And now, as promised, here are the answers to my quiz, the identity of the three Austen heroines and their respective suitors who are representations of three of Portia's undesirable suitors in The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 2, when Nerissa asks Portia for Portia's opinion about three of the suitors who have come to Meryto---I mean, Belmont---to seek Portia's hand in marriage:
NERISSA But what warmth is there in your affection towards any of these princely suitors that are already come?
PORTIA I pray thee, over-name them; and as thou namest them, I will describe them; and, according to my description, level at my affection.
NERISSA First, there is the Neapolitan prince.
PORTIA Ay, that's a colt indeed, for he doth nothing but talk of his horse; and he makes it a great appropriation to his own good parts, that he can shoe him himself. I am much afeard my lady his mother played false with a smith.
OF COURSE, THAT IS JOHN THORPE, WHOSE EQUINE OBSESSION IS THE LEAST OF HIS UNDESIRABLE CHARACTERISTICS, AS HIS IDEA OF COURTSHIP VERGES ON ABDUCTION AND OPPRESSION, AS HE "COURTS" OUR HEROINE CATHERINE MORLAND IN NORTHANGER ABBEY.
AND...PERHAPS JANE AUSTEN MADE A SMALL ADDITIONAL WINK AT "A SMITH" IN THE ABOVE PASSAGE WHEN SHE WROTE THE FOLLOWING:
[Catherine speaking to Eleanor] "That never occurred to me; and of course, not seeing him anywhere, I thought he must be gone. Was not the young lady he danced with on Monday a MISS SMITH?"
SO THAT WAS AUSTEN SUITOR & HEROINE PAIR #1, NOW FOR PAIR #2:
NERISSA Then there is the County Palatine.
PORTIA He doth nothing but frown, as who should say 'If you will not have me, choose:' he hears merry tales and smiles not: I fear he will prove the weeping philosopher when he grows old, being so full of unmannerly sadness in his youth. I had rather be married to a death's-head with a bone in his mouth than to either of these. God defend me from these two!
OF COURSE, THAT IS MR. DARCY, WITH HIS FROWNS, HIS COMMENTS THAT JANE BENNET SMILES TOO MUCH, AND HE CERTAINLY GIVES THE APPEARANCE OF A DEATH'S HEAD WITH A BONE IN HIS MOUTH DURING THE FIRST HALF OF PRIDE & PREJUDICE WHEN HE FIRST COMES TO MERRY-TOWN (I.E., MERYTON) TO BEGIN HIS MERRY WAR WITH ELIZABETH BENNET!
AND THAT WAS AUSTEN SUITOR & HEROINE PAIR #2, NOW FOR THE BEST ONE, PAIR #3:
NERISSA How say you by the French lord, Monsieur Le Bon?
PORTIA God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man. In truth, I know it is a sin to be a mocker: but, he! why, he hath a horse better than the Neapolitan's, a better bad habit of frowning than the Count Palatine; he is every man in no man; if a throstle sing, he falls straight A CAPERING: he will fence with his own shadow: if I should marry him, I should marry twenty husbands. If he would despise me I would forgive him, for if he love me to madness, I shall never requite him.
AND OF COURSE THE PROTEAN MONSIEUR LE BON, WHO SEEMS TO CHANGE IDENTITIES AS OFTEN AS OTHER MEN CHANGE THEIR CLOTHES, IS REPRESENTED IN JANE AUSTEN'S FICTION BY THE PROTEAN HENRY CRAWFORD, WHO MAKES THE FOLLOWING COMMENT ABOUT HIMSELF:
"Oh for the Ecclesford theatre and scenery to try something with." Each sister could echo the wish; and Henry Crawford, to whom, in all the riot of his gratifications it was yet an untasted pleasure, was quite alive at the idea. "I really believe," said he, "I could be fool enough at this moment to undertake any character that ever was written, from Shylock or Richard III down to the singing hero of a farce in his scarlet coat and cocked hat. I feel as if I could be anything or everything; as if I could rant and storm, or sigh or CUT CAPERS, in any tragedy or comedy in the English language. Let us be doing something. Be it only half a play, an act, a scene; what should prevent us? Not these countenances, I am sure," looking towards the Miss Bertrams; "and for a theatre, what signifies a theatre? We shall be only amusing ourselves. Any room in this house might suffice."
DO YOU NOTICE THAT BOTH OF THESE PASSAGES (IN TMOV AND IN MP) REFER TO PLAYING MULTIPLE ROLES AND TO CAPERING? JANE AUSTEN MADE CERTAIN THAT READERS WHO COMPARED THESE PASSAGES WOULD RECOGNIZE THE BREAD CRUMBS. BUT FANNY PRICE, LIKE PORTIA, IS NOT SUFFICIENTLY ENAMORED OF PROTEAN CHARMS TO BE WILLING TO MARRY THESE SUITORS.
AND THAT WAS AUSTEN SUITOR & HEROINE PAIR #3, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. BUT...I PROMISED ONE OTHER INTERPRETIVE PAYOFF, AND I WILL PROVIDE IT SHORTLY, IN A BLOG POST OF ITS OWN---STAY TUNED!
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