Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Sara Munson Deats, Ph.D.

Keywords

Elizabeth Tudor, Queen Elizabeth I, Learned Renaissance woman, New historicism, Feminism

Abstract

Portia serves as a complex and often underestimated character in William Shakespeare's controversial comedy The Merchant of Venice. Using the critical methodologies of New Historicism and feminism, this thesis explores Portia's representation of Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England from 1558 to 1603. Striking similarities exist between character and Queen, including physical description, suitors, marriage issues, and rhetoric. In addition, the tripartite marriage at the play's conclusion among Portia, Bassanio, and Antonio represents the relationship Elizabeth Tudor formed between her merchant class and her aristocracy. Shylock serves as a representation of a generic or perhaps Catholic threat to England during the early modern era. Moreover, by examining Portia's language in the trial scene, the play invites audiences to read her as a representative of the learned Renaissance woman, placing special emphasis on the dialectical and rhetorical elements of the language trivium in classical studies. Finally, through a close reading of the mercantile language in the text, Portia can be interpreted as the merchant of the play's title.

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