The Tragedy of Shylock, a Critical essay on Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice

Essay by boyonthedockUniversity, Bachelor'sB, December 2007

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Raymond Schmit � PAGE \* MERGEFORMAT �6�


The Tragedy of Shylock

I had not read the Merchant of Venice before this class. All of my familiarity with the play was based on hearsay, and for some reason I got the idea in my heads that it was a tragedy. I thought that Shylockdid receive a pound of flesh from Antonio, but that it was just skin removed from his back. This gruesome image was what I was waiting for during my entire reading of the play. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case. Also, I found out 'Comedy' means 'Happy Ending.' And that 'Happy Ending' means 'No One Gets Their Skin Cut off for Defaulting on a Loan.'

But I found the work to be not as comedic and happy as that ending implies. This is a happy ending if you identify and sympathize with those characters that triumph in the end.

But reading this play in this day and age, Shylock becomes a much more sympathetic character. We look at Shylock through our knowledge of injustice perpetrated against Jews for thousands of years. We know and love flesh and bone humane Jews in our everyday life, and if not that, at least we all enjoyed Seinfeld. Shylock becomes not a depository for our hatred as previous generations could interpret him, but as a human being who has been wronged. It allows me to look at The Merchant of Venice not only as a Comedy of the Merchant, but as the Tragedy of Shylock.

Shakespeare's the Merchant of Venice has endured for this long because of the fascinating character of Shylock. His contradictory presence of both human and devil, the familiar and the strange is what continues to draw...