Classifying "The Merchant of Venice"

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(Thesis-driven essay) The Merchant of Venice is a troublesome play to classify in the usual Shakespearean categories of comedy, history, or tragedy. Though it ends with several marriages, and therefore matches the usual pattern of a comedy, it also contains some very dark and problematic elements, such as Shylock’s essentially forced conversion to Christianity. How do you think that we should view this play? Is it really a comedy? Is there any way to argue that it is a tragedy? Be sure to clearly define your understanding of tragedy and comedy; for some helpful sites, see Comedy and Tragedy by David L. Simpson of DePaul University, and the Comedy and Tragedy pages by Lisa Schnell of the University of Vermont.
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