The Merchant of Venice Characters
‘The Merchant of Venice’ by Shakespeare is a play that details events that led up to Antonio’s day in court at the behest of Shylock for breach of contract, and the eventualities that accrue after the climax in court. The play is set out in typical Shakespearean fashion as a tragic comedy, which sets relations at loggerheads for the common interest of love and power and/or wealth. Comedies are characterized by having characters who go through experiences that raise their fortunes or situation to a better position or situation. On the other hand, tragedies are characterized by death, destruction of ends up in extreme sorrow and loss. The Merchant of Venice does not qualify to be a tragedy, but it is permeated by the makings of tragedy in every course of its progression from the start to the end.
The fortunes of most characters are seen to rise to a better position, which is the hallmark of all Shakespearean comedies, but there is a veiled tragedy in the making of the celebrated elevation of all the characters. Shylock is perceived as the antagonist throughout the play for the part he plays as the unforgiving debt collector ready to claim a life as payment. There as an aspect that is generally overlooked or considered appropriate as justifiable punishment for Shylock’s demands. It creates the question of whether an individual’s religious beliefs and identity should be included or perceived as justifiable penance for sins and atrocities committed (Shakespeare 5). Overt attention is paid to the unfolding events regarding restricted themes of love, which is a typical Shakespearean approach that veils an underlying and more important issue from coming out and directly confronting the audience.
The Merchant of Venice is veiled as a classic comedy where the disadvantaged end triumphing over those deemed to have the capability and resources to succeed. Despite Bassanio’s lack of funds to sponsor his trip to Belmont, his friend Antonio goes, out of his way, to ensure that he gets a fair chance of winning over the love of his life. As an heiress, Portia’s grandfather sought to have her marry a man of character, which explains the challenge placed upon all suitors. “Ay, that’s a colt indeed, for he doth nothing but talk of his horse; and he makes it a great appropriation to his good parts…” (Shakespeare 8). This is an example of Portia’s reference to one of the princes meant to unravel her grandfather’s challenge in order to marry his granddaughter. This exemplifies the odds Bassanio had to endure in his quest to marry Portia, which is illustrative of the techniques in the creation of comedy.
The characterization of Shylock as the protagonist creates the foundation upon which the comic effect of the play is based. Shylock, a Jew, does not approve of his daughter, Jessica marrying Lorenzo, a Christian. The play depicts Shylock as a discriminatory and intolerant person who does not accommodate other people’s choices and beliefs. It should not go unnoticed to the reader that Shylock’s animosity towards Christians is instigated by his woeful experiences in dealing with Christian characters like Antonio. Antonio is a merchant, and his primary occupation is sea trade, but he ventures into money lending in order to vex Shylock’s business as a money lender. Antonio lends interest-free money a practice that forces Shylock to lower his lending rates; Antonio’s venture into this line of business is only intended to irk Shylock. It can thus be established that The Merchant of Venice encompasses both a tragedy and comedy. On one hand, Antonio’s group triumph’s over Shylock’s maneuvering and Portia’s grandfather’s challenge. It is a tragedy for Shylock to have to abdicate his faith and convert to Christianity and at the same time bows to servitude.
It is a tragedy that Shylock has to face such formidable foes on their home-soil because his contract with Antonio is turned against him it serves a self-defeating purpose. It would seem that Shylock had an intuition or foresight in not wanting to aid Bassanio in his quest to marry Portia. It is comical that Bassanio’s success is Shylock’s downfall and demise because Portia turns out to Shylock’s executor. It is a double tragedy for Shylock when he loses his fortune in what can be termed as a systematic flaw in the law of the time, which acted against his favor. Shylock’s tragedy is accentuated when he has to abandon his Jewish faith and convert to Christianity, which illustrates the true understanding and nature of the play (Shakespeare 82). This is in the sense that the law is used to legally discriminate and subjugate Shylock into servitude to a religion he does not believe and attest to as an individual.
Works Cited: Shakespeare, W. The Merchant of Venice. New York: Courier Dover Publications. 2012. Print.