-The moon shines bright: in ‘such a night’ as thus.
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees.
And they did make no noise.-
It is a genre, in which Shakespeare is a master. For the other great comedy of the world’s literature, the comedy of Moliere or Ben Jonson, is different in kind to his. The play, ‘The Merchant of Venice’, resolves itself purely into a simple form. It illustrates the clash between the emotional and the intellectual characters, the man of heart and the man of brain. The man of heart, Antonio, is obsessed by tenderness for his friend. The man of brain is obsessed by lust to uphold intellect in a thoughtless world that makes intellect bitter in every age. Shylock, is a man of intellect, who born into a despised race. It is a tragedy, that the generous Gentiles about him can be generous to everything, except to intellect and Jewish blood. Intellect and Jewish blood are too proud to attempt to understand the Gentiles who cannot understand. Shylock is a proud man. The Gentiles, who are neither proud nor intellect, spit upon him and flout him. “How like a fawning publican he looks!
I hate him for he is a Christian;
But more that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.”
All we can say, is that in the tragedies, the dramatist seeks to entertain generally mainly by playing on our capacity to shudder and shed tears whereas in the comedies are the Elizabethan feelings, whether humorous or sentimental. Shakespeare has a careful selection of the titles of his plays. His tragedies and historic plays are named after the central character of the play. His comedies on the other hand, are named after weak and passive characters; similar is the case with the present play. It has been named after Antonio, the merchant of Venice, a weak and passive character suffering from nameless melancholy. As with character, so with the feelings, the gaiety and folly and pensive sentiments of love are portrayed to the life, but not its pain, nor its mystery-its profounder influence on the character of the lover. “Let me play the fool:
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sleep when he wakes , and creep into the jaundice
By being peevish?”
If there is a moment of anxiety or sorrow, it passes and leaves no mark when things go well again. Melancholy Antonio is so not very melancholy at the end of the play, though he has been in danger of a dreadful death hours before. Shakespeare has been regarded as a master of opening scenes. No matter what terms we may use, the fact cannot be denied that an author, while portraying life and human nature in his work, gives his own point of view to us in the process. Every author looks a life from a certain angle, and that determines the kind of reality he depicts in his work. “Then let us say you are sad
Because you are not merry: and ‘twere as easy
For you to laugh and leap, and say you are merry
Because you are not sad.”
The opening scene of play’ The Merchant of Venice’ fully illustrates this view. The play simply begins on a street in Venice. Antonio , the protagonist, a rich and prosperous merchant appears as a kind of a brooding man, who says that he regards this world as the stage of a theatre on which every man has to play a certain role, his own role being a sad man. “ I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.”
Gratiano, another friend, who says in contrast that he would like to play the role of a happy and jovial man wanting that the wrinkles of old age should come to him with mirth and laughter. He ridicules the man who is too serious and solemn, and who pretends to be “Sir Oracle”, wanting all others to become silent when he is about to open his mouth to speak. “I’ll tell thee more of this another...
References: words, sentences, ideas, settings, orientation of words and its elaboration, contextualized from Dr. S. Sen (of Critical Evaluations), Rajinder Paul, Textual Workbook and other]
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