Elements Of Comedy In Merchant Of Venice

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The genre of William Shakespeare’s most performed play has been debated for a long time: is it a comedy or a tragedy? The play has elements of both genres, but one is clearly prevalent. While the story hits upon the tragic element of despair, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, is a comedy because lovers are separated, characters are in disguise, and the story has a happy ending.
From the very beginning of The Merchant of Venice, we see the comedic element of lovers being separated time and time again. First, Jessica and Lorenzo are not permitted to marry or see each other because of their different religions and her father’s fervent hatred for Christians. “Lorenzo certain, and my love indeed / For who love I so much?” (2.vi.30-31). Jessica and Lorenzo and certain they are in love, despite the distance that separates them. Later, in Act 3, Bassanio must leave Portia to return to Venice where Antonio is waiting to see him one last time. “And then away to Venice to your friend! / For never shall you lie by Portia’s side / With an unquiet soul” (3.ii.317-19). This separation between Bassanio and Portia allows the audience to connect with the irony of these young lovers’ struggle. These separations between lovers lead to another element of comedy--costumes.
Of the three women in this play, each dresses as a man once, furthering the comedic air with clever disguises. Jessica starts off the chain of costumes by dressing up as a torchbearer to flee from her father’s house. “Cupid himself would blush / To see me thus transformed to a boy” (2.vi.39-40). Jessica’s readiness to run away from her father triumphed over her embarrassment about dressing as a man. In the same way, Portia and Nerissa don the clothes of lawyers to save their husbands’ friend. “There you shall find that Portia was the doctor / Nerissa there, her clerk” (5.i.298-9). This lie’s hilarity is furthered when Balthazar is praised for being smarter than most men. But the comedic elements don’t stop there.
Accordingly, almost every character receives happy news at the end of the play, which doesn’t happen in tragedies. Antonio learns that his despair was all for naught when Portia hands over a letter. “Sweet lady, you have given me life and
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