is the heroine of William Shakespeare
's The Merchant of Venice
. A rich, beautiful, and intelligent heiress, she is bound by the lottery set forth in her father's will, which gives potential suitors the chance to choose between three caskets composed of gold, silver and lead. If they choose the right casket – the casket containing Portia's portrait – they win Portia's hand in marriage. If they choose the wrong casket, they must leave and never seek another woman in marriage. Portia favours Bassanio, but is not allowed to give him any clues to assist in his choice. Later in the play, she disguises herself as a man, then assumes the role of a lawyer's apprentice whereby she saves the life of Bassanio's friend, Antonio
, in court. She also disguises herself as Balthasar, a young doctor of law.
Portia is one of the most prominent of Shakespeare's heroines in his mature romantic comedies. She is beautiful, gracious, rich, intelligent, and quick-witted, with high standards for her potential romantic partners. She obeys her father's will while steadfastly seeking to obtain Bassanio. She demonstrates tact to the Princes of Morocco and Arragon, who unsuccessfully seek her hand. In the court scenes, Portia finds a technicality in the bond, thereby outwitting Shylock
and saving Antonio's life when everyone else fails. Yet, she also shows immense injustice and cruelty towards the Job-like figure of Shylock and those who are sympathetic with Shylock see her as the epitome
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