Comedy of Tradgedy: William Shakespeare’s the Merchant of Venice
That old Jew got what he deserved! This is the cathartic feeling that William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice inspires as the central character Antonio is released from the perils of his impending death. In American society today, it is wrong to persecute someone for their religious beliefs, as we are all created equal. This sentiment was, indeed, not the case in the 1500’s. Although the events that surround Shylock are interpreted as very tragic in today’s society, in the eyes of the audience, Shylock is a greedy Jew who has it out for a man who has done nothing wrong.
The Merchant of Venice is about a popular rich man who, through a turn of unfortunate events, finds himself bankrupt and due to lose his life. In the end he is redeemed by the valiant actions of this friends. William Shakespeare intended the audience to have sympathy for the central character. With the fortunate turn of events surrounding this character, The Merchant of Venice is a classic example of Aristotelian comedy. good Aristotle was very clear in the definitions of comedynice transition.
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Although there are many different ways to analyze and interpret different types of comedy, the central theme of comedy is a happy ending. Tragedy is more cryptic when it comes to its interpretation. Aristotle defined tragedy as having all of the following: A hero, a tragic error of the hero, negative results from those actions, hero’s recognition of his error, and retribution (Schnell, Tragedy). Hegelian Tragedy is defined as involving “a situation in which two rights or values are in fatal conflict” (Simpson, Comedy and Tragedy). Good.
A nice aside These two interpretations of tragedy can be carried over into The Merchant of Venice and the conflict between Shylock and Antonio. If we look at this drama from Aristotle’s point of view, Shylock’s life does fit some of the criteria. His bloodlustgood! for vengeance is a tragic error with negative results and there is retribution; however, he never establishes himself as a hero and never recognizes his responsibility for the errors. If analyzed from Hegelian point of view, this drama does portray qualities of a tragedy.
Antonio causes Shylock’s wrath towards him by mistreating Shylock for being a Jew and, likewise, Shylock hates Antonio on principle of being a Christian. Shylock says, “I hate him for being a Christian; but more for that in low simplicity,” and later he says to Antonio, “You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit on my Jewish gaberdine,” (Shakespeare, 312-313). The two characters seem to be at odds with each other about two different values; however, Antonio’s character appears only to despise Shylock as a person of poor morals.
Antonio says he is likely to say and do all these insults again, but implies that it is because Shylock is greedy saying, “for when did friendship take a breed of barren metal of his friends? ” (Shakespeare, 313). The Merchant of Venice contains many other characteristics of tragedy; however, it also contains many more aspects of comedy. Studying the aforementioned scene where Antonio and Shylock are in tragic dispute over possibly equal differences, the element of character overshadows this conflict. Antonio confronts his enemy to ask him for a large loan.
Antonio does this because he would do anything for his friend Bassanio, even pay with his life, despite the fact that Bassanio still owes him. This scene establishes Antonio as our comic hero and “sympathetic central character” (Simpson, Comedy and Tragedy). David L. Simpson summarizes Aristotelian comedy as, “a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character. ” (Simpson, Comedy and Tragedy). In this drama, Antonio is a wealthy man with many friends who adore him. He puts himself out for his friend Bassanio and he comes close to losing everything, including his life.
He is redeemed by his friends in a fantasticgood turn of events. In the end, all things are reconciled, with the exception of a couple of lasting comedic marital disputes. Despite the dark tragedy which is perceived to have fallen on the poor Jewish man, this play is a resounding triumph over adversity. Every character in this story, except for Shylock, attains some level of resolution over the conflicts. The Merchant of Venice has a comic hero who overcomes adversity with an overwhelmingly happy ending, which is why this drama is best viewed as classic Aristotelian comedy.