Julius Caesar

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Wife of Brutus, daughter of the famous Roman statesman Cato. She is proud of her identity as a member of two famous Roman families, and takes her role as wife seriously, demanding that Brutus keep no secrets from her, or exclude her from any aspect of his life. Despite this pride, she still respects Roman gender roles enough to subordinate herself to her husband. Portia seems ashamed of being a woman, and identifies more with the ideal of the fearless Roman man, stabbing herself in the thigh to prove she can keep secrets, and eventually killing herself in an unnecessarily painful way, by swallowing hot coals.

Portia Quotes in Julius Caesar

The Julius Caesar quotes below are all either spoken by Portia or refer to Portia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Manhood and Honor Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the The Folger Shakespeare Library edition of Julius Caesar published in 1992.
Act 2, scene 1 Quotes
I grant I am a woman; but withal a woman that Lord Brutus took to wife; I grant I am a woman; but withal a women well reputed, Cato's daughter. Think you I am no stronger than my sex, being so father'd, and so husbanded? Tell me your counsels, I will not disclose'em. I have made a strong proof of my constancy, giving myself a voluntary wound here, in the thigh: can I bear that with patience, and not my husband's secrets?
Related Characters: Portia (speaker), Marcus Brutus
Related Symbols: Body, Blood, & Pain
Page Number: 2.1.315-325
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Brutus has decided that Caesar must die, and he and the other conspirators have planned to commit the murder at the Capitol the next morning. Portia (Brutus's wife) notices that her husband has been acting strangely, getting up at all hours of the night and seemingly pacing and musing at random. She sees that he is not physically ill, but rather has some "sick offense within [his] mind." She begs him to open up to her, and to share what is causing him and his many visitors (the other conspirators who have just come and left in the middle of the night) to act so strangely.

Portia tells Brutus that as his wife, she can be trusted with his secrets. In order to prove herself, she gives the men around her as references for her status as a special woman. She concedes the contemporary belief that women are inferior to men, but claims that as the wife to Brutus and daughter to Cato (a famous Roman), she is "stronger than [her] sex." What's more, she stabs herself in the thigh to prove her manliness and her "constancy" (trustworthiness). This self-inflicted wound foreshadows both her suicide and her husband's eventual suicide at the end of the play.

After this display, Brutus consents to share his secrets with her, telling her to go back to bed and that he'll tell her everything soon.


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Portia Character Timeline in Julius Caesar

The timeline below shows where the character Portia appears in Julius Caesar. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 2
Public vs. Private Theme Icon
Politics and Morality Theme Icon
Caesar enters with Antony, Calpurnia, Portia, Decius, Cicero, Brutus, Cassius, and Casca, followed by a Soothsayer and many Plebeians, and Murellus... (full context)
Act 2, scene 1
Manhood and Honor Theme Icon
Logic and Language Theme Icon
Public vs. Private Theme Icon
Brutus's wife Portia enters, and questions him about the visitors and his strange behavior. He makes excuses, but... (full context)
Manhood and Honor Theme Icon
Logic and Language Theme Icon
Politics and Morality Theme Icon
There is a knock. Brutus promises to reveal his secrets to Portia, who goes inside. Ligarius enters, and seems to suspect what is being planned. Brutus leads... (full context)
Act 2, scene 4
Manhood and Honor Theme Icon
Public vs. Private Theme Icon
At Brutus's house, Portia, nearly hysterical, orders Lucius to run to the Capitol. She wants news of the conspirators'... (full context)
Logic and Language Theme Icon
Fate Theme Icon
The Soothsayer passes, and Portia asks if he is going to the Capitol. He says that he is, to warn... (full context)
Act 4, scene 2
Act 4, scene 3
Manhood and Honor Theme Icon
Public vs. Private Theme Icon
...alone, Cassius says that Brutus's recent anger was uncharacteristic of him. Brutus tells Cassius that Portia, afraid that Octavius and Antony will win, has committed suicide by swallowing hot coals. Cassius... (full context)
Logic and Language Theme Icon
...Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus have executed many senators. After some hesitation, Messala tells Brutus of Portia's death, thinking he does not know yet. Brutus makes a show of acting unaffected, and... (full context)