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2/06/2019

"The Merchant of Venice" is a comedy of incidents.

1, "The Merchant of Venice is a comedy of incidents and not of characters." -Discuss.   A study of the history of English comedy shows that two comedies have always existed. They are 'comedies of incidents’ and 'comedies of characters'. The distinction is based on the fact that in the former kind the interest of the play arises out of the complex of successive events or incident which are the results of various characters; and in the latter the main interest lies in the various characters of the play and the incidents are of importance only to illustrate the characters.  “The Merchant of Venice” is a romance, a sort of fairy tale. As such the incidents and situations in the play are highly arresting and wonderful. The two main stories in the play-the Bond-story and the Casket-story are essentially romantic and almost legendary. Who has ever heard of a bond that lays down that the debtor shall have to pay an interest of a pound of flesh to be cut off from any part of his body at the creditor's will, if the bond is forfeited?. Who has ever heard that the marriage of a beautiful, accomplished and rich heiress is made dependent on the lottery of caskets devised by the dead father? These are oriental romances, outside the pale of real life. The sub-plots-the Lorenzo-Jessica episode and the Ring-episode-are of a piece with the main plot. It may be noted that these two are Shakespeare's own inventions and owe nothing to the so-called 'sources'. With a great skill the dramatist has woven together these various stories into a coherent whole. As a result we find some of the most vivid and arresting scenes and incidents in the play-Antonio's signing the fatal bond, the three caskets scenes, the flight of Jessica with Lorenzo, the scene where Tubal tortures' Shylock with news of Jessica, the crowning glory of the Trial Scene, the moonlight scene between the lovers Lorenzo and Jessica and lastly the comedy of the rings.  The beauty of these scenes and situations is superb and has made them memorable for generations. The play is no doubt rich in incidents and the 'plotting of the play is admirable”.  But the chief interest of “The Merchant of Venice” lies in characterisation. The incidents that form the plot reveal the characters. They provide occasions for the revelation of characters. The value of the Bond-story and the Casket-story lies less in the way in which they have been presented than in their successful depicting the intricate personalities of Shylock and Portia. The underplot of Lorenzo and Jessica is dramatically significant in so far as it urges Shylock on to revenge and create his mental collapse. The incident of the rings has its importance not as an incidence but because it gives an additional glimpse of Portia's brilliance and liveliness. Shylock and Portia are vividly portrayed with their varied aspects. It has a variety of characters-and they are individualised.   It has been rightly said that “The Merchant of Venice” is the first complete play in which character takes precedence over plot.

A study of the history of English comedy shows that two comedies have always existed. They are 'comedies of incidents’ and 'comedies of characters'. The distinction is based on the fact that in the former kind the interest of the play arises out of the complex of successive events or incident which are the results of various characters; and in the latter the main interest lies in the various characters of the play and the incidents are of importance only to illustrate the characters.

“The Merchant of Venice” is a romance, a sort of fairy tale. As such
the incidents and situations in the play are highly arresting and
wonderful. The two main stories in the play-the Bond-story and the
Casket-story are essentially romantic and almost legendary. Who has
ever heard of a bond that lays down that the debtor shall have to pay
an interest of a pound of flesh to be cut off from any part of his body
at the creditor's will, if the bond is forfeited?. Who has ever heard that
the marriage of a beautiful, accomplished and rich heiress is made dependent on the lottery of caskets devised by the dead father? These are oriental romances, outside the pale of real life. The sub-plots-the
Lorenzo-Jessica episode and the Ring-episode-are of a piece with
the main plot. It may be noted that these two are Shakespeare's own
inventions and owe nothing to the so-called 'sources'. With a great
skill the dramatist has woven together these various stories into a
coherent whole. As a result we find some of the most vivid and arresting scenes and incidents in the play-Antonio's signing the fatal
bond, the three caskets scenes, the flight of Jessica with Lorenzo, the
scene where Tubal tortures' Shylock with news of Jessica, the crowning glory of the Trial Scene, the moonlight scene between the lovers Lorenzo and Jessica and lastly the comedy of the rings.
The beauty of these scenes and situations is superb and has made them memorable for generations. The play is no doubt rich in incidents
and the 'plotting of the play is admirable”.

But the chief interest of “The Merchant of Venice” lies in
characterisation. The incidents that form the plot reveal the characters. They provide occasions for the revelation of characters.
The value of the Bond-story and the Casket-story lies less in the way
in which they have been presented than in their successful depicting the intricate personalities of Shylock and Portia. The underplot of Lorenzo and Jessica is dramatically significant in so far as it urges Shylock on to revenge and create his mental collapse. The incident of the rings has its importance not as an incidence but because it gives an additional glimpse of Portia's brilliance and liveliness. Shylock and Portia are vividly portrayed with their varied aspects. It has a variety of characters-and they are individualised.

It has been rightly said that “The Merchant of Venice” is the first
complete play in which character takes precedence over plot.

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