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Studying The Merchant Of Venice English Literature Essay

The word renaissance precisely means “rebirth” or “to be born” and it actually refers to the rebirth of learning and cultural movement that has spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century. It started in Italy in the 14th century. It also spread to the north reaching England by the 16th century and has ended during the mid-seventeenth century. This period has marked a rebirth in learning and world affairs.

However, the renaissance was not only a birth of cultural movement and learning; it has also witnessed an age of new discoveries both geographic and intellectual and has resulted in tremendous achievements in science, religion, art and literature. Renaissance thinkers and scientists believed that they have nourished the middle age believing that they were distinct from the ancient ages. The Renaissance is being viewed as the bridge between the middle ages and the modern era.

When discovering the Renaissance, it most important issues seemed to be viewed in a couple of points. The Renaissance thinkers have tried to appear more attached to classical antiquity and appear not to be associated with middle ages. Besides, the most important ideas that have risen in that period was the “Humanism” that encouraged and reflected on humans to think seeking fulfillment in their daily lives and to believe that an individual has dignity and worth. Humanism also stressed on studying history, literature, art and philosophies and called them humanities. Political changes were also significant in the Renaissance ages along with the religious movements known as the reformation.

Moreover, the most distinctive features of the renaissance were in the discovery of the Greek and Roman cultures, humanism, the change of thoughts that the life is not a preparation for the hereafter but a living for the present and the tremendous achievements in art, science, geography and literature.

In the Renaissance, writing gained great achievements in Europe. Shakespeare was one of the writers who made great advances in literature during his age. He wrote several poems and plays among of which was the famous “The Merchant Of Venice”.shakespeare.jpg

Shakespeare has adopted methods of writing among of which were the tragedy, comedy and history.

As believed Shakespeare’s comedies shared common features that reflected clearly on his writings. These features included the comedy through the language he used. Shakespeare carefully chose his language with expressing words of humor, metaphors and insults that could even sometimes have different meanings.

The real inner meanings of the phrases and language used by him reflected the comical side. Expressing the theme of love was also a common feature in a Shakespearean comedy which was often showed between couples overcoming certain circumstances to reunite.

Another feature in a Shakespearean comedy was its complex plots. His comedies often included more complex events and more twisted ideas. However, the way these events started and ended were somehow similar.

Shakespeare also used mistaken identities in his characters on which he bases great events of his plays. His comedies often showed playing around with phrases, turning around events, element of marriage and happy endings.

On the other hand, Shakespeare tragedies also showed common features in the way he expressed them. Most of his tragedies were usually concerned with one character, the hero, who possesses a certain flaw or disadvantage in his character that leads to a great fall in the events of the play. Most of the tragic heroes of Shakespearean tragedies are usually great people of their time or characters with high value in the play that will lead to great changes in the story. His tragic heroes usually are affected by surrounding pressures that cause the tragedy, for example, a certain fate that is disappointed, evil spirits, supernatural elements like ghosts or witches, sudden fall in fortunes, accidents and other characters that contribute in the fall of the tragic hero. The tragic heroes often undergo some kind of revenge either being revenged by another character or taking revenge himself. Shakespeare’s tragedies often have sad endings or isolation of the main character. A little bit of comic touches are usually added to break the stress caused in the tragic events.

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However, both tragic and comedy plays usually overlap on their features resulting in a confusion whether they should be categorized as tragic or comedy.

The great play, The Merchant of Venice, is one of those plays holding such confusion. This is due to the fact that both tragic and comedy features of Shakespeare’s writings are reflected on the play.

The Merchant of Venice shows many comedy features starting with the light and humorous tone that is used, for example, when Lancelot the clown is involved and when Shylock is played as a buffoon. Also laughter appears when Gobbo does not identify his own son and when Launcelot decides to imitate his father’s blindness. Light comedy also appears in many other situations in the play, for instance the irony scene where Portia and Nerissa act in front of their husband’s that they do not believe that they gave away their rings to the lawyer and the clerk when they are the ones who took the rings themselves at court.

Mistaken identity also appears in the play when Jessica deceives her father and hides herself as a boy to run away and marry Lorenzo and also when Portia dresses up as a man and acts as a lawyer to defend Antonio in the court.

The play also shows an important comedy feature which is the complexity in plots, which appear between the two main plots of Bassanio and his story to get married to a rich woman and between Antonio and his story with Shylock that wants to get revenge from him by a pound of flesh. Complications also appear in the relationship between Bassanio and Antonio and in the way that Portia and Nerissa appear in the court with their great disguise.

Another clear comedy feature that appears in the play is love and how it leads the characters to overcome their problems. This is shown when Jessica and Lorenzo decide to runaway to overcome Shylock and when Portia defends Antonio in the court so that Bassaino is free to return back with her.

The play also reflects a happy ending with the three happy married couples and the merchant who has his wealth back. Dramatically family issues also appear in the play when Jessica runs away from her father’s house and when Lancelot plays a harsh joke on Gobbo his father and also when Bassanio appeared to be more loyal to his best friend than his wife.

Last but not the least, a great evidence on the play being a comedy is the marriage that the play ends with. Bassanio gets with Portia and they get married, Jessica and Lorenzo are married too.

In contradictory, The Merchant of Venice can also be considered a tragedy because it also possesses features of a Shakespearean tragedy; this is due to the presence of Shylock as the tragic hero.

Shylock can also be considered as a tragic hero because he has a tragic flaw which is over obsession with his wealth that is shown throughout the play. It has shown very clearly when his daughter Jessica ran away he was also concerned with the money his daughter took away as he said: “O, my ducats! O, my daughter! Fled with a Christian! O, my Christian ducats”.

In addition to Shylock’s tragedies, he was a Jew and in 16th century's European, Jews were not appreciated ant welcomed and the only option they had was being merchants.

Shylock also proves the characteristic of a tragic hero with the issue of the revenge. He has demanded revenge towards Antonio by taking a pound of flesh. However, he was the one who was taken revenge from at the end of the story as he lost his daughter, his wealth and his dignity and Antonio made him become Christian.

Another character that might add a bit of tragic features to the play is Antonio. He is a rich man that has no reason to be unhappy but yet no reason to be happy as shown in his words, “In sooth I know not why I am sad…how I caught it, found it   or came by it …I am to learn”. His flaws were his prejudice and arrogance that made him lack sympathy towards others. It has shown in Shylock’s words to him, “You call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog and spit upon my Jewish gabardine,” and even when he was asking Shylock a favor he said, “ “I am as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee...”. Shylock demanded revenge towards Antonio by a pound of flesh.

Antonio’s ending was however not so bad although he lost his best friend when he got married, but he still had his wealth back.

In conclusion, “The Merchant of Venice”, is a tragicomedy due its several controversial features of Shakespearean approaches of writing. It shares lots of comedy and tragic features. Its character Shylock adds to its features the dark part because of his great losses in the story. However the comedy features are also so clear in the play scenes and language.


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