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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: January ::
Re: Ducats and Daughters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.01259  Thursday, 20 January 2000.

[1]     From:   Paul Swanson <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Jan 2000 15:50:08 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0113 Re: Ducats and Daughters

[2]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Jan 2000 15:35:37 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0113 Re: Ducats and Daughters


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Swanson <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Jan 2000 15:50:08 -0500
Subject: 11.0113 Re: Ducats and Daughters
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0113 Re: Ducats and Daughters

>About "Portia" as suggestive of porcius, porcine, all true but only
>ultimately.  The proximate source of her name is Porcia, the daughter of
>Marcus Porcius Cato, he who committed suicide at Utica rather than
>submit to Caesarian tyranny.

I appreciate the very interesting post from John Velz regarding the
source of Portia's name in "Merchant." David Daniell's introduction (pp.
139-143) to the Arden text of "Julius Caesar" yields some interesting
information about the Portia of JC, the namesake of MV's Portia.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this strand, but there might be a few
things to consider in this context as we attempt to interpret the
complex MV. First, the Portia of JC dies "Impatient of (Brutus')
absence," (4.3.150), whereas in MV, Portia leaves Belmont to follow
Bassanio to Venice. Brutus, after his separation from his Portia, will
die; Bassanio, of course will not, and Antonio evens says that Portia's
presence at the trial has "given me life and living" (5.1.306).

Are there any implications to this? Perhaps I have in mind here is what
"life and living" Portia has given to Bassanio. She seems to have forced
him to elevate his love over his friendship with Antonio. Antonio can
manipulate Bassanio at the trial because Bassanio owes him something; at
the end of the play, it is Antonio who owes Portia something, and this
may be a foil to Antonio.

Further, we note that Cassius wishes that Brutus could "see your shadow"
(1.2.58), that Brutus could see himself the way others do; 2.4 of Julius
Caesar tells us that Brutus has confided to Portia his plans of
conspiracy, so we might see Portia as Brutus' confidant or "shadow."
Now, if in Julius Caesar, the character of Portia is perhaps present for
Brutus to see himself through (although admittedly Portia's presence
also parallels Calphurnia's presence with Caesar), I wonder what, if
any, we can learn if we see Merchant's Portia as Bassanio's "shadow?"

Are there connections can we make here? I very much realize this post is
a question and not an argument, but I am curious about the possibilities
that Shakespeare might have had in mind by giving the female lead in
Merchant the name of Portia. I imagine that John covers much of this in
his article he mentions, an article I will try to track down.

Paul Swanson

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Jan 2000 15:35:37 -0600
Subject: 11.0113 Re: Ducats and Daughters
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0113 Re: Ducats and Daughters

Sean Lawrence writes that women like Portia and other "heiresses" liked
generosity.  I think that generosity or "mercy" as that theme is echoed
in MV is supposedly one of the virtues that Christians are supposed to
inculcate in their members.  Generosity, like the liberality of Timon of
Athens, can be abused, but it is certainly preferable to Shylock's testy
greed.

>>Maybe the women feel that having money at all is inherently
>>unfeminine-that, for instance, Hero, Portia, and Olivia are heiresses
>>only because they never had brothers, or their brothers have died; that
>>if they were married (or conventionally married, in Helena's case),
>>their husband would have gained possession of their money.

>Another possibility is simply that generosity was highly >valued in
>women. "Free" is one of the better complements in >Mallory, if I remember
>correctly.

Free sexuality?

Judy Craig
 

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