• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

to what extent can the Merchant of Venice be seen as a fairytale

Extracts from this document...


To what extent can ' The Merchant of Venice ' be described as a fairytale? Throughout 'The Merchant of Venice' Shakespeare uses many underlying structures reminiscent of fairytales. Fairytales were stories originally passed down orally to children to entertain or instruct. Most fairytales had similar characteristics such as having repeated elements that aid the audience to remember the story and help teach about moral issues. Shakespeare's comedies also have common elements such as love and deceit, usually involving marriage for unmarried characters and mistaken identities. Shakespeare's audience was wide, both intellectually and socially; his plays have storylines that usually deal with moral and family values, but all his comedies have a dilemma or dilemmas which are resolved with a happy ending. The play has two main settings which vary from each other considerably. Shakespeare never describes the locations but from the characters and scenes that happen there we can tell what kind of atmosphere and setting it has. One setting is the cosmopolitan city of Venice, where many businessmen live in a commerce and law driven world. The people there are unhappy, unkind and greedy. In the Elizabethan era Venice was renowned for its wealth and diversity of cultures, being in the middle of the East and West it was a great trading city. Shakespeare portrays Venice as the 'real world' full of suffering. Venice is where Shylock lives and is tried and punished. Throughout the play people in Venice are never happy and the beginning of the play reflects that with Antonio asking, 'why I am so sad' not giving the audience an immediate good impression of Venice. Shakespeare uses words such as 'hate' and 'spit' to add to the distressing image we already have of the city. The rich society in Venice is dependent on money for support and satisfaction which is a lesson that many fairytales teach, explaining that money doesn't buy you happiness. ...read more.


Unlike a fairytale Shakespeare makes the audience feel that Shylock has a hidden depth to his character due to prejudice and the suffering he has been subjected to over his life because of his religion. We are more sympathetic in this day and age, and maybe Shakespeare was ahead of his time when writing Shylock's speech where he asks the Christians why they hate him so much and treat him with such little respect because, 'Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?'. In a fairytale we never feel sorry for the villain but in 'The Merchant of Venice' Shakespeare makes you, as an audience, feel sympathetic towards him and makes the Christians in the play feel guilty. He shows that Shylock is human and just because he has a different religion he still has the right to dignity and to revenge himself because 'If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge! The villainy you teach me I will execute. It will go hard, but I will better the instruction,' makes you feel as if Shylock has ever right to his bond, as Antonio signed it and thus getting what he rightly deserves. Through this Shakespeare has added great dramatic tension because as an audience we don't know what will happened and what should happen to be fair to both Antonio and Shylock. Portia in some ways is a typical fairytale heroine as she is 'a lady richly left and she is fair', 'her sunny locks' giving the impression of long blonde hair maiden distinct to a fairytale princess' image. ...read more.


Whilst, Shakespeare does show Portia to have two distinct sides to her character, she still keeps the common Elizabethan view throughout the play, that true happiness and fulfilment comes with marriage and love, with her taking her rightful place in society. Nowadays, we would admire Portia's individuality but in Shakespeare's time many would have regarded her behaviour as troublesome and unrefined. Despite her independence Portia is not a rebel; she uses her talents in the service of others that she loves, her husband and friends, but still graciously accepts the subordinate wife role, 'This house, these servants and this same myself / Are yours, my lord'. In many ways 'The Merchant of Venice' can de described as a fairytale as the outline to the plot is consistent with that of a fairytale. It contains repetition of speech such as Shylock when telling Antonio to 'look to his bond' to secure the idea of his villainy in the audiences minds. Eventually, good overcomes evil and the happy ending in the fairyland of Belmont is where everything is resolved and social order is restored. The resolution itself is quick like a fairytale and everything that could be resolved is and there are no loose ends. However, Shakespeare has modified the simple storyline of a fairytale with its traditional values, and uniquely adapted it therefore making it appealing to his wide audience. In some ways, Portia is not seen as the passive princess that is rescued by Bassanio, but she is in fact the hero of the play. She being an active, intellectual and bold woman saves the unassertive Antonio from his death, making him to be the na�ve princess being saved. Most fairytales are very light hearted and never tragic, but 'The Merchant of Venice' is exceedingly controversial and Shakespeare adds a great deal of political ideas involving racial awareness with the Prince of Morocco and anti-semitism towards Shylock. This is another reason as to the happy ending resolving all the issues, showing the audience that despite not ending in a marriage and having tragic events, the play was indeed a comedy. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE The Merchant of Venice section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE The Merchant of Venice essays

  1. Merchant of Venice - Comparing and Contrasting Antonio and Shylock

    The audience can picture Shylock as a dog hunting its prey. Shylock is being ironic, because he is referring to himself as a dog. Pleading with Shylock is pointless. Antonio now realises why Shylock wants his life. Shylock is envious and angry with Antonio.

  2. Background to the "Merchant of Venice."

    This suggests that the Jews were hated so much by the Elizabethans that they didn't even deserve a name. I'm sure most people who witnessed this play in the 16th Century would not have referred to the Jews by their names either, but now in the 21st Century most people disagree with the way they referred to the Jews.

  1. How does Shakespeare create tension in the trial scene of The Merchant of Venice?

    Shylock also collapses to the ground in complete shock and desperation as he hears his punishment and makes a sound like a wounded animal. This presentation of Shylock makes the viewer pity and sympathise with him as we observe his desperate frustration with the situation, we view him as a

  2. The play "The Merchant of Venice" is described as Romantic Comedy. One aspect of ...

    She values her father's will more than her love. But news of Antonio being in danger meant postponing of the honeymoon meant the harmonious society promised by the conventions of Romantic comedy is not fulfilled, and Portia suffer financially and emotionally.

  1. Shakespeare’s three women characters – Portia, Nerissa and Jessica – are portrayed as typical ...

    a monkey because Tubal says, "One of them showed me a ring that he had of your daughter for a monkey." She also spent four score ducats at one sitting which suggests she is trying to teach Shylock a lesson and hit him where it hurts, his money.

  2. The Merchant of Venice

    Most of the time, Salerio and Solanio fill the narrative gaps. The Christian characters are positive about Shylock prioritising money before anything else. According to Solanio, Shylock ran through the streets crying 'My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!', although there is no real evidence that proves he said this.

  1. And they all lived happily ever after (except Shylock...), to what extent was Shylock's ...

    I would argue that, with the understanding that until now Shylock has never retaliated, he is actually a very tolerant man; he has been highly provoked and there is a limit to what every wo/man can put up with. It is no wonder that Shylock is looking for revenge...

  2. The Merchant Of Venice

    A modern audience would share the same view as Bassanio's because the audience know that Shylock earlier vowed to "catch Antonio on the hip." Also they would see through Shylock's act and see what his true intentions are. Antonio tells Bassanio "The Hebrew will turn Christian; he grows kind."

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work