Continuing my study of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, the second character that stands out for me is a character not spoken of much. The dead father of Portia. We know very little of him, or do we?
We can assume that Portia’s mother died some time before the story takes place because Shakespeare left her out of the story and had no effect in the story. So Portia’s father was most likely a ‘single dad’.
We know that he also must have been a very rich man and probably royalty because when Portia learns of Antonio’s debt of 3000 ducats (half a million dollars) she said to pay 6000 ducats or even more if needed, like a million dollars was a small pitance. We also can deduce that Portia was privately tutored because she was smart and learned. Look how fast she learned to act like a lawyer enough to fool the (leader and decision maker)
We can also assume that he was not only loved by Portia, but well respected by her as well since she honored her fathers wishes when she could have simply ignored the instructions left in his will. But what else can we deduce from the story as told by Bill Shakespeare?
The test alone was also to make sure Portia had a long and successful marriage. The cost of the privelage to partake was that if you chose and chose pooly, you could not ever persue marriage so a life of lonelyness was in your future so just to try to win Portias hand in marrige meant you had to risk everything. That meant only a brave man could be married to Portia.
And now for the manner of the test. 3 chests which one is made of gold, one of silver and one of lead. The man who chooses the gold chest is only after wealth and the power that comes from having it. The man who chooses the silver chest is also interested in wealth but tries to ‘play it safe’ with his decisions. This will be someone who may compromise his morals or ‘go along to get along’. But the man who chooses the lead box avoids the traps of wealth and chooses wisely and wins the right to marry Portia.
Portia’s father wanted for his daughter a brave man that would be willing to sacrifice everything for Portia. So even in death, a fathers love influences his childs life. Even though he is not refered to by name, we still learn plenty of Portia’s father and of Portia herself.