In William Shakespeare`s drama The Merchant of Venice, certain characters are getting more and more involved into the action of the play. That takes place in a manner which might give the reader or spectator the impression that some characters even change their character traits. According to Manfred Pfister, figures who “undergo a process of development in the course of the text” (Pfister 1991: 177f.) are called dynamic. “Their […] features change, either in a continuous process or in disjointed series of jumps” (Pfister 1991: 177f.). Static characters, however, remain static throughout the play and do never change. Only “the receiver`s perception of them may gradually develop, change or expand under the influence […] of information” (Pfister 1991: 177f.). In this essay, Portia of Belmont shall be focused on by giving an outline of her character and on this basis it shall be analysed whether she is a static character or not.
The first impression of Portia, heiress of Belmont, is conveyed through Bassanio in a dialog with Antonio. He sees in Portia the ideal of a woman: beautiful with “her sunny locks” (1.1,169), “of wonderous virtues” (ibid. 163), loyal as “Cato`s daughter”(ibid. 166) and attractive, which makes of Portia - “a lady richly left” (ibid. 161), “fair” (ibid. 162) and unmarried - a woman who is well known all over the world and much sought-after (“And many Jasons come in in quest of her”, 1.1,172). Portia herself describes her situation in the beginning of the play differently: “By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world” (1.2,1-2). Portia`s melancholy is obvious and not even Nerissa reminding Portia of her “good fortunes” (ibid. 4) can successfully convince her to stop feeling miserable about the “instructions” (ibid. 13-14) that Portia`s father had imposed on his daughter as his last will before he passed away: to wait for the right husband who should be revealed through choosing the right casket among three.