Merchant of Venice Extract 1

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Written sometime between 1596 to 1598, The Merchant Of Venice is classified as both and early Shakespearean comedy and as one of the Shakespeare’s problem plays. Scene 1 introduces one of the major plot points as well as several key characters. When Antonio, Solanio and Salarino enter at the beginning of the play, they are in the middle of the discussion about why Antonio is so sad. This “Sadness” of which Antonio claims not to know source of, becomes clear when he reveals to Bassanio that all of his fortunes are tied up to his ships out at sea.

In the opening lines, Shakespeare starts to sketch the characters and some of the atmosphere of the play. Antonio, for example, is presented as being sad and melancholic for which the reason is unknown. Although his friends (Solanio and Salarino) try to help him find the grounds of his sadness but they couldn’t do so, it was very strange to all of them. Despite its Sad opening, one should always remember that The Merchant of Venice is a romantic comedy and, like most of Shakespeare's romantic comedies, it has a group of dashing, if not very profound, young men. For example, Solanio and Salarino are not terribly important. Their lines are interchangeable, and they are not really distinguishable from one another. They represent an element of youthful fancy’s. Salarino begins, typically, with a thought in which Antonio's ships are described as being like "rich burghers on the flood" and like birds, flying "with their woven wings." He continues into a delightfully fantastic series of imaginings; intended to bring Antonio out of his depression. Thus, through the presentation on the stage of the sober, withdrawn Antonio, surrounded by the playful language and whimsy of the two young men, Shakespeare suggests in compressed form two of the elements of the play — the real dangers that the merchant of Venice will face and the world of youth and laughter which will be the background to the love stories of Bassanio and Portia,...
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