Portia in Julius Caesar: Character Analysis & Quotes Video

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  • 0:00 Tough Girl…
  • 1:18 Portia Doesn't Buy…
  • 1:56 A Strong Woman
  • 2:38 Portia Stabs Herself
  • 3:16 Portia's Suicide
  • 3:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

Portia is one of only two female characters in William Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar'. In this lesson, we will look at a few of her quotes and analyze her character.

Tough Girl Portia

Have you ever had to convince someone to confide in you? Someone you consider so close that you should both share your secrets? It can be very frustrating to be left in the dark, as the character Portia understands all too well in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

In this play, the character Portia stabs herself in the thigh to show her husband, Brutus, that she could be trusted. While this is probably her most interesting motive, she also challenges gender stereotypes as well. She only speaks sixteen times in the play, but she makes good use of her lines and really adds an interesting dynamic.

Portia Knows Something's Wrong

One of the first times we hear from Portia, she begs Brutus to tell her what's bothering him. She says 'when I ask'd you what the matter was, / You stared upon me with ungentle looks.' Further, she explains, 'with an angry wafture of your hand, / Gave sign for me to leave you.' In other words, when Portia asked Brutus what was wrong, he gave her dirty looks and waved her away with his hand. She knows something's up.

Portia begs him to tell her when she says 'Make me acquainted with your cause of grief.' She is not simply playing the role of doting submissive wife. She wants to be a partner in the knowledge of what is wrong with her husband.

Portia Does't Buy Brutus's Excuses

Brutus tries to convince Portia that he is simply feeling sick, but she knows better, and instead of just accepting his lie, she presses further. Portia says 'No, my Brutus; / You have some sick offence within your mind, / Which, by the right and virtue of my place, / I ought to know of.'

In these lines, Portia calls Brutus out on his lies. She also tells him that she knows he is bothered with something in his mind, and since she is his wife, she should know what it is. This insistence reveals how determined Portia is. She wants to play an active role in his life, rather than just quietly support him in his unknown quests.

A Strong Woman

As the conversation continues, Brutus still tries to shield Portia from his plot against Caesar. He tells her that he loves her and that she should go to bed. Portia is relentless, and asks 'Think you I am no stronger than my sex, Being so father'd and so husbanded?' In this question, Portia recognizes that people view women as weak. She is saying that she is stronger than most women. Since her father was a strong man, and so is her husband, Brutus should see that as evidence of her strength.

These lines have multiple effects on Brutus. They flatter him, by calling him strong, and they also point out that if Portia was good enough to be Brutus's wife, then she is good enough to know his secrets.

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