Shakespeare – Module 5: The Merchant of VeniceThe Merchant of Venice – 5 of 20 – Portia, Act 1

Portia in Act 1

LO: In this session we will look at our first impressions of Portia

Task 1: watch the video from the link below

Task 2: watch the next video clip and answer the questions that follow

What is the primacy effect?

What we see first about a character has a disproportinate effect on how we prerceive them in the story

What does the phrase ‘richly left’ mean? ‘

That she has inherited a lot of money

Portia is also described as ‘fair’ and possessing ‘wondrous virtues’ (or qualities). What does fair mean?


When we first meet Portia there is a conflict between her and one other character. Is it a) Antonio or b) her father?

b) her father

Portia thinks it is easy for people to follow their own advice, is this statement true or false?

False, she thinks people give advice easily but don’t follow themselves

How many suitors are there for Portia?


Vocabulary check: what does discerning mean?

having or showing good judgement.

Task 3: have a go at this challenge that was set recehas a ntly in a book of puzzles. Note that this puzzle is not the same as the one in the play, although it is similar. See if you can workk it out.

Beautiful Portia has three caskets: one gold, one silver and one lead. Inside one of them is her portrait. Her father’s will has determined that any suitor must choose the casket with the portrait in order to win her hand in marriage.Portia wishes to choose her husband based on the size of his intellect. So she has the following words written on the caskets:

Portia tells her suitor that of these three statements at most one is true. Which should he choose?

2) The suitor got it right and they married. But then Portia had second thoughts. She wanted a cleverer husband. So she divorced and went through the casket-choosing rigmarole again, with new statements on the caskets:

In this case the suitor is told that at least one statement is true and at least one is false.Which one should he choose?


1) The potrait is in the silver casket.

The gold and lead caskets have statements that are opposites, which means that exactly one of them must be true. So the statement on the silver casket must be false, which means that it contains the portrait.

2) The portrait is in the gold casket

If the portrait is in the lead casket, then all three statements are true. If the portrait is the in silver casket, then all statements are false. So the portrait must be in the gold casket, in which case two statements (gold, silver) are true and one (lead) is false.

Task 4: this is not the same as in the play. To find out more about the challenge read the simplified story version of this in the link below.

Task 5: complete the tasks on the ppt.

Well done, you have now gained an understanding of our first impressions of Portia, her father’s legacy to her suitors and some reflection about whether she is a stereotypical woman of the time.