“The Merchant of Venice” as a Comedy Essay
There are several aspects in any work of art that make it be characterized as a comedy. The classification is usually based on the form and the content of that particular work of art. In most cases, a comedy has twists and conflicts that are usually solved at the end of it, all hence leading to a happy ending.
They usually end in a festive and triumphant manner, hence causing satisfaction on the side of the audience. The play; ‘The Merchant of Venice’, has numerous scenes that are ridiculous, and this provides comic effect on the audience, which is a common feature for comedies. There seems to be questions concerning the aspects of whoever should be accepted in society and the conditions under which it should happen. Struggle for position seems to characterize both Belmont and Venice (Lablanc 100).
In the play, Portia describes her suitors in a comical way. For instance, she describes the Englishman as being alienated in his imported outfits. She speaks about the German suitor as being a drunkard while the Scottish man is featured as a coward who is depended on the backing of the French. All these descriptions are purely based on her stereotypes. The play can be characterized as a tragic comedy given that it has both the elements of triumph as well as tragedies.
Triumph is particularly evident in the successful resolution of the problems that befall the Christians. The tragic side of it comes out when the Jewish Shylock is forced to be converted to the Christianity and loses his property. It is quite comical that one of the conditions in the case of a default of the loan taken from the Jewish Shylock by Antonio is the repayment of the loan in form of one pond of his flesh.
Given the fact that a comedy ends in a happy ending, it is quite evident that Portia disguised as a doctor of law manages to convince the Duke of Venice to rule in favor of Antonio. She insists that the Jewish Shylock should convert to Christianity and has to give up half of his wealth upon his death to Jessica and Lorenzo. Everyone else seems to be happy at the end with the exception of the Jewish Shylock. It is controversial that the suitors have to rely upon luck so as to win Portia on their side.
Most of them make efforts to choose the gold casket, but their efforts and wealth do not work to their advantage. However, Bassanio manages to choose the right casket after getting a hint from Portia herself. He succeeds even though he uses the money from the Jewish Shylock and is driven in a rented limousine. They fall in love and they live together happily their after.
Portia finds it hard to accept blindly her fathers demands concerning controversial issues like the choice of a suitor. She, therefore, decides her own way of ensuring that she guides her desired suitor to choose the right casket without necessarily appearing to be defiant to her father.
She succeeds to get the suitor she wants. The writer also uses clever disguise to bring out the comical aspects of the play. Portia disguises herself as a male doctor of law and manages to trick the Jewish Shylock to submission through her influence on the ruling Duke of Venice.
The author has also employed the use of puns which are significant characteristic of comedies (Brantley 1-2). Wordplay has been used in a witty way that leaves the audience with laughter. Portia, for instance, says, “If he have the condition of a saint, and a complexion of the devil, I would rather he should shrive me than wive me (Shakespear 5).”
This statement though comical indicates that she is a racist. Another comic feature reveals when Antonio addresses Bassanio concerning his commitment to assist him. For instance, he says, “I am married to a wifewhich is as dear to me as life itself; But life itself, my wife, and all the world Are not with me esteemed above thy life, I would lose all, ay sacrifice them all Here to this devil, to deliver you” (Shakespear 281-286).
The writer has also used stock characters which is a basis for certain stereotypes. These characters always turn out to be comical characters. The Jewish Shylock has, for instance, been portrayed as a comical character. He forms the basis for all the prejudice against the Jewish population. For example, he says to Jessica:
Look up my doors, and when you hear the drum
And the vile squealing of the wry-necked fife,
Clamber not you up the casements the…
But stop my house’s ears- I mean my casements:
Let not the sound of shallow fopp’ry enter
My Sober house (Shakespear 28-36).
This statement portrays Shylock as a naïve and comical character, hence creating a comical effect in the play. The author has, therefore, used all these dimensions of comedy which include the aspects of a happy ending, the use of puns, use of stock characters and dramatic twists that are resolved at the end of the play. He manages to present the play in an interesting and comical manner. All these features form the basis for the classification of the play as a comedy.
Brantley, Ben. Railing at a Money-Mad World. The New York, Priv.,2010. Print.
Lablanc, Michael. Shakespearean criticism. Michigan: Gale Research Co, 2003. Print.
Shakespear, William. The Merchant of Venice. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 1616. Print.
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