The Merchant of Venice By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act IV: Scene 2

Summary

Still in Venice after the trial, Portia stops on a street and instructs Nerissa to find Shylock's house and have him sign the deed bequeathing everything he owns to Lorenzo and Jessica; then they will be home by tomorrow.

Gratiano catches up with them and presents Portia with the ring from Bassanio, who, he says, also sends an invitation to dinner. Portia accepts the ring but declines the dinner invitation. She asks Gratiano, however, to show Nerissa ("my youth") the way to "old Shylock's house." Nerissa, in an aside, whispers to Portia that on the way she will try to get the ring which she gave to her husband on their wedding day, a ring which she made him "swear to keep for ever." Portia is delighted at her friend's plan. She is certain that Nerissa will succeed, and then both of them will have a merry time hearing their husbands try to explain how and why they gave their wedding rings away to other men.

Analysis

This act's final, brief scene continues the previous scene's closing mood; it is really its conclusion. By this point in the play, we are absolutely sure that Portia and Nerissa will both "outface" and "out-swear" the men. It is almost a commonplace that in every one of Shakespeare's romantic comedies, the women emerge as shrewder and wittier than the men. Portia is one of those Shakespearean heroines. She is not only superior to all of the men in the climactic scene in word — but she also excels them in deed. It is she who plans and executes Antonio's deliverance and sees that merciful justice is carried out.

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