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Formalistic, Sociological, And Psychological Analysis Of The Merchant Of Venice By William Shakespeare

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If you give something out of care, someone will also care for you. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare is an inspiring play that gives spectators a lesson timely needed. The play is about a young, penny-less man, Bossanio and his merchant friend, Antonio. The play shows a magnificent story of friendships and how they fought side by side against all odds without shedding blood. It also disports idea that, when you have a true friend, you know you can have someone whom you can lean on in terms of problems and needs. But also the Merchant of Venice introduced a love affection that even a long period of time couldn’t vanquish. The Merchant of Venice shows an image of a love that cannot be cover by gold or silver. The Merchant of Venice was played using a very lightful word and of course very rhyming that it somehow can make the spectator’s feet thump.

The Merchant of Venice is considered a comedy play despite the fact that it is out of the league of its author style. William Shakespeare – a renowned English poet, playwright, actor, and also an award-winning writer and is known for writing tragic plays and disconsolate sonnets- portrayed Merchant of Venice in an outright point of view. William Shakespeare gives justice to the play by displaying an effective scene and character to employ the rightful message the spectator could have. Most probably, William Shakespeare wants the spectators to understand the Merchant of Venice in an evenhanded perspective. William Shakespeare was born in England at Stratford-upon-Avon in early 1564. At the early age, William Shakespeare got married to Anne Hathaway and begat three children. William Shakespeare, around 1585 to 1592, began his writing career which results to 38 plays and 154 sonnets and until now his writings are still widely cherished.

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This paper will analyze the play in three different perspectives to unmask the beauty and fully understand the message being implied in the Merchant of Venice. Firstly, the critics will refine the themes that give meaning to the play using a Formalistic Approach. A “Formalism”, as the name implies, is an interpretive approach that emphasizes literary form and the study of literary devices within the text. Also as cited by Robert Penn Warren (1935), that a literature is a valid source of knowledge that cannot be communicated in terms other than its own which gives us the idea that a literary piece should be analyzed on how it was written through the use of lexical items and the author’s writing style. Secondly, the critic will assay the Merchant of Venice using a Sociological Approach to disclose some sociological issues being displayed. A Sociological Approach, according to Edmond Cros (2003), is a literary criticism directed to understanding literature in its larger social context; it codifies the literary strategies that are employed to represent social constructs through a sociological methodology. Furthermore, this approach examines literature in the cultural, economic and political context in which it is written or received, exploring the relationships between the artist and society. And lastly, the critic will anatomize the Merchant of Venice in a Psychological Approach to count some mental attributes of the protagonist. A Psychological Approach, according to James George (2011), is a unique form of criticism in that it draws upon psychological theories in its interpretation of a text. Furthermore, Sigmund Freud’s (1856) Psychoanalysis Theory, that events in our childhood have a great influence on our adult lives, shaping our personality, was also the bedrock of this type of literary criticism. With the use of this three approaches, the critic can scrutinize the play Merchant of Venice and provide ample evidence that the play is wonderful.

The Merchant of Venice has a lot of themes which effectively disport the meaning of the play and gives valuable lessons that spectators could learn from. The themes present in the Merchant of Venice could be narrowed down into three subjects; equality, truthfulness, and vengeance. First, a theme of equality, “Do unto others what you want them to do to you”. In the play, Antonio was so humble and help Bossanio even it cause him his own flesh. Antonio sacrificed his own self to help his beloved friend. In return, when Antonio was in the peak of death, Bossanio stood beside him and help him to escape the bitterness he could face. Bossanio even sacrifices the ring his wife gave him to repay the freedom of Antonio. In a formalistic analysis, the critics could put into words that what Antonio did for Bossanio, Bossanio also did the same.

Secondly, the theme of truthfulness, “No gold nor silver can cover the purity and strength of a lead”. In the play, when Portia was picking a groom, she let them choose caskets made of gold, silver, and lead. Portia was witty to put the right answer to the least valuable casket, the lead, which happens to be the one Bassanio choose. In a formalistic analysis, the critics could assay that Bassanio’s feeling towards Portia was pure and cannot be influenced by those gold and silver. Lastly, the theme for vengeance, “Vengeance is not our”. In the story, Shylot, the Jew, wanted to take revenge for what Antonio splutter about him. Shylot wants to even hand Antonio for insulting and badmouthing him for how many years by putting Antonio in a bound of flesh if he failed to pay his debt. In a formalistic analysis, the critic could define that Shylot was full of resentment towards Antonio to end up asking his heart for a pay. But at the end of the play, it was Shylot who suffer from the consequences of his own bad acts. The Merchant of Venice, though considers as comedy, display an image of social issues. One evident social issue in the Merchant of Venice is discrimination. According to the study, racial discrimination” is the action or behavior that results in unequal treatment of an individual based on membership of the racial or ethnic group. In the play, at that time there was racism struggle between Jews and Christians.

In a sociological analysis, the critics can say that Jews must have been treated unfairly that make them do foolish things. In the play, as being surrounded by Christians, Shylot the Jew endures all the discrimination of the Christian towards him particularly Antonio. Most probably, Shylot has been oppressed long enough to plot revenge towards Antonio. Shylot then has his reason to do that, but sad to say at the end of the story, he never has that sweet revenge instead he was bullied in court and they turned him into Christian. The Merchant of Venice introduces its character in different personalities that give justice to the story by portraying their role rightfully. The story gives three main characters; Antonio, Bassanio, and Portia. In the Psychological analysis, the critic will anatomize the different personality of the different protagonist. First, Antonio, as showed in the play, he is kind and very considerate towards his friend Bassanio. However, it was also shown in the play that Antonio also possessed the negative attitude, particularly with Shylot. Antonio is very unfair with Shylot a badmouthing him. In a psychological analysis, the critic can say that Antonio is a phlegmatic person since he is calm and considerate. Second, Bossanio, he is portrayed as a person who loves adventure and is pure in hearts.

In the play, he showed his adventurous attitude when he chooses to travel and find his love. And he also won the heart of Portia because of his pure characteristic. In a psychological analysis, the critic could assay that Bossanio is a sanguine person since he is expressive and he loves to find himself traveling and find adventure. Lastly, Portia, she is introduce in the play as a person who want something just rightful. In the play, before she choose her husband, she let them first choose from the three caskets that symbolizes their feelings toward her. In a psychological analysis, the critic could put into words, that Portia is a melancholic person since is a little to perfection. Merchant of Venice is an inspiring play written by William Shakespeares and is widely loved by many people for its wonderful plot.

In this paper, the play was analyzed from three perspectives: formalistic, sociological, and psychological. The play was portrayed in the light mood to help spectators understand the meaning and lesson of the story. The critic could assay that planning for revenge is not a good idea and it can only lead you to destruction. A friendly reminder from the critic, talking too much can ruin your reputation but talking less can preserve your dignity.

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