The Merchant of Venice (Barnes & Noble Shakespeare) - David Scott Kastan, Julie Crawford, William Shakespeare A comedy tinged with commentary. Though it can be superficially labeled as anti-semitic , Shylock is not cast simply as a villainous Jew. Throughout the play, Shylock, the embittered money-lender, references the outsider status thrust upon him by a society which openly loathes him for the services they seek from him. Portia deftly parries Shylock’s insistence on legal recourse for Antonio’s default and this complexity is risen and left to linger without resolution.

Portia, the quick-witted heiress, is the other dominant character in the play. Though traditionally dutiful to her late father’s wishes, she eschews traditional roles elsewhere. Masquerading as a man, she enters and manipulates the world of men. She is the sole reason for the non-tragic ending to this play. But she’s also a force in her assigned role. Portia is courted and ultimately won, but her willingness to be won is an act of deference to her father rather than the right of any suitor. Clearly, she is the most adaptable and adept at navigating their society. The final prank played on Bassanio demonstrates her mastery over her own fate.

I’m not sure if I would call it a comedy, but it’s definitely not a tragedy. There’s some complexity, humor and inconsistency. Much like the real world.