Compare and contrast Portia and Jessica in The Merchant of Venice.

QuestionsCompare and contrast Portia and Jessica in The Merchant of Venice.
Arihant asked 6 years ago

Draw a comparison between the two female characters Portia and Jassica in William Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice”.

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5 Answers
R Xicse answered 5 years ago

There are some traits of Portia’s and Jessica’s personality that are in sharp contrast with each other —

1) Jessica was not loyal to her father. She was unfaithful to her religion too. She not only eloped with a Christian but also robbed her father of his money, jewels and gold including a diamond costing 2000 ducats and a turquoise which was the memento of her father’s courtship and of her mother.

On the other hand, Portia remains loyal to her father even after his death. Though she feels that her freedom of choosing a husband is restricted by her father’s will, she still obeys her father’s will.

2) Jessica is not Afraid or ashamed of breaking her father’s trust on her. But Portia is very hesitant to break her oath to her father by helping Bassanio in choosing the right casket.

3) Jessica shows her embarrassment on her boy’s disguise while eloping with Lorenzo but Portia talks of her plan to dress like a boy with excitement, i.e., she is not at all shy.

4) Jessica’s father failed to give her fatherly love and affection and has made his house a hell for her while Portia’s father was much concerned for her future and devised a lottery of caskets to select a life partner who will truly love her.

Hope this helps…. 🙂

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Vedant somani answered 6 years ago

Jessica was not a good daughter. She broke her father’s trust. She ran with a Christian (Lorenzo) knowing that his father, Shylock hated the Christians. She also stole her father’s ducats and jewellery.

On the contrary, Portia is a true daughter. Even though her father is dead, she does not break her father’s will. She is ready to sacrifice her life by marrying to any person who chooses the right casket. She loved Bassanio but yet she did not tell Bassanio which was the right casket although she gave him some hints.

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Aatmaja Bhattacharjee answered 6 years ago

Jessica shows herself as a shrewd and prudent lady, by betraying her father Shylock. Shylock was a Jew, but Jessica eloped with a Christian (Lorenzo) in spite of knowing that her father hated the Christians. She didn’t even think about her father’s emotions. He loved her daughter and cared about her, but she regarded Shylock as a devil.

On the other hand, Portia was a kind and gentle girl. She highly respected her father, though he was dead. Her father set up a will where a person who chose the right casket (which contained a portrait of Portia) would marry her. Portia was so devoted to her father that she decided to sacrifice her life by marrying the person who chose the right casket even if she didn’t like him.

Here lies the main difference between Portia and Jessica.

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Secret answered 3 years ago

Jessica is the opposite of Portia. She lacks the modesty of Portia in her expression of love for Lorenzo. She is bold and rash in her actions. Jessica is disloyal to her father and cheats him by eloping with Lorenzo and taking her father’s earnings with her. She is quite a contrast to Portia who respects her dead father’s will and married according to her wishes. Jessica proves to be vain and extravagant in spending her father’s money. She even gives away her mother’s ring in exchange for a monkey. Her action is quite heartless. Portia on the other hand spends her father’s money wisely and for the good of others.

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Anshumanrawat answered 3 years ago

Shakespeare endows both Portia and Jessica with the traits that break norms of the society in the contemporary Elizabethan society. Both of them are bold and dare to exercise their own will in matters of importance. Both cross-dress to signify freedom they like to exercise.

However, they differ from one another in many aspects. Jessica is a Jew and hence Shakespeare portrays her as a controlled character with low self-esteem. She converted herself from a Jew into a Christian through her marriage to Lorenzo. Jessica’s discontent with her house and her father was clearly evident when she exclaims that her `house is hell’ and looks upon Lorenzo to save her enabling her to become a Christian and thereby enhance herself and her living conditions. Unlike Portia, Jessica disempowered her father by stealing and distorting his hopes by escaping with a Christian. Shakespeare has conveyed Jessica as a much more submissive character which becomes evident greatly through her marriage scene. The fact that Jessica appears with ‘page’s suit she hath in readiness’ emphasizes that she is disguised as a servant. This also implies that she will not be given the opportunity to exert a significant amount of influence.

Portia has been clearly evident as an instrumental character to the play’s development as a result of her greatness, high self-esteem, abilities, intelligence and manipulative power. Shakespeare draws our attention to Portia’s masculine integrity through her ability to govern the drama and dominate the scene. Shakespeare allows Portia’s character to demonstrate further intelligence by introducing her to state that ‘Clerk draw a deed of gift’. Portia’s words explicitly highlight her awareness of the way in which the law operates and thereby challenges the perception of women in 17th-century society. Her manipulative character is yet again demonstrated and is apparent in the courtroom scene.

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