The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0901 Wednesday, 26 May 1999.
Date: Tuesday, 25 May 1999 10:53:22 -0400 (EDT)
It's true enough, as Brian Haylett observes, that Portia uses the word
"hazard" with all three suitors, but it's not at all clear that she
wants to help all three. Isn't Portia dismayed at the prospect of having
to marry either Morocco or Aragon? Doesn't she say of Morocco, "Let all
of his complexion choose me so" (2.7.79)? Aragon may also be
dark-complected too, by the way. Some editors try to "gloss over" this
problem by asserting that the word "complexion" actually means
personality or temperament, but that seems special pleading in the
extreme to me.
It could be argued, however, that Brian is right and that Portia is
trying to be fair, despite her own inclinations, by giving the same clue
to all three. A lot depends on what the reader thinks of Portia. My
view, for what it's worth, is that she is willing and able to bend the
rules to get what she wants, either in the casket scene or in the trial
scene. After all, as Fitzgerald pointed out about Tom and Daisy, isn't
that the way old money thinks?