The folllowing sample essay on Fair Speechless Messages Meaning discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
In the Merchant of Venice, Portia plays a relatively a big part, which is unusual for a Shakespearean play in which women are given the more inferior roles. Not only does she find her suitor and new husband, Bassanio, but she also saves Antonio’s life. The description in the title paints a picture of only a rich lady and little else is noticeable about Portia like her intelligence and depth.
She shows how she can manipulate people when she goes to Venice, but doesn’t severely hurt the characters.
The first we hear of Portia is that she is a beautiful and wealthy woman by Bassanio. The Prince of Morocco calls her “the fairest creature northward born” She is the news of her beauty and wealth all over the world and men from different countries come in the hope of getting married to her.
To get married to her, princes from Aragon and Morocco came. Bassanio even caused Antonio take loan from his enemy Shylock only to test his luck no marry Portia. My initial impression of Portia, as she describes her suitors to Nerissa, is that she is witty and quick-thinking.
However, she also shows a racist attitude in her comments she says that the Prince of Morocco has “the complexion of a devil” A Shakespearean audience would have found this acceptable in those times as well as the mocking of Jews, in this case towards Shylock.
She appears to speak more formally with her suitors than Nerissa suggesting she is more comfortable with people she knows and trusts and Nerissa is a close friend. Portia tells the Prince of Morocco that he has an equal chance to the other suitors after he worries he is too dark skinned for her, this is because she does not like any of them.
From this first scene the audience might find Portia somewhat particular and a typical upper class heiress. “I had rather be married to a death’s head … than to either of these. ” Portia complains about each suitor to Nerissa giving a new excuse why they are not right for her hand in marriage. In Act 3 Scene 2, Bassanio is choosing the casket. Already before he chooses the correct one, you notice Portia’s different attitude. She is talking a lot more and seems more keen rather than before with the previous suitors. Portia appears more comfortable with Bassanio and there is some clear chemistry between them in this scene.
He boasts of having received “fair speechless messages” from her eyes, which hints of her feelings for him. Portia presents signs that she likes him by guiding his decision. She warns Bassanio to take his time so he chooses the right one, this shows Portia’s determination for Bassanio to win her hand in marriage. Portia even provides him with clues to which casket, mentioning “bell” which were originally made of lead, also “bred” and “head” which rhyme with lead. As she is nervous when he chooses a casket, for fearing of losing him, she tells him “I stand for sacrifice”, this could be a way of showing her love for Bassanio.
Whilst Portia is delighted that he chose the right casket, she appears worried that she will not come up to Bassanio’s expectations: “I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends, exceed account” This is somewhat surprising as the situation was reversed with Portia’s other suitors who proved not good enough for her. Portia’s language is fairly expressive. She is wise and articulate in her speech During Act 4 whilst pretending to be a male lawyer; she manipulates Shylock into thinking she is on his side and then defeating him. This shows she has power and authority and uses it well.
She shows courage and cleverness moreover her arguments are very intelligent. She speaks forcefully and powerfully of mercy, “It is twice blessed; it blesses him that gives, and him that takes. ” She uses her power to test Bassanio. Even though she claimed after their marriage that all her possessions are his and handed over her power, she still seemed to be the dominant leader of the couple. Act 4 is the most important of scenes in the play for Portia. Her amusing, intelligent and forceful argument is used to legally attack Shylock and free Antonio.
Although she misleads Shylock into believing he will be rewarded until the last minute, a brutal feat, she may have been doing so in order to give Shylock every opportunity to redraw and show mercy. It is more likely however that Shakespeare did this to cause suspense and tension in the scene. In the end she points out that the bond does not include “blood” in the terms, and so Shylock cannot receive his pound of flesh, she then accuses Shylock of attempting to kill a Venetian, and he is sentenced to converting to Christianity and to leaving his fortune to Jessica and Lorenzo.
However, Portia and the other characters fail to acknowledge the fact that Shylock is indeed a Venetian only not a Christian but a Jew. They imply throughout the scene that he is like an alien because of his Jewish faith. Although it seems Portia is fair towards Shylock at the beginning of his trial and does not strongly loathe Jews, she later joins in with the other characters in addressing him “Jew” instead of his real name. This shows Portia being prejudice to Shylock but the same as most Christian people in Shakespearean times would.
They treat him as an outsider and give him no respect or allow him to keep his dignity. His punishment essentially deprives him of everything he cares for and has worked for. In modern day, Shylock would be sympathized by the audience however a Shakespearean audience would have been mostly Christian. This means that their favour would go towards the Christian character so Portia would be seen as the heroine by saving the day and Antonio’s life. The entire ring plot is Portia’s idea, and she and Nerissa enjoy the prospect of the prank at their husbands’ expense.
She is ruthless to Bassanio, making him give her – still dressed as Balthazar – her ring as a thank you gift for saving Antonio. The fact that she can plan this trick immediately after Shylock’s humiliation suggests she has a clear conscience over what has happened. Bassanio swears over and over that he never gave his ring away to another woman and he is more than a little embarrassed to admit that he gave it to another man “if I could add a lie unto a fault I would deny it. ” Portia plays the role of the angry wife enjoying mocking Bassanio just as well as she played the role of the learned young lawyer at Antonio’s trial.
This scene shows how Portia still has the authority, even though she swore Bassanio owned all her possessions and power. “Myself and what is mine, to you and yours is now converted. ” One of the qualities that attract the audience to Portia is that she is an obedient daughter and at the same time she is a loyal and caring wife. She is bound by her father’s will to marry the man who chooses correctly between a gold, silver and lead casket – one contains her portrait. However resents this decision, “I may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike.
Portia waited patiently to get married. If she wanted she could easily have told Bassanio or another possible suitor what casket to open so she could marry the man of her choice however she did not, no matter her desire to do so. She was loyal and obedient but at the same time she had firmness, she has desirable characteristics, her braveness allowed her to argue against anyone’s disagreement. In my opinion, ‘In Belmont is a lady richly left, and she is fair and, fairer than that word, of wondrous virtues’ is not an adequate description of Portia.
In this quote Bassanio was telling Antonio of Portia and stating her wealth and beauty over her desirability and intelligence. Portia is much more than just her wealth, not because she uses intellectual words and delivers an impressive mercy speech in Antonio’s trial, but that fact that she, who we have beforehand seen as pampered and light-hearted, when confronted with injustice, stands tall and speaks her truth, defeating all obstacles as they come. We are both accoutred like young men” Portia and Nerissa dress up as men to disguise themselves from their husbands in Venice. She uses her power in Antonio’s trial by depriving him of any control and in the end the audience may doubt how she knew of his ships situation and why she went through with the trial when there was not any need. This could be a way of staying in charge. Therefore, Portia is to a great extent wiser and more intelligent than she was formerly made out to be.