Who is Portia?

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Who is Portia? Portia is quite possibly one of the most brilliant of the Shakespearean heroines. In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Portia is a beautiful young woman in search of a husband. Her father has just passed away and had certain stipulations about the process by which a suitor would become her husband. Being a woman with a deep sense of duty and honor, she abides by her father's rules, but with a certain flair that only she could possess.

In the play, Antonio, a friend of Portia's finds himself in debt to a Jewish money lender named Shylock (you probably know him from his famous "If you prick us, do we not bleed" speech). Shylock is technically entitled to a pound of Antonio's flesh if Antonio cannot come up with the money, which, of course he cannot due to some unforeseen nautical issues. Portia masquerades as an attorney and begins with an argument full of pathos, appealing to the court and Shylock to show mercy. However, when that doesn't go over too well, she bends the law to such an extent that the court has no choice but to forgive the man's debt. Mercy didn't work, so she gave them the law.

In case you hadn't read it, her famed beckon for mercy:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

This all begs the question, is this site named Portia Rediscovered because the site owner fancies herself her modern day archetype? Not one bit. But it's a noble pursuit. The contributors to this page love great writing, brilliant arguments and beautiful things. Portia seemed like a good fit. But you can be the judge of that.

Posted by Portia at November 4, 2005 12:04 AM | TrackBack

thank you for this page. i believe that the character that the author wants to promote is really in 'portia'.. strength, will power and grace

Posted by: portia at June 14, 2006 09:33 PM