Classifying “The Merchant of Venice”by William Shakespeare

Classifying The Merchant of Venice: The Merchant of Venice is a troublesome play to classify in the usual Shakespearean categories of comedy, history, or tragedy. Though it ends with several marriages, and therefore matches the usual pattern of a comedy, it also contains some very dark and problematic elements, such as Shylock’s essentially forced conversion to Christianity. How do you think that we should view this play? Is it really a comedy? Is there any way to argue that it is a tragedy? Be sure to clearly define your understanding of tragedy and comedy; for some helpful sites, see Comedy and Tragedy by David L. Simpson of DePaul University, and the Comedy and Tragedy pages by Lisa Schnell of the University of Vermont.

Helpful Links – Defines the play as a “tragicomedy” because it has elements of both a tragedy and a comedy.

Author—-Use the following 3 in text citations that I provide below!!!!!!!
Citation 1:
Example of how this review of the play on stage brings laughter in a comedic way and in the same scene displays a tragedy.

Must use this citation in this context.

The play shows the character Shylock wielding a knife and weighing scales and brings laughter from the audience due to the stereotypical depiction of a Jewish moneylender. In the same comedic scene Shylock is unjustly defeated and hopelessly succumbing to defeat, which depicts a tragedy of an entire society that perpetuated a hatred for Jews.

(Quote from reference)
“his wielding a knife and weighing scales drew laughter from the audience and injected the right measure of black humor into the scene. Yet his bewildered look and hesitant movements as he approached Antonio’s chest indicated that he had been swept along by the current of events to arrive at a point he had not desired though could no longer escape. In that fleeting moment, Shylock’s plight became the tragedy of an entire society perpetuating increasingly violent expressions of hatred.”

Kok, S. M. (2013). THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Theatre Journal, 65(1), 123-125. Retrieved from

Citation 2
This excerpt seems complicated but I will paraphrase it as I did Citation 1, and you can use this paraphrase together with the provided reference in the bibliography.

Critics of Act V of the Merchant of Venice tend to not allow it to be comical because they are committed to portraying the Venetian corruption and racism they turn a comedy into a tragedy by portraying Shylock as a victim of prejudice. Therein, it lies on the director of the play on whether to choose the comedic or tragic depiction of Shylock in Act V.

(Quote from Reference).
“Salvagist critics will not-cannot-allow Act V of the play to be truly comic, else the Venetian corruption and racism, to the existence of which they are so deeply committed, would appear triumphant. Reversing Tate’s stratagem of turning tragedy into comedy, they seek to turn comedy into tragedy. Directors do so by employing a more assertive version of Bowdler’s method: where he only removed, to make the plays safe for the virtuous, they both subtract and add. “I am content” can hardly be allowed to represent Shylock’s true feelings.”

Beauchamp, G. (2011). Shylock’s conversion. Humanitas, 24(1), 55-92. Retrieved from

Citation 3
Reviews the 2004 movie of The Merchant of Venice in the drama genre, which shows the play as a tragedy and not a comedy.

In 2004 Sony pictures released The Merchant of Venice as a motion picture, which was placed in the Drama genre as a tragedy and not a comedy. Film reviewer David Rooney write in September of 2004 that “there’s even less disguising onscreen than onstage that this is an uncomfortably anti-Semetic play and somewhat problematic for audiences”. Therein lies yet another example of how this play can be depicted in a more tragic than comic light, regardless of it happily ending in marriages.

Rooney, D. (2004, Sep). WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Variety, 396, 45-46. Retrieved from

You must use Citation 1, 2, & 3 and the paraphrases I provided. Include all 3 references in the bibliography and in text citations.

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