Merchant of Venice

The Role of Daughters in 'The Merchant of Venice'

The daughters of Elizabethan England were predominantly subject to their father's wishes. This is particularly evident in terms of the main female character, Portia, who must obey her father even after his death:

O me, the word 'choose'! I may neither choose who I would nor refuse who I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard Nerrissa that I cannot choose one nor refuse none?

What seems to be normal prose is permeated by poetic devices such as repetition and internal rhyming which emphasise Portia's lament. "Choose" is repeated three times, and the internal rhyme of "choose" and "refuse" is also repeated. The word "will" is repeated and seems to be punning on 'last will and testament', which serves to further press the finality of her father's sentence. This rhetorical style seems to be a pre-cursor to the later court scene in which Antonio is saved by Portia's ingenuity and subtlety of speech.

Harley Granville-Barker said in his essay on the character of Portia that; "to the very end she expands her fine freedom, growing in authority and dignity, fresh touches of humour enlightening her". This...

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