Shakespeare’ the Merchant of Venice is one of his most famous dramas. However, while most of them can be classified as either tragedy or comedy easily, this one does not fit in a single category. The reason is that while there are comic events and elements in the drama, there are tragic ones too that sometimes reach the level of absolutely horrifying. At the core of the drama are three things. The first is the friendship between Antonio and Bassanio, the second is the romance between Bassanio and Portia and the third but the most important is the bond between Antonio and Shylock. Shylock is a greedy moneylender and a complicated villain. He shows mixed character traits and that’s why at some points while he appears a bad villain, at others he is plainly a business man who amuses by his talk and quotes. Still, if the drama gets so dark and tragic at points then it is because of his cunning and villainous attitude.
The romance between Bassanio and Portia are the comic parts of the drama and the bond between Antonio and Shylock the tragic part. Bassanio is a poor noble man who loves Portia and needs money to see her. However, he does not have enough money and Antonio’s ships are out at the sea. Due to this reason Antonio is forced to seek financial assistance from Shylock who lends at the condition that if Antonio fails he will have to forsake a pound of flesh from anywhere Shylock wills. The deadly bond is struck and gives rise to a series of tragic events. While Bassanio is gone to see Portia, Antonio’s ships get caught in a storm and do not return.
He is unable to pay the cruel Jew back and therefore is forced to fulfil the bond as cruel Shylock wants. Antonio writes to Bassanio and if he has forgotten his friend. He writes that he has failed to pay the Jew and will lose one pound of flesh as per the contract. Why Shylock is bent at killing Antonio is because he has offended the Jew in the past calling him a miser and greedy person. The Jews were not treated with respect in Venice and that made Shylock strike this plan of revenge. Antonio who used to be a proud business man is forced to bend before Shylock’s will. The situation is tragic not just for Antonio and Bassanio but for Portia too. Antonio has not been able to pay his loan and will have to let the Jew have his rightful share per the contract. Bassanio is unhappy because he believes he is the cause of all this. Portia is sad because she cannot see Bassanio unhappy.
However, tragedy rises to a point and then comic things happen in the drama. Portia is a witty young woman who finds a way to defeat Shylock. The contract mentions that he can have a pound of flesh but not a pint of blood from Antonio’s body. Shylock loses his case in the court and he is punished for plotting against an innocent Christian. He loses all his wealth and property to his daughter and Antonio. Even his daughter leaves him to marry a Christian. At last everyone except Shylock is left feeling happy. Shylock is left in a poor situation because of his evil plot to get revenge from Antonio. His evil plan results in nothing but insult and misery for the Jew.
Shakespeare has balanced comedy with tragedy in the drama. He has used both the elements in it to make it interesting and have a long-lasting flavour. The cunning heart of the Jew, the innocence of Antonio, the love and romance of Portia all make the drama engaging and interesting. So, to classify it as either a tragedy or comedy would be wrong. Shakespeare’s art has however, created a great balance between the two which has seen a lot of appreciation since the time it was written. Even in the character of Shylock one can find both of the elements and while his contract ad attitude towards the poor Christian businessman are horrible, at several points he is quite hilarious with his amusing style and talk.