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A tragicomedy is a play that is neither a comedy nor a tragedy, although it has the
features of both. Tragedies are usually focused almost exclusively on the central
character, the tragic hero (although Shakespeares tragedies can sometimes be a
double tragedy, with two tragic heroes, like Romeo and Juliet). The audience has
insights into his mind and goes deeply in, as he does in Macbeth or Hamlet.
Comic plays, on the other hand, remove that focus and the concerns are diversified
so that the action is made up of the stories of several characters, particularly pairs of
lovers. The shadows in human emotions are usually minor in the comedies: they are
such things as misunderstandings, playful deceptions and so on.
The Merchant of Venice can be seen as a tragicomedy. It has a comic structure but
one of the central characters, Shylock, looks very much like a tragic character. The
play has a comedy ending with the lovers pairing off but we are left with taste in the
mouth of the ordeal of Shylock, destroyed by a combination of his own faults and the
persecution of the lovers who enjoy that happy ending. The feeling at the end of the
play is neither joy nor misery. The play has a decidedly comic structure but there is
also a powerful tragic story. It can therefore be called a tragicomedy.
Shakespeare tragicomedies usually have improbable and complex plots; characters
of high social class; contrasts between villainy and virtue; love of different kinds at
their centre; a hero who is saved at the last minute after a touch-and- go
experience; surprises and treachery. The Winters Tale and Cymbeline are two plays
that fit that tragicomical pattern.
Shakespeares plays generally accepted as tragicomedy plays are:


The Winters Tale

The Merchant of Venice play is set mainly in Venice in Italy. To the Elizabethan mind
Italy was a place of power, wealth and luxury, with finely dressed, cultured men and
women, art, beauty and history. Venice was a world of commerce, business and
international trade where vast fortunes could be made and even more easily lost with
the sinking of a ship in a treacherous sea. It is a city where moneylenders abound,
themselves making fortunes out of the misery of failed merchants, presenting an
underworld of predatory business endeavours. The play is partly set in Belmont, a
dream location, full of love and romance music and leisure, in contrast to the cruel
world of finance and business that characterises Venice. See a map of The Merchant
Of Venice settings
Date written: 1596-1598
Read Shakespeares original text of The Merchant of Venice
Read The Merchant of Venice in simple, modern English
Genre classification: The Merchant of Venice is regarded as a tragic comedy.

The Merchant of Venice Characters: The main character is the

merchant, Antonio who fails and becomes indebted to the merciless
moneylender, Shylock. Antonios friend Bassanio has borrowed money from Antonio
in order to wooPortia, the beautiful resident of Belmont and its the reason why
Antonio has fallen prey to Shylock. The other main characters are Jessica, the
daughter of Shylock, and Lorenzo and Gratiano, associates and friends of Bassanio.
See a full list of characters in The Merchant of Venice.
The Merchant of Venice Themes: The main themes are justice, mercy and revenge.
Other themes are love, friendship


Toward the end of his career, after years of fame as one of London's leading
playwrights of history, tragedy, and comedy, William Shakespeare turned to a
new genre, tragicomedy, during the period around 1608-1611. Most critics
believe that Cymbeline was one of his earliest forays into the field of tragicomedy
(also called "romance"). Like the term "tragicomedy," Cymbelineis a blend of
elements, and critical responses to the play have been mixed as well. Audiences
and critics have variously considered Cymbeline either one of Shakespeare's
greatest works, drawing upon the best elements from his other plays to combine
them in one ultimate drama, or an unsatisfying hodgepodge, cobbled together in
a cynical bid for playgoers' money by appealing to a "greatest hits" mentality.
The play mingles ancient and contemporary societies with total disregard for the
resulting anachronism, jumbles moods together so incongruously that spectators
may find themselves cynically analyzing their own emotional responses even as
they laugh or cry, and presents a plot whose baroque intricacies are rivaled only
by its implausibility. Still, even the most skeptical are willing to acknowledge that
this "experimental" art form would lead to such acknowledged tragicomic
masterpieces as The Winter's Tale andThe Tempest. Ironically, modern popular
and critical audiences often prefer genre-crossing works like Cymbeline to the
"pure" forms rejected by earlier eras and appreciate the subtle, often satiric
moods produced by such nuanced dramas more than the blatantly farcical or
heartrending aspects of comedy and tragedy. For a period such as ours that
celebrates experimental form, ambiguity, intertextuality, and, above all,
sensational drama, Cymbeline offers rich territory for exploration.

Hang there like fruit, my soul,

Till the tree die.
William Shakespeare, Cymbeline

I am glad I was up so late, for that's the reason I was up so early.

William Shakespeare, Cymbeline
tags: early, late


Pardon's the word to all.

