Discuss The Merchant of Venice as a Tragic Comedy.

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salimj | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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A tragic comedy in a play with a duke action and a double ending. It has a serious plot and a comic plot and it ends in happiness for some character and unhappy for a few others. As this play is concerned the end is happy for Bassanio, Antonio, Portia, Jessica and others .The end is tragic for Shylock who leaves the stage a broken hearted old man.

The play opens on a tragic note only Antonio suffers from melancholy. Antonio’s sadness is just a presentiment of the approaching evil of the doom which is about to overtake him. His mental torture and melancholy are only indicators of what is going to come soon. A merchant’s fate gets reduced in a sudden beggary through no fault of his own and then he finds himself bound to pay pound of flesh to merciless Jew. His misfortunes darken the lives of even the hero and the heroine of the play. Bassanio has to leave Portia as the very day of their marriage and she follows him to Venice soon after.

The trial scene is tragic in its appeal. The atmosphere of the court is surcharged with intense tragedy and is dark with the gloom of hall.

The character of Shylock is tragic. He not only suffers individually but also symbolizes the suffering of his race. His daughter revolts and elopes with Lorenzo a Christian hated by Shylock. We see him at the end as a broken down old man.

The play also has the elements of comedy. The happy note with which it ends speaks of the comic nature of the play. The incident of the rings, the fooling of Launcelot Gobbo and the Lorenzo- Jessica love story lighten the atmosphere and enable the play to end on a note of gaiety and merry-making.