The Merchant of Venice

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The Merchant of Venice (1596) is one of Shakespeare’s most outstanding comedies. For the past more than 400 years, it has been paid close attention to and also highly praised. Many people, such as literature critics, historians, and the scholars who study religion, have keen interest in it not just because that this work has special literary power but also because that it reflects several deep conflicts-ethnic conflict and religious conflict. The major plot of this play is related with Antonio and Shylock, the relationship between whom is the microcosm of the complex social conflicts in the society at that time. Antonio is a merchant and Christian, while Shylock is a Jew who believes in Judaism. Their conflict in the play may result from their different races and different religion beliefs. Shylock who is discriminated and humiliated all the time in the play is the victim of ethnic discrimination and religion oppression. Although the play is considered a comedy, it is probably better categorized as a tragicomedy (a play with both comic and tragic elements). As a comedy, the play focuses on Christians whose problems have a happy resolution. As a tragedy, the play focuses on the downfall of a Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who is forced at the end to become a Christian and to forfeit property. He leaves the stage a broken man. The inevitable tragedy of Shylock may due to his Jewish race and Jewish belief. This review has studied previous discussions about different conflicts in The Merchant of Venice, and gives a general review of their different point of view.
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