Merchant of Venice

The Victorious Woman in Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice

In Shakespearean plays, the female roles are consistently more complex than the male ones, and though the protagonists are often male, the action is frequently directed by a woman. Though the female characters are often perceived to have a definite aspect of craftiness to their personalities, the trickery that sometimes accompanies this craftiness is used for causes that, it can be argued, are honorable both today and during the era when the plays were written. In the play "Measure for Measure", it is Isabella who sets the quick pace of the play when she approaches Angelo about her brother's sentence, and it is Mariana who takes fate into her own hands when she agrees to switch places with Isabella in Angelo's garden. In "The Merchant of Venice", it is Jessica that steals away with Lorenzo and Shylock's money. Portia immediately decides to aid her husband Bassanio when he takes leave to help his beloved friend Antonio. Women are portrayed in these plays in several ways at once; it is as though a great many colored spotlights are shining on them during a single performance. They are simultaneously seen in a sympathetic light, a noble light, a clever light, and a determined light. These viewpoints...

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