The Merchant Of Venice As A Romantic Comedy - Crit Essay

This essay has a total of 1665 words and 7 pages.

The Merchant Of Venice As A Romantic Comedy - Critical Analysis

We can trace the origin of Comedy to Dionysis- the Greek God of Wine who was hilarious,
satirical and irreverent in spirit. Ben Jonson in ‘Volpone' (1605) that is considered to
be the greatest comedy in English epitomized the classical spirit of comedy. Shakespeare
was aware of the classical tradition by the chose to follow the Roman tradition of
Petrarch and Boccacio.

Shakespeare's early comedies were classical in spirit but the later ones were more
emotional, fanciful and humorous. ‘The Merchant of Venice' falls between there two
categories. It leads the list of mature comedies; has more Romantic characteristics than
classical. It is also one of the earliest productions of the middle period. In this play
Shakespeare seems to have obtained the highest use of his powers as a playwright, his
faculties as a poet and philosopher seem to be approaching their grand maturity without
losing the ardor and hopefulness of youth. There is loftiness of thought and expression.

Romance was an old tradition and Romantic ideas were common during Shakespeare's time.
Romantic Comedy in the 16th C was meant for the Aristocracy and the comic relief in the
plays was meant for the groundlings. There were many differences between the Romantic
Comedies and classical comedies. In the classical tradition, the characters were presented
with ruthless force and the plays were realistic, spiritual and critical. But in Romantic
comedies that Shakespeare wrote there was plenty of with but there was also an appeal to
the emotions rather than the intellect and they were also less critical in purpose. Like
Meredith said, they are "thunders of laughter clearing the air and heart." It is a comedy
of emotions, which wins the audience's sympathy with the woes and exhalations of the

The various characteristics of Romantic comedies are present in ‘The Merchant of
Venice'. The leading themes of most of these plays were Love and Friendship. These
comedies were an exposition of Love and its manifold modifications. And on one level
‘The Merchant of Venice' is also a play about friendship and love. In the first scene
itself Antonio displays the nature of love and friendship that he feels for Bassanio,

"My purse, my person, my extremest means
Lie all unlocked to your occasions."

The love of friendship seems to dictate most of Antonio's actions. He signs the Flesh Bond
and it can be seen as the ultimate gesture that he can make for the sake of friendship.
Bassanio also reciprocates, but his feelings are not on par with that of Antonio's. And
there seem to be several levels of friendship represented throughout the play. The
friendship of Bassanio and Antonio is contrasted with that of Shylock and Tubal. The play
opens with a friendship scene, friendship is an important factor in the trial scene and
the play ends demonstrating what friendship will do.

Different kinds of love as also presented in ‘The Merchant of Venice'. The love of a
father for a daughter and here again there is a contrast in the way The Lord of Belmont
displays his love (though indirectly) for Portia and later on in the play the way Shylock
behaves with Jessica. His possessive nature is shown and one wonders what hurt him more,
Jessica's elopement or the loss of his money when he chants

"My daughter! O my Daughter! O my daughter!
My ducats and my daughter!"

Although Portia admits that the "will of a living daughter" is curbed by the "will of a
dead father" respect for him is evident when she says "I will die as chaste as Diana
unless I be obtained the manner of my father's will."

Jessica on the other hand is ashamed of her father and is a daughter only by blood and not
by manners. She breaks all custom and elopes and hurts Shylock the most by marrying a
Christian. Still one might find it hard to censure Jessica and we justify her actions
because of the treatment met out to her by Shylock.
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