Another article on The Merchant of Venice?' Richard Weisberg has thought the play capable of sustaining even such hyperbole as this: "Perhaps no text except the Bible and the United States Constitution has so implicated audiences in fierce struggles for dominance and control." Within the legal commentary alone, an entire law-andliterature symposium has been devoted to the play, while academics find the play appropriate as a paradigm for such disparate topics as international commerce, bribes, and gender bias in moot courts. Legal scholarship has paid the work perhaps its highest compliment in speculating that the play transcends the boundaries of "the literary" to have an effect on judicial outcomes. All these commentaries share the play's focus on Portia, its cross-dressing, silver-tongued, lawyering heroine. That Portia has become a paradigm for thinking about the way in which lawyers should act' is underscored by the generic use of the word "Portia" to refer to a female lawyer," although the epithet has been used in both a negative and positive sense. Indeed, part of Portia's continued vitality may arise from the fact that encrypted within the strong consensus about her importance lies an equally intense disagreement about how her role is to be interpreted. When analyzed as a character, Portia has been called both the most and least attractive of the Shakespearean heroines.
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