“It is much that the Moor should be more than reason”: Portia, Race, and Nation in Adaptation


  • Peter Lewis




The Merchant of Venice includes two characters of color: one in the list of roles—the Prince of Morocco—and one unseen and mentioned only in passing during the action—the Moorish woman made pregnant by Lancelet. Of all the adaptations of Merchant in fiction and drama, Morocco appears in only two. Likewise, the pregnant Moor. Furthermore, Portia is seldom a significant character in these adaptations, even though she is the largest role in the play. This paper explores Portia’s portrayal in adaptation in relation to race and nation. It considers Grace Tiffany’s novel, The Turquoise Ring (2005), as a rare example of how Portia’s problematic relationship with race has been interrogated in fiction and argues that a lack of desire to confront Portia’s racism is a major contributory factor to her apparent “unadaptability.”

Author Biography

Peter Lewis

Dr Peter Lewis recently completed his doctorate at the Centre for Adaptation Studies, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Researching the adaptation of Shakespeare in fiction, his project was entitled, ‘The neglect of Portia and adapting the unadaptable in twenty-first century novelization of The Merchant of Venice’; its key research question being to investigate not what has been adapted but what is not being adapted and why.

Peter also has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and has had several short stories published in literary magazines.