The Merchant Of Venice : Tragedy, Comedy Or Tragicomedy

Good Essays
Teresa Feltman
Professor Silva
English 200
13 January 2017
The Merchant of Venice: Tragedy, Comedy or Tragicomedy
Can time and historical events affect the categorization of a literary piece? William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is a play that is difficult to classify in a specific genre. It is often referred to as one of his problem plays. This means that it does not easily fall into a single category. Most literary sources categorize The Merchant of Venice as a comedy because it fits the description by having a happy ending. There are those, however, that discuss the dark side of the play and insist that the play could also be classified as a tragedy. Due to the plays’ complexity and the events of history, it can be argued that
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Shylock’s revenge against years of ridicule is what brought about his downfall. In the end, his refusal to accept anything but the bond that was agreed upon caused him to lose his home, his daughter, his fortune and his religion. This is a tragedy indeed.
Even though some might consider The Merchant of Venice a tragedy, it has always been known to be categorized as a comedy. Comedies are not always plays that generate laughter. They usually involve normal, everyday problems where families are looking for resolution to the problems, often almost suffering a tragedy before they are successful. The comedies always have a happy ending and usually end with couples resolving their issues and falling madly in love, and then getting married to live happily-ever-after (Schnell). The love story of Bassanio and Portia plays an important role in The Merchant of Venice. There are struggles they must overcome to come together. Bassiano’s lack of funds was the first obstacle to overcome in this love story. He had met Portia on an earlier journey to her land and wanted to return to seek her hand in marriage. His dear friend, Antonio, made a bond with Shylock the Jew to secure the funds for Bassanio to travel to Portia’s homeland. If Antonio forfeited the bond, he would owe the Jew a pound of his flesh in payment. It never entered Bassanio’s mind, or Antonio’s either, that the bond would have to be paid in this
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