The Merchant of Venice is a controversial play among experts of Shakespeare. This play has been argued by some to be a comedy. This is because there is a lot of comic relief and the story has a happy ending. Others consider the play to be a tragedy because of Shylock’s character. He is very much like a character of a tragedy as in Phaedra. Still other experts use the term "tragicomedy". Personally I think that the last definition is the best one to describe this play.

There are several factors that contribute to the classification of a play as a tragedy or as a comedy. A tragedy has four main elements according to current definitions. The first element is the tragic hero. In The Merchant of Venice Shylock is the only character that can be argued to be such a person. He is involved in most of the action and is the source of the major conflict. If he was not present the play would have no conflict and would not make a very good story. Shylock can also be considered the tragic hero because he has a tragic flaw. This is his obsession that is very evident throughout the play. His material wealth consumes his thoughts day and night. He may be a Jewish man but I think that the god he worships the most is known as gold. One instance where it is apparent that he only cares about his possessions was when Jessica ran away. He was ranting, "O, my ducats! O, my daughter! Fled with a Christian! O, my Christian ducats" (2.8.15-16). He simply includ!
ed his daughter in the middle as though she were one of his possessions.

Another part of a tragedy is that the tragic hero must be humbled or humiliated. Shylock experienced both of these. He was humiliated when Portia, disguised as a man, used his own comments and contract against him. Any person that was at first praising someone for being smart and virtuous must feel really dumb when that person is not really on their side like they seemed to be at first.

We have not done much in class with what a comedy is but I think that I have a decent general knowledge of what one is. The first element that I know of is the comic relief. In The Merchant of Venice there is an abundance of such comic relief. One example was when Portia and Nerissa got the rings from their husbands to be while they were in Venice. After they obtained them they teased the two with threats and stories involving a lot of sexual humor. A specific example of the sexual humor was when Gratiano said, "Well, do you so. Let me not take him, then! For if I do, I’ll mar the young clerk’s pen" (5.1.236-237). The comic relief serves the purpose of relieving some of the immense tension that builds up in the play. Act five as a whole is a very good example because it is right after the climax of the play and has what seems to me to be the best comedy of the entire play.

The second element of a comedy that I know of is that it must have a happy ending. This is most certainly what happens in our play. Once Antonio was cleared of his bond everyone got what they wanted. Antonio made Shylock become Christian and Jessica and Lorenzo got a deed to Shylock’s possessions when he died. Most importantly Bassanio and Portia and Jessica and Gratiano resolved the ring issues with good spirits and mutual understanding.

From what I have said in the previous paragraphs I have to classify this play as a "tragicomedy". The Merchant of Venice has all of the elements of comedy that I have mentioned. Throughout the play there is a tremendous amount of humor. It consists of both high comedy and a little bit of low comedy too. One example of the low comedy would be at the beginning when Bassanio and Gratiano are in the pub with Antonio acting silly. They are only concerned with drinking beer and having fun. An example of the high comedy was when Portia was criticizing all of her suitors. She mocked each one of them with witty remarks. My