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NOTES ON THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

A Brief Evaluation of Comedy

 In

The Merchant of Venice

 

    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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SHAKESPEARE

A Brief Evaluation of Act one in The Merchant of Venice as an Exposition

 

An exposition is an introduction which presents us the dramatic elements of a play, act one is this exposition, it introduces the dramatic elements of the play. These elements are plot, settings, themes and characters. When analyzing these elements, we can judge the exposition and show to what extent was it successfully presented.

 

Firstly, we shall analyze the presentation of the play's plot. The play has two plots, two conflicts: the first one is Shylock and Antonio's conflict. This plot is presented in scenes one and three. The second plot is Portia's marriage which is introduced in scene two through Portia and Nariss's talk. These introductions show us the reason behind the development of events.

 

Patriarchy and anti-Semitism are the two most important themes of the play. These two themes are well introduced. The first theme is patriarchy; it is introduced in scene two when Portia and Narissa's talk focuses on the patriarchal system. It introduces us to that system and the character's point of view towards it. Trough discussing this theme we move to a bigger one which is gender politics. These politics is all about the power relations between men and women within the family on the domestic level. The second theme is about anti-Semitism. It is introduced through the conflict between shylock as a Jew and Antonio as a Christian in scene three. Shakespeare didn't only introduce ant-Semitism, but he widened our perspective by presenting the bigger meaning which is racism, through Portia's despise for her foreign suitors in scene two.

 

Act one introduces the two settings of the play. The first setting is Belmont's sitting which is a typical setting of comedy as it is a fancy place like in fairy tails, especially the three chests matter. Venice is the second setting of the play. It is a typical setting of tragedy as it represents the real world of traders and merchants.

 

The last element is the character's exposition. Act one introduces the main important characters who are: Antonio, Bassanio, Gratiano, Shylock, Portia and Nerissa. Those main characters were well introduced, but Shakespeare made a defect. The character of Jessica, Shylock's daughter, is not presented although she is the second female figure in the play.

 

Finally, I think that through analyzing the elements mentioned above, we see that Shakespeare was greatly successful in presenting the dramatic elements of the play in act one. Although it has defects, it is still a comprehensive and inclusive exposition.