As it happens . . .

The 1953 Mankiewicz film production omits the lines entirely, perhaps because of the strictures of the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930. An actor or actress could not even use the word thigh in regard to a woman, much less call attention to the limb itself or stab it, given the psychosexual implications caused by proximity as well as the act itself.

The 1979 BBC production preserves the moment.

In the 1719 adaptation of the play (allegedly) by John Dryden and William Davenant, the wound is in the arm.

v1913 does not discuss the matter at all.

Read Shakespeare’s source, “The Life of Brutus,” from Thomas North’s translation of Jacques Amyot’s French rendering of Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes (1579).

The wound is the climactic moment in the marital exchange.

How should it be portrayed onstage? As an act that has already occurred, or should the actress actually stab her thigh as Brutus and the audience look on? Whether an emblem of extreme marital fidelity, matronly Roman virtus (= strength: note that this is a feminine noun in Latin), crazy love, or just plain crazy, no version of the play can be considered complete or accurate without it, or without accounting for it.

Here are some representations of Portia’s gesture by Renaissance painters and in recent theatrical productions. We will add more as we find them.


Michele da Verona, c. 1500-50: Portia's wound in the foot.


Elisabetta Siriani, Portia Wounding Her Thigh, 1664

Ercole di Roberti, c. 1490. Wound in the foot.


RSC Production, Stratford-upon-Avon, 2006


RSC Production, Stratford-upon-Avon, 2009