Characters of Women in "The Merchant of Venice"
In his relatively short play, "The Merchant of Venice", Shakespear introduces very new and bright ideas such as women's rights and their equality with men which were totally unacceptable for the people of the Elizabethan time. In that male dominated world women were considered no better than cattle or land and to talk directly about their rights and needs was useless and even impossible. However, Shakespeare's talent and wit exceeded that impossibility and enlightened people's minds toward accepting the new ideas they were to face in the future. In this play, Shakespear introduces three female characters that though few in number, are powerful in their effect on the audience and very influential in the course of the events happening in the play. The characters of these three women-Portia, Jessica, and Nerissa -are much related to the roles they have in the play.
The first and most influential woman in the play is Portia. She is first introduced and described to the audience by Bassanio with such words as:" In Belmont is a lady richly left; And she is fair and fairer than that word of wondrous virtues...Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth." These few sentences are enough to show that unlike her contemporary women, Portia is famous and popular around "the wide world" not only because of her beauty but for her "virtues."
In the rest of the story we gradually come to find those "virtues" the first one of which is smartness. She turns out to be the smartest character in the play especially during the trial scene where she outwits all the men in the court including the Duke and Bassanio by turning the final verdict against Shylock.
Shakespear uses irony to awaken the numb judgments of his audience and make them understand that women should be taken more seriously. One of...