Merchant of Venice
A Critical Analysis of Egeus, Hippolyta and Shylock in Filmic Shakespeare
In ‘The Motives of Eloquence’, Lantham describes Shakespearean drama as the art of “superposition”. One arc of action is performed over others so that “[d]ramatic motive is stronger than ‘real’, serious motive”. The justification of a characters action occurs as theatre. “Drama, ceremony, is always needed to authenticate the experience”. In a morally ambiguous play text, the characters dramatise their motives to justify their actions. While Lantham argues that this dramatisation occurs at the level of the playtext, it is my intent to argue that there is an analogous mechanism operating at the level of the play itself. Shakespearean comedy in particular seems to offer a preferred mode of justice, what I will refer to as comedic justice. Comedic justice is the sense that the play will arrive at a ‘justified’ ending – that ‘true love’ will prevail and villainous characters will be punished for their actions. This comic justice acts to bring the play towards its obligatory, happy conclusion. In this sense, superposition occurs when other characters offer subjective justices: systems of justice that come from the needs of a character rather than a dramatic requirement. Although these subjective justices never triumph in a comedy,...
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