Defining The Kind Of Play Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice

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Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is a famous and an important play. About the play there are some discussions. These discussions are about the genre of the play. What kind of play Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice? Are there tragic elements or comedic elements in the play? Or can the play be categorized as another genre?

Firstly, meaning of tragedy and the elements of tragedy are important to investigate the play. Tragedy; ‘’a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (such as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that elicits pity or terror.’’ (‘’Tragedy.’’ Merriam – Dictionary, 2020). In addition to meaning of tragedy, the tragedy is not pure loss as there is also a gain in self-awareness and an enlightenment. In tragedy, the characters should be noble or mythologic. Also, rude speeches are not used. Dramatist allows for three unities; time, action and place. At the same time bloody scenes are not showed, these scenes are transferred from backstage.

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Tragedy of The Merchant of Venice can be seen on Antonio’s scenes. Antonio is a merchant. He is always in a melancholic mood. In the beginning of the play, Antonio is a rich man. He trusts yourself in terms of his wealth and he borrows some money from Shylock for Bassanio. Then, his freighters cannot reach to Venice and he falls a tragic situation. A tragic scene is showed by Salanio in this quotation;


I do believe that Lady Rumor is

As lying a gossip as ever made her neighbors

Think she wept for the death of a third husband.

Yet I fear that good and kind Antonio

Cannot by goodness tame the ravening sea.

In the beginning of the play, Bassanio cannot retrieve to Portia and also he loses his all wealth because of his addiction of parties. These situations are also examples of tragic events. At first, Portia cannot find the true love which finds the true box. Because of this reason, Portia’s condition can be seen as tragic. On the other hand, Shylock is seen as an evil character, but actually he is fooled by Portia and Nerissa; moreover, Shylock is always humiliated by Christians because he is a Jewish. We can see the rebellion of Shylock about the racism.


To bait fish with.

If it feeds nothing else, it will feed my revenge.

He has disgraced me, and hindered me half a million;

Laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains,

Scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains,

Cooled my friends, heated mine enemies;

And what’s his reason? I am a Jew.

Secondly, there are some elements of comedy. Comedy is ‘’a drama of light and amusing character and typically with a happy ending’’ (‘’Comedy.’’ Dictionary, 2020). In comedy, the characters can simple people or noble people. All the actions show on the stage. Comedy also includes the three unities. Also, comedies end with happiness. Now, where are the examples of the comedy elements in the play? For example; there is a disguising scene. ‘’Portia and Nerissa are seen carefully concocting a strategy to save Antonio from his imminent, undesirable and bitter fate’’ (Yi, Angela, 2013). In addition, Bassanio retrieves Portia in the end of the play, Antonio gains money which is lost. So, the play ends with a happy scene or event. These situations are examples of comedy elements.

In conclusion, there are some romance elements in the play. For example; in Belmont, women are more dominant and more worthy than Venice. It is a romance element. Nevertheless, melodrama is seen in the Antonio’s judgement scene. Although different genres can be seen, comedic and tragic elements are more dominant. ‘’Looking at The Merchant of Venice, through the above definitions we find that it can be classified as both a tragedy and comedy (tragicomedy)’’ (Dube, Charles, 2015).

Works Cited

  1. 1- ‘’Comedy.’’ (25 March 2020). Dictionary.
  2. 2- Dube, Charles (12 July 2015). ‘’Is The Merchant of Venice a tragedy or Comedy?’’.
  3. 3- ‘’Tragedy.’’ (17 March 2020). Dictionary.
  4. 4- Yi, Angela (3 June 2013). ‘’Merchant of Venice Tragedy or Comedy Essay’’.


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