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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: June ::
Re: Chooseth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0993  Sunday, 13 June 1999.

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Jun 1999 08:30:46 -0700
        Subj:   SHK 10.0981 Re: Chooseth

[2]     From:   Judith Craig <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Jun 1999 10:48:25 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Chooseth


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Jun 1999 08:30:46 -0700
Subject: Re: Chooseth
Comment:        SHK 10.0981 Re: Chooseth

Bill Godshalk wrote:

>If "keeping her word" includes truth telling, I think this point of view
>has a problem. In 3.4., Portia tells an out-and-out lie, claiming that
>she's made a secret vow "To live in prayer and contemplation" until
>Bassanio returns (28).  She then disguises herself as a man, pretends to
>be a learned judge, and, as far as we can tell from the script, spends
>no time in prayer and contemplation.

In so doing he responded to some lines by me, thought attributed to
another, that could have been better worded.  Bill, I think there is a
difference between telling a lie as a plot device and making a
commitment.  I should have stuck with the idea of commitment.  I don't
see the two as a problem for her.  She keeps her commitments and expects
others to keep theirs.  If there is a failure to do so, there is
forgiveness, but the commitment is taken seriously.  Unless I'm wrong.

One could argue that the truth is a commitment and to lie is to break
it, I suppose.  I think that is cleverer than the play aims to be.  That
is reading more into it than I can find there.

Best,
mj

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Craig <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Jun 1999 10:48:25 -0500
Subject:        Re: Chooseth

>Dad put the will in place to
>save her from the miseries of enforced marriage.  Portia uses the will
>and the test to reject the men she does not accept, and to accept the
>man she wants.  That's the way it works.

In responding to Bill Godshalk's above post, I would say with absolutely
no evidence either that Portia's Dad probably loved her enough to give
her an education and a fortune to manage hoping she would trust his
intelligence and will provisions to marry the man who found her picture,
no matter who he was.  There is a certain lack of control and implicit
trust in his good intentions which many modern women-and I guess Jessica
in the world of the play-find insulting and even demeaning.

I think her rebellion and change of costume to a lawyer-and even her
lie-shows her inherited intelligence and refusal to be manipulated into
an acceptance and trust of the good intentions of ALL men-even a man she
loves.

And. . . she was proved right.  Bassanio was willing to part with her
ring and place her second to another even after she had worked to
salvage the whole relationship.

Shakespeare to my mind knew women-the classical Portia, wife of Brutus,
was no fool and loved her man to the extent of swallowing hot coals when
his fortunes changed.

Moral-you have to be careful which man into whose hands you place your
life.  Portia was lucky enough to have a father who provided well for
her and smart enough not to squander it.  Bassanio  has already
squandered one fortune when the play opens:  "'Tis  not unknown to you
Antonio/How much I have disabled mine estate,/By something  showing a
more swelling port" (1.1.122-24 Arden edition).  I take this to be a
reference to the prodigal son motif-a guy who got a girl pregnant that
he didn't want to marry-and if I were Portia, I would check this guy
out, too.

Best,
Judy Craig
 

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