Loyalty In The Merchant Of Venice
In the play, The Merchant of Venice, the reader goes through a roller coaster full of emotions as the characters must make difficult and costly decisions. However, Nerissa was the one character who stood out. In the play, Nerissa is Portia’s lady in waiting as Portia’s parents are deceased. Nerissa demonstrates a loyal friendship with Portia because she is supportive and trustworthy, allowing them to build a very strong bond.
Nerissa demonstrates loyalty because she takes the initiative to fulfill the role of Portia’s deceased family. Nerissa is Portia’s listening ear and she analyzes Portia’s thoughts of her wisdom. But also accompanies Portia on all her physical, emotional, and mental adventures. Nerissa’s behavior is demonstrated when Nerissa argues: “If your miseries were in the same abundance as your good fortunes are. And yet for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing. It is no mean happiness, therefore, to be seated in the mean” (Shakespeare. I. ii. 3-7). Nerissa is telling Portia her honest opinion, that it is best to live humble rather than rich or poor. As stated, Nerissa listens to everything Portia says, and they can reflect ideas off each other helping them to create a strong friendship. Evermore, Nerissa helps Portia analyze all of her suitors and reminded her of Bassanio when she states: “…madam: he, of all the men that ever my foolish eyes looked upon, was the best deserving a fair lady” (I. ii. 105-107). Nerissa shows that she cares about Portia and wants to pick the best possible option for her, and Portia knows she can count on Nerissa’s loyalty.
Moreover, anything Portia does, Nerissa also does because of her sisterly love. At the time, women were viewed as less than men. However, Portia makes a statement as a woman and goes undercover as the judge to help Antonio with his case, and Nerissa follows along as a law clerk to help assist Portia once again. Portia tells her: “Come on, Nerissa; I have work in hand that you yet know not of: we’ll see our husbands before they think of us” (III. iv. 58-60). Portia had arranged to disguise herself as a lawyer to save her husband’s friend, Antonio, while Nerissa provides support along the way. Furthermore, Portia and Nerissa then proceeded to pull a joke on their husbands together. Portia, disguised as the judge, decided to test her husband’s loyalty by asking Bassanio for his ring in reward for saving Antonio when she stated: “That ‘scuse serves many men to save their gifts. And if your wife is not a mad-woman, and know-how well I have deserved the ring, she would not hold out enemy forever, for giving it to me. Well, peace be with you!” (IV. i. 440-443). However, little did Bassanio know Portia was asking him for her ring as a test of trust. Bassanio eventually gave in. Then, Nerissa proceeds to do the same test on Gratiano and he gives in his ring as well. Nerissa is supportive of Portia, but Portia could be supportive of Nerissa because she doesn’t know better and doesn’t have anyone. They both stick around because they value each other’s loyalty.
Nerissa will remain friends with Portia as she continues to demonstrate loyalty and trustiness. Even though Portia’s parents are dead, Nerissa steps up and shows great initiative to be there for Portia and follow her as a lady in waiting. On top of that, Nerissa shows that she has got Portia’s back and is always willing to do the same thing as her because of their sisterly love. In the end, Nerissa is someone Portia can count on greatly and can trust in for someone to always be loyal to her.