The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare's classic plays and is recognized for its comedy. Various characters are happily wed, the wicked Shylock is effectively defeated, and Antonio ultimately receives his wealth and his freedom. A Shakespearean audience would have seen the justice in Shylock's undoing, and it would have been amusing and acceptable.
As the rivalry between the Jews and the Christians is very real to an Elizabethan audience, even the deal itself is an improbability. Shakespeare knows this and, subsequently, expertly manipulates the audience into acceptance. Antonio makes it known that he would do anything for his dear Bassanio, and Shylock makes it clear that he will deal with Antonio. Shylock feels a great deal of satisfaction in seeing Antonio humbled like that. He says of his insistence on settling for a pound of flesh, "if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge" (III.i.45).
It is also certain that, in reality, even in Shakespeare's day, the court would...
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