The feminist critical perspective examines the roles that women play in literary works and their true significance to the text. Their roles are usually decided on by the society or time period in which the story is set. In "The Merchant of Venice," females were suppressed by the societal ideals of Shakespeare's Elizabethan era, which is portrayed through the characters of Portia and Jessica, who could not establish their own powerful identities because they were women. Portia and Jessica are the main female characters in the play. If they had been given a chance to show their skills, they undoubtedly would've been extremely strong women. However, they had to mask their abilities in order to appeal to their male counterparts. Their positions in the story were to show what it was to be the ideal Elizabethan woman. Time and time again, Portia and Jessica were shown to be mere objects that were owned by the male characters in the story.
They could not shine or become powerful characters, when they had every capability to.
According to Maggi Ros' "Life in Elizabethan England: A Compendium of Common Knowledge," a woman was nothing more than property in Elizabethan society. It states that, "Children are the property of their parents, and give them the respect a servant gives his master...Wives are the property of their husbands...Some women are more independent than others. However, every woman expects to be married, and to depend on her male relatives throughout her life." Throughout the story, we see that Jessica and Portia fit perfectly into this description of Elizabethan women.
Jessica was the property of her father. Shylock did not care for his daughter nearly enough as the fact that he owned her. When Jessica eloped with her lover, Lorenzo, Shylock cared only about two things:...