is The Merchant of Venice a satiric play? Give good reasons for your answer, citing several examples from the play to back up your argument.

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muddy-mettled's profile pic

muddy-mettled | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

The question is apt.  In A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, one of the entertainments offered the Duke is "'The thrice three Muses mourning for the death / Of Learning, late deceased in beggary'?" The Duke responds:  "That is some satire, keen and critical, / Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony"(MND5.1). Line 5 of the opening speech in MV reads:  "I am to learn."  In the second scene is Portia's "I can easier teach twenty....."  The word teach is recurrent through the court scene.  Therefore, a good answer is a bit difficult to find, though the above attempt is admirable.

mswalcott's profile pic

mswalcott | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

The Merchant of Venice is a satiric play for several reasons. The entire play was set in favour of an audience that hated Jews and believed that even the most inhumane treatment was well-deserved. Labelled as "killers of Jesus Christ", the Jews were hated by Venetians; in this case,  the merchant Antonio, for charging usury and for being a Jew. Shylock the Jewish money-lender in the play, received harsh treatment from Antonio for being "thrifty". He disgraced Shylock publicly by speaking badly about him, calling him a "cut throat dog", spitting on his clothes and in his face and by kicking him like you would a stray dog. (Act One, scene Three). After all this, Antonio approaches Shylock about borrowing money to which Shylock replies, “Hath a dog money? Is it possible that a dog can lend three thousand ducats?"  Without remorse, Antonio, one of Shakespeare’s "protagonists" in the play, responds by telling Shylock, "I am like as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee too." 

Shylock again suffers abuse at the hands of Christians when his only daughter Jessica elopes with Lorenzo, Antonio's friend, taking from him; bags of ducats, jewels and precious stones, even his treasured turquoise ring, which he received from his wife before she died. He is mocked and ridiculed when Solanio, Antonio's friend, refers to him as "the dog Jew" and telling of how Shylock ran through the streets of Venice crying for his ducats and his daughter, with boys following mockingly. (Act two, Scene Eight).

Finally, the play is satiric because, having suffered all the things mentioned above, Shylock is taken to court and stripped of his dignity, his possessions and most importantly, his religion, when Portia, disguised as a lawyer, brilliantly accuses him of attempting to kill Antonio in the signing a bond that demands a pound of his flesh, should he forfeit his loan. Shylock was left dejected and ridiculed for his vice.     

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