Merchant of Venice

Tragicomic Irony in The Merchant of Venice

There are many instances where if one were not laughing, they would be crying; that is to say, the difference between the laughable and the lamentable is oftentimes narrow. In fact, the irony behind what is tragic and what is comedic is naturally linked by its relationship with pathos, insomuch that comedy dismisses empathy and pity, whereas tragedy demands it. From Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard to Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, all the way to their early beginnings with Plautus’ burlesque and often dark plays, tragicomic elements have been used in short stories, theatre pieces, and literature throughout time to provide ironic commentary on the spirit of the age and the human state of being. However, none surpass Shakespeare in their work in providing insight on the human condition and its affinity between the tragic and the comical. That is why after a review of The Merchant of Venice and its management of the bigotry towards Jews and homosexuals, the hypocrisy of the Christian’s judgment by mercy, and notably, the empathetic villainy and fate of the play’s antagonist, Shylock, it becomes clear that Shakespeare deliberately blurs the boundaries between tragedy and comedy and what is moral and immoral to provide humor, or at...

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