Philosophy and Literature 33 (2):pp. 280-295 (2009)

Gene Fendt
University of Nebraska at Kearney
This paper answers the questions ‘what is the Merchant of Venice?’ and ‘how may it accomplish its purpose?’ I argue that the usual treatments of this play are inadequate and show how the play is a comedy through which the passions appropriate for the good human being are engendered. What is raised and ridiculed are our own temptations to lesser joys and less sweet uses mimetically roused in us by the action and characters of the play. What is whetted but left unsatisfied is our higher love for justice. Thus the play provides a catharsis (purification) of desire and sympathy.
Keywords comic catharsis  comedy  Shakespeare  Merchant of Venice
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DOI 10.1353/phl.0.0060
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