1.The Merchant of Venice as a Tragicomedy. 2. The justification of Shylock's actions in 'The Merchant of Venice'. 3.The contrast between Belmont and Venice in 'The Merchant of Venice'

2296 Words Mar 10th, 2003 10 Pages
** Consider the play as a tragicomedy

Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' is a comedy with a difference. It was written almost certainly between 1596 & 1598. The play is classed as one of the 16 comedy plays but it is also a 'problem' play due to the tragic elements woven throughout the intricate plot. The play concludes with a harmonious ending but all through the plot, reoccurring themes of sadness and tragedy are included.

In terms of dramatic structure, "The Merchant of Venice" is undoubtedly a comedy. It follows the typical upward trajectory of comedy (beginning complication to ending resolution}. Act 1 introduces the plays main complication, but it also sets the tone for comic expectation by establishing upward rhythm of comedy
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The title character Antonio belongs in a different kind of play. His mysterious sadness & his apparent willingness to die to prove his love for Bassanio suggest the world of tragedy. His ill treatment of Shylock makes him a rather dark hero. The bond he signs with Shylock is unromantically explicit about the three-month term and the consequences of forfeiture. His contempt for Shylock finds no comic expression & at the end of the play, he is the odd man out among the pairs of happy lovers.

Love is not the only dominant interest of the play unlike Shakespeare's other romantic comedies. The play could easily be one that is dealing with issues of Jewry and usury that were very contemporary. Bassanio as a romantic hero is not a lovesick languishing figure but his motives are rather dubious. The climax of the play is not the love story, as it should be in a romantic comedy but in the trial scene that comes rather late.

'The Merchant of Venice is also unconventional because it mingles the people of the aristocracy with lower class characters(such as, Shylock & the clown Launcelot Gobo), even though , according to the reigning critical theory of that time, only upper class characters were appropriate to tragedy while member of the middle and lower classes were the proper subject solely of comedy. The play also presents a threat of death to its main protagonist Antonio that is suddenly at the end by Portia's ingenious casuistry in

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