But only for a moment because then we have portias

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But, only for a moment, because then we have Portia’s famous quality of mercy speech— see 4.1. 186ff. Note the word compulsion—and then note Portia’s long speech at 4.1.190ff. As the trial proceeds, Shylock sticks to his demand for the bond, refusing the extra money, and then Portia argues that the bond is forfeit and Antonio must pay the penalty. All this while, Shylock keeps praising her judgment and wisdom and knowledge of the law, but then of course she interprets it and interpolates something not in the actual contract—that is the injunction against spilling a drop of blood—see first 4.1.269-275. Then we get Antonio’s moving valedictory speech and Bassanio’s avowal of love for him above that of his wife—which Portia notes too (4.1.294-301). Her quibbling on the blood in this bargain suggests an interpretation of the law— just as Bassanio had to interpret the casket mottoes—in the elite position, all members know the code and the language and interpret rightly or at least so as to solidify their own power—that’s Whigham’s point—see 4.1.312-30. She then goes further, in the refusal to allow Shylock to reverse his earlier decision and take the money—see 332-378. Shylock is reduced by Portia to being at the mercy of Antonio, who is merciful, of course, but Shylock is still destroyed. His identity as alien is insisted upon in Portia’s speech, and so he is punished for his presumption and his outsider status is reinforced. VII Male Friendship and Cuckoldry As in many of Shakespeare’s plays, there is then a conflict between male friendship and marriage in the play as in many of Shakespeare’s plays. This is because the ring plot also involves the threat of cuckoldry (Kahn 129). As Coppélia Kahn observes, “Bonds with men precede marriage and interfere with it; cuckoldry, men fear, follows marriage and threatens it” (129)—see, in this context, 5.1. 192-305. It’s right after the first time that we hear of Lorenzo’s letter telling that Antonio’s life is forfeit—so the rivalry is very clear—but Portia is not meanly jealous. Kahn points out that “Two contrary anxieties run through this intrigue [of the rings]: that men, if they are to marry, must renounce their friendships with each other—must even, perhaps, betray them; and that once they are married, their wives will betray them. Each anxiety constitutes a threat to the men’s sense of themselves as men” (130). These plays all feature homosocial relationships—as in we saw also in Romeo and Juliet . As Kahn notes, “The very exclusiveness of [the male possession of the woman in marriage] puts Shakespeare’s male characters at risk; their honor, on which their identities depend so deeply, is irrevocably lost if they suffer the peculiarly galling shame of being cuckolded” (Kahn 130). And as she goes on to observe, “The double standard by which their infidelities are tolerated and women’s are inexcusable conceals the liability to betrayal by women” (Kahn 130). The parallelism between Antonio and Portia is very clear: when Bassanio needs money to woo Portia, Antonio lends it; then when Bass needs money to save Antonio, Portia gives it (Kahn 131).

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