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Why is the Merchant of Venice classified as a comedy?

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on 14 February 2015

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Transcript of Why is the Merchant of Venice classified as a comedy?

William Shakespeare
What have you learnt about hatred, revenge, justice, mercy and love? Choose at least two of these themes and discuss by means of examples from the play.
In The merchant of Venice the characters are burdening the people in their surroundings. We have learned that people can be very mean and rude to other people. But also that people can be really nice to each other. Like for example Shylock. Everybody is really rude to him. They pick upon him because he is Jewish and because he charges a high interest. People hate him because of that.

We have seen a lot of hatred in this play. Every character hates at least one other character. Some of them try to discredit each other. Like for example Antonio and Shylock. Shylock really hates Antonio from the bottom of his heart, because he embarrassed Shylock in front of a lot of people. Antonio does this because Shylock is Jewish. Of course that is a horrible reason to do something so evil to somebody. Antonio is not the only person displaying this type of behaviour and Shylock is very vengeful because of these things that people do to him. This is very sad.

You cannot see a lot of justice in this play. Like we already said, some people try to discredit each other and that they are really rude to each other. They grant nothing to each other. We did not like this in the play. We both think that everybody should be generous and nice to each other. We would have liked the play more if the characters were nice to each other rather than being evil.

What is the role of using stereotypes in the Merchant of Venice?
The role of stereotypes in The Merchant of Venice is very big. Almost all of the characters are judged on their stereotype. Like for example Shylock. He is Jewish and his character is typically a stereotype for a Jew. He is very stingy, suspicious and crazy about having a lot of money. Jews were not allowed to own things back then. Their life was very gloomy. The only way to make money was to lend money to other people with a high interest. The residents of Venice in the 16th century loathed the stereotypical Jew. They did everything possible to bother the Jews. If you were a Jew in Venice in the 16th century, your life was probably not very easy.

Nerissa is an example of a stereotype of the lower class. She is Portia’s assistant and has to do everything for her. She helps Portia with her dress and with a lot of things she could do by herself as well. Nevertheless they are also good friends. Nerissa helps Portia to find a man by asking what she likes about men.

Comment on the language in the play. Discuss at least three examples of imagery or puns
The language that William Shakespeare used in this play is very formal. We had some difficulties with some words while reading it. Some of the words are not used anymore, so we did not recognise them. That made it hard to understand the true meaning of some parts of the play. It was very hard to understand what was meant by some imagery or puns. Sometimes we did not even see that it was an imagery or a pun.

Although sometimes it was very obvious to see imagery or a pun. For example in act 1 part 3, Antonio tells Shylock that he is a gentle jew , but he did not meant that of course.
ANTONIO: "Hie thee, gentle Jew."

Another pun/imagery for example, act 5, scene 1
GRATIANO: Well, do you so. Let not me take him, then. For if I do, I'll mar the young clerk's pen.
First we do not get the joke but when you interpret some words differently you will understand the joke........

And there are more dirty jokes used in The Merchant of Venice. Graziano says that he can't wait to take his wife to bed, then he makes a dirty joke about keeping her "ring" safe.

Shakespeare has become great because he let people recognize themselves in his plays. He used stereotypes that are recognizable to everyone in their surroundings. Times have changed but there are still a lot of things that are recognizable in this society in the 21st century.

The play The Merchant of Venice has also a morality. Which is very important for a lot of people.

And another important thing is Shakespeare's kind of humor. His humor is sometimes very obvious and is sometimes well hidden in context. That variety makes his plays special.

Why is the Merchant of Venice classified as a comedy?
When Shakespeare wrote this play it was classified as a comedy. In the 16th century a comedy did not have to be funny. A comedy was defined as a light-hearted play with a happy ending. The humour was different back then, than it is now. That is why a lot of people nowadays do not understand this kind of humour and therefore they do not think it is funny. The fact that the play is written in the 16th century plays a major role in classifying the play. In the play Shakespeare makes fun of a Jewish man, named Shylock. Nowadays this would not be acceptable. You have to take into account that Shakespeare lived in an Anti-Jew society and laughing over the misfortunes Jews was broadly accepted in those days. However in today's more understanding world, Shylock's story can be seen as tragic and certainly not comic. Because of this, the story of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice is by the standards of today no longer a dark comedy, but a huge tragedy. Making fun of Jews is not accepted anymore in our society in the 21st century. This play has a lot of puns in it, which where funny in the 16th century but are not considered funny in the 21st century. The bad ending for Shylock is an example of the humour in this play. The Themes that are used in this play are very controversial, so some people see it as a ‘problem comedy’. The merchant of Venice is classified as a comedy, but you could also classify this play as a tragedy.
The Merchant of Venice
Maddy & Marieke 5VA
What do we learn about Shakespeare’s greatness through The Merchant of Venice?
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