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Merchant of Venice - Portia Outwits Shylock in Act IV Scene I
"Portia: Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge
To stop his wound, lest he do bleed to death.
Shylock: Is it nominated in the bond?" Act 4 Scene 1 lines 255-257
This is the time that Portia traps Shylock into a corner and saves the life of Antonio at the same instance. Portia builds up her defences as Shylock lets his down as he believes that he is going to gain his pound of flesh from Antonio's breast nearest the heart.
As soon as Portia enters the court room she applies herself to try to cunningly outwit Shylock. When she initially enters the court room she performs the relevant actions performed in the court and automatically turns to interact with Shylock. She highlights that the course of action and the hearing is that of an odd one but she also begins to gain Shylocks trust by stating that
"Portia. . . the Venetian law
Cannot impugn you as you do proceed." Act 4 Scene 1 lines 176-177
This is the beginning of her already constructed action plan to bring Shylock down and to also remove as much of his cruel ways from him.
As Portia weaves her way into Shylock's trust she, at many points, reassures herself that the proceedings are going as she wants them to be. She asks Shylock on line 181 if he wishes to show mercy to Antonio, but he avidly says that he will show no compassion.
Portia then goes onto speak about why Shylock could show mercy and for what reason but with0out pressuring him into this act. He declines the offer. He states that he "Shylock: . . . I crave the law
The penalty and the forfeit of my bond." Act 4 Scene 1 lines 204-205
Portia takes this into account and also makes sure that the clerk that should be writing the proceedings is recording the current events. This gives Portia a fall back and also allows her to later reinforce her point that the Jew showed no consideration for the victim and also that he expresses his want for his bond and forfeiture many times over.
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As Portia continually gains the trust of the Jew by stating that his bond is and how lawfully he may claim his forfeit, she is still building Shylock up for the gradual fall of his confidence and eventual cut of his possessions. Shylocks eagerness at this point as he believes that he is going to be able to collect what he wants allows him to express feelings that later Portia will use against him. This eagerness plays to Portia's plan and allows her yet further entrapment Shylock.
At this point Portia's overall strategy is working as she hopes and this co-operation from Shylock to willingly stab himself in the back and then leave with nothing allows the strategy to work out properly and well.
At this instant Antonio makes an arousing speech to his friends, especially Bassanio. Even this speech doesn't hinder Shylock in his greed for his forfeiture and he eagerly waits ready to pounce.
This is the pivotal point in Portia's plan. She states to Shylock what he is allowed, pound of flesh cut from the breast nearest the heart. Then Portia suddenly turns Shylock's trust and reliance on the judge and his own personal greed for the forfeiture.
"Portia: This bond doth give thee here not a jot of blood." Act 4 Scene 1 line 304
At this Shylock's whole ideal is shattered. If there is no blood then how can he collect his forfeiture? If he isn't able to spill a single drop then how will he transfer the pound of flesh to the scales? His whole dream in pieces before his eyes. Through Portia's planning she had trapped him by making sure that he had stated small, but highly important statements. These where to make him state that if there was not something in the bond then it was void and could not be added. He also gave up the offer of thrice the number of monies on Antonio's head. This all constructed to ensnare Shylock and stop his slanderous action.
Portia then goes on to add more pain to Shylock's already suffering psyche. She tells him that as he has turned down the offers of the monies on Antonio's head that he must now perform the forfeiture. This leaves Shylock scorn and he is unable to escape the closed gate that he led himself into.
This then goes on. Portia follows on from the earlier punishment to inform Shylock that if he doesn't perform the forfeiture then he will leave with nothing. Half of his possessions will go to the treasury of the state and the other half is given to that who he brings order against, Antonio. This leaves Shylock with nothing not even any self dignity, as instead of taking the half of Shylock's possessions that Antonio is entitled to he instead lays down some ground rules for Shylock to follow. He first must become a Christian and second must give a gift of half of his possessions to his son in law, Lorenzo, and his daughter, Jessica. Now Shylock has not even his own religion to rely upon as he has to follow that of Christianity which is new unto him, but Antonio does show mercy, unlike Shylock did towards him, so much as to allow Shylock to keep the half of his possessions but to give it to the above stated.
Portia's cunning plot not only diffused Shylock and knocked the winds out of his sails, but also saved Antonio's life in the process. Not only is this a pivotal point in the book, but it is also a pivotal point in Shylock's now changed life.