European Journal of English Language and Literature Studies (EJELLS)

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Through Archetypal Criticism in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice


This paper presents a brief overview of archetypal criticism, a literary theory that seeks to identify universal patterns and themes in literature rooted in the human psyche. It is based on the idea of archetypes, symbols and motifs in the collective unconscious of humanity, popularized by Carl Jung. As applied to literature, the theory of archetypal criticism involves exploring these universal themes and symbols in work and how they reflect the human condition. The paper aims to analyze William Shakespeare’s tragedy The Merchant of Venice through the lens of archetypal criticism to uncover deeper meanings in the literature. The play explores themes of justice, mercy, and true love through its complicated characters and dramatic plot. Through archetypal criticism, the play delves deeper into its universal meaning. It reveals psychological and emotional truths about the human condition, inviting reflection on beliefs and values that shape our experiences in the world. The paper explores the play by applying archetypal criticism. There are archetype characters of Shylock and Jessica that embody the outsider archetype as Jews in a predominantly Christian society and moneylenders. The archetypal criticism also explores different forms of love, including romantic love between Bassanio and Portia, the friendship between Antonio and Bassanio, and the complex relationship between Shylock and Jessica. The theme of revenge is embodied by Shylock and depicts an archetype. The play features archetypal symbols, including the casket challenge, the green-eyed monster, the test of worthiness, and the trickster. Some situations in the play and the play’s ending are also significant from an archetypal perspective.

Keywords: Archetypal, Character, Theme, archetype, symbol, the merchant of Venice

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