Friday, May 17, 2013



The Merchant of Venice is a satiric play for several reasons. The entire play was set in favour of an audience that hated Jews and believed that even the most inhumane treatment was well-deserved. Labelled as "killers of Jesus Christ", the Jews were hated by Venetians; in this case,  the merchant Antonio, for charging usury and for being a Jew. Shylock the Jewish money-lender in the play, received harsh treatment from Antonio for being "thrifty". He disgraced Shylock publicly by speaking badly about him, calling him a "cut throat dog", spitting on his clothes and in his face and by kicking him like you would a stray dog. (Act One, scene Three). After all this, Antonio approaches Shylock about borrowing money to which Shylock replies, “Hath a dog money? Is it possible that a dog can lend three thousand ducats?"  Without remorse, Antonio, one of Shakespeare’s "protagonists" in the play, responds by telling Shylock, "I am like as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee too." 
Shylock again suffers abuse at the hands of Christians when his only daughter Jessica elopes with Lorenzo, Antonio's friend, taking from him; bags of ducats, jewels and precious stones, even his treasured turquoise ring, which he received from his wife before she died. He is mocked and ridiculed when Solanio, Antonio's friend, refers to him as "the dog Jew" and telling of how Shylock ran through the streets of Venice crying for his ducats and his daughter, with boys following mockingly. (Act two, Scene Eight).
Finally, the play is satiric because, having suffered all the things mentioned above, Shylock is taken to court and stripped of his dignity, his possessions and most importantly, his religion, when Portia, disguised as a lawyer, brilliantly accuses him of attempting to kill Antonio in the signing a bond that demands a pound of his flesh, should he forfeit his loan. Shylock was left dejected and ridiculed for his vice.

A Brief Evaluation of Comedy
The Merchant ofVenice

    A successful comedy needs basic elements and ingredients to be distinguished. In addition, it should make allowance for the audience who judge it. In consequence of ideological and psychological make-up variations, a comedy could be defined as a tragedy and vice versa. Looking to The Merchant of Venice, we find that it is a tragic-comedy that raises serious questions disguised in parody and irony. To be able to realize comedy in the play, there are some elements that should be discussed.

    Once the word comedy comes to mind, the first thing to think of is laughter. In the play, there are many situations that make the audience laugh through parody, irony, misidentification and slapstick. Regarding the scène of Launcelot Gobbo Shylock's servant who decides to mock his father's blindness, we find a good deal of comedy. Launcelot plays the role of a clown; he raises laughter from his frequent misuse of words and exaggerated movements which is considered slapstick. In addition, we laugh at Gobbo who misidentifies his own son.

    Parody and irony exist strongly in many situations. One of them is the ring scene when Portia and Nerissa act as if they are shocked with their husband's abandonment of the rings and they refuse to believe that they were given to the lawyer and his clerk. Irony exists when Portia says that her husband is not like Gratiano who gave away his wife's ring. In fact, she was joking as she was the lawyer who took the ring. Audiences laugh at this scene knowing that the truth that Bassanio gave away his ring as well. Knowing the truth, Portia tried to play the fool on her husband and that is when irony arouses laughter.

    An element that standardizes the quality of a comedy is illogicality or fancy. As seen through the play, it is clear that there are many illogical events taking place. Firstly, the equivocal relationship between Antonio and Bassanio that leads to further complication. Secondly, the undiscoverable disguise of Portia and Nerissa in the court scene. Last, but not least, the funny happy ending when three happy married couples and a merchant who has his wealth back are found. All these events happen only in fancy and that is why the dues ex machine technique is used to end the play happily when an unexpected person, Portia, comes in the time of no hope and gets Antonio out of the hot water. All in all, it is fancy and illogicality that make the audience able to laugh.

    The type of character is also one of the important elements that help the audience to laugh. Comic characters are usually flat and sort of caricature with no parallel in life. This type gives the audience an emotional distance which enables them to laugh and not lose their identity as in a tragedy. A stark model of that is Shylock's character that is presented as another Jewish comic stock villain character. This Jew villain is wearing the famous Jewish gabardine, acting miserly, lending money in usury and having a cruel nature. Such make-up forbid identification and consequently forbid any sympathy towards Shylock, so he is laughed at.

    A question that is highly significant is: for whom is it a comedy? The Merchant of Venice was first presented in the 16th century England where Jews were tyrannized and patriarchy was dominant. As result, the play was pretty successful as the audience accepted the mocking on Jews and laughed at it heartily. Regarding Shakespeare's neutralization towards the patriarchal system, men and women laughed at the upside-down rolls of Portia and Bassanio. Back to our present time, the play won't receive a big success as comedy in many countries, especially those of Europe and America because of the anti-Semitic impeachments the play confronts. It would be accepted only in countries that have conflicts with the State of Israel, the home intolerant Jews.

    In conclusion, The Merchant of Venice has a great deal of comedy that manages to entertain the audience through a light-hearted plot.                   



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