A Brief Evaluation of Comedy
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.