The Winters Tale opens in a Sicilian palace, where Polixenes (the King of Bohemia) is

visiting his childhood BFF, Leontes (the King of Sicily). After a nine month visit, Polixenes is
ready to head back home to Bohemia, but Leontess devoted wife, Hermione, convinces
Polixenes to stay a little bit longer. (We should point out that Leontes asks his wife to
convince Polixenes to stay, and youll see why this is important in a moment.) As Leontes
watches his wife and best bud chat it up, Leontes suddenly becomes wildly jealous and
suspects that his very pregnant wife is having a torrid affair with Polixenes Leontes is
certain that Hermione is carrying the mans love child. Leontes quickly arranges to have his
old pal poisoned, but when Polixenes catches wind of Leontess plot to have him offed,
Polixenes flees with a Sicilian guy named Camillo to his home in Bohemia.
Leontes is furious, so he throws his pregnant wife in the slammer, where she gives birth to a
daughter (later named Perdita). Paulina, a good friend of Hermione and the only person
willing to stand up to the jealous king, takes the newborn to Leontes and attempts to talk
some sense into him. But, alas, King Leontes refuses to acknowledge that he is the babys
daddy. To make matters worse, Leontes orders one of his men, Antigonus, to take the little
bastard for a ride out to the Bohemian desert, where baby Perdita is left to the harsh
elements. (Yeah, we know theres no desert in Bohemia but sometimes you just have to go
with the flow.)
Meanwhile, Leontes puts Hermione on trial for adultery and treason (despite the fact that
Apollos Oracle announces Hermione is totally innocent and warns that the king shall live
without an heir if Perdita, who is in the process of being disappeared, is not found. During
Hermiones trial, a servant enters with news that Prince Mammilius (the precocious young
son of Hermione and Leontes) has died because hes been so upset about the way Leontes
is treating his mother. When Hermione hears the news, she falls to the ground and, soon
after, were told she is also dead. Leontes realizes what hes done and has a sudden change
of heart he immediately falls to his knees and begs forgiveness from the god Apollo for
being such a rotten husband, father, and friend, which is nice to hear but is pretty much a day
late and a dollar short.
Meanwhile, Antigonus reaches the coast of Bohemia (yeah, we know theres no coast in
landlocked Bohemia either, but again, we just have to go with it). Antigonus dumps off baby
Perdita andis promptly eaten by a hungry bear! (Were not even kidding.) Luckily, an Old
Shepherd happens along and finds baby Perdita, along with a bundle of riches and some
documents that detail the kids royal heritage. (Remember this, because its important later.)
The Old Shepherd and his country bumpkin son (the Clown) decide, what the heck, lets
keep the cash and raise the kid as our own.
A figure called Time appears on stage and announces that sixteen years have passed and
the audience should just sit back, relax, and enjoy Big Willie Shakespeares show. (FYI:

Flash-forwards were kind of a big no-no on the English Renaissance stage so,
Shakespeares being kind of innovative and irreverent here. Check out Setting if you want
to know more about this.)
At a Bohemian sheep-shearing festival (a big, spring/summer party that uses sheep haircuts
as an excuse for everyone to celebrate the nice weather and for young people to hook up),
we learn that Perdita has grown up to be the prettiest girl in Bohemia (which is why she gets
to be Queen of the Feast) and is going steady with a gorgeous young prince named Florizel,
who just so happens to be the son of King Polixenes. (Yep, thats Leontess ex-best friend all
right. You probably see where this is going.) Theres just one hitch King Polixenes doesnt
know his son is dating a lowly shepherds daughter. (As you can see, nobody knows
Perditas true identity not even Perdita.) When Polixenes finds out, he tries to put the
kibosh on the young couples engagement. Florizel, throwing caution to the wind, defies
daddys wishes. Whats a father to do? Why, threaten to have Perditas face disfigured and
declare hes going to have the Old Shepherd executed, of course. (Hmm. Is it just us or, does
Polixenes sound a lot like the tyrannous Leontes here?)
Florizel and Perdita run off to Sicily, where Leontes has been beating himself up for the last
sixteen years (with the help of Paulina, who has seen to it that Leontes never, ever, ever
forgets that hes responsible for the deaths of Hermione and Mammilius). Polixenes and his
entourage chase the couple to the Sicilian court. Before Polixenes can break up the couple
and make good on his promise to scratch up Perditas pretty, young face, the Old Shepherd
and the Clown arrive at Leontess court with the letters that verify Perditas identity.
(Remember the bundle of cash and documents Antigonus left with baby Perdita before he
was eaten by a bear?)
Big sigh of relief now the royal couple can get hitched and Sicily will finally have a royal heir
to take over Leontess reign when the old man dies. Plus, Leontes and Polixenes can be best
buds again.
But wait, theres more. Paulina invites the entire crew to her place, where she unveils a
statue of Hermione. Everyone oohs and ahs over how lifelike the statue is when suddenly
and miraculously the statue isnot a statue at all but a very alive Hermione. Hurray! Leontes
and Hermione reunite as husband and wife. Leontes then announces that Paulina should get
hitched to Camillo (since Paulinas late husband was eaten by a bear on account of Leontes
and all).
And they all live happily ever after (except for Mammilius and Antigonus, who are still dead).
Though I am not naturally honest, I am sometimes so by chance.
a wild dedication of yourselves
To undiscovered waters, undreamed shores.

The Merchant of Venice (2004)

Cymbeline (2014)