bassanio's trip to Belmont, taking the loan out under the condition that he would pay it back with interest or else give Shylock a pound of his flesh. After Antonio forfeits on the loan because his ships are lost at sea, Bassanio returns to Venice in hopes of preventing Shylock from retrieving a pound of Antonio's flesh.

However, Portia ends up saving Antonio's life by secretly traveling to Venice and disguising herself as a young lawyer named Balthazar. Portia then presents a moving, logical argument, which prevents Shylock from retrieving the pound of flesh and taking Antonio's life. Portia's argument also punishes Shylock for his merciless, malevolent behavior. Overall, Portia is considered the play's heroine for preventing Shylock from murdering Antonio by taking a pound of his flesh

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Who is the real hero of The Merchant of Venice?

For me, as in other Shakespeare comedies, it would be better to ask who the heroine is. It is Portia in this play who shines out as being the character who heroically solves the situation that the menfolk, including her new husband, are unable to even begin to resolve. It is she who is described as active, whereas her husband is left standing passively, watching his friend Antonio about to be butchered by Shylock without being able to do anything. The initiative for this stratagem comes from Portia alone, and she in every sense shows herself to be superior to the male characters of this play. During the court scene it is she who controls the action and is looked up to by everyone, including the authorities, for her superior judgement, wisdom and skill.

With such things in mind, let us consider whether Bassanio could be judged a hero of the play. Again and again, in spite of his ability to choose the correct casket and gain Portia for his wife, Bassanio is shown as a less than impressive figure. He starts off by asking his friend to get into debt for him, because he has wasted his money, so that he can gain a wife who will bring him money. He speaks of Portia being more a financial investment rather than a person whom he loves and cares for. Although we may argue that he comes to lover her during the course of the play, the initial scene where he confesses his spendthrift ways to Antonio and asks him for more money leave a very bad impression. His subsequent helplessness in the face of Shylock's wrath and fury present him as a weak character, and to my mind unfit for Portia.

So, to my mind, the true hero of this play is Portia in the way that she is able to solve the legal dispute that nobody else is able to cope with.

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Who is the real hero of The Merchant of Venice?

The term "hero" is a really slippery concept. "Hero" can mean the "protagonist" of the play.  A protagonist in the main character who changes, traditionally in a positive way, as a result of the conflict that he or she faces and is able to resolve. A hero also can be see as a virtuous character who is able to do some kind of good not only for him/her self but for someone else as well. There are "comic heroes" and "tragic heroes."

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