The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of


Shakespeare uses similar comic elements to effect
similar outcomes in his works. Many of his plays
utilize trickery and disguise to accomplish similar
endings.
Trickery plays a major role in The Merchant of
Venice and drives most of the action, while mistaken
identity, specifically Portia\'s disguise as the
"learned attorney\'s" representative, plays a major
role in the resolution of the play. The first
instance of trickery in the play is Bassanio\'s plan to
present himself as a financially sound suitor, when in
truth, he is not.
Bassanio believes that he would stand a very good
chance of being the successful suitor if he had the
proper money backing him. Bassanio then goes to his
friend Antonio to try to secure a loan to provide for
his wooing.
O my Antonio, had I but the means/To hold a rival
place with one of them [other suitors]/I have a
mind presages me such thrift/That I should
questionless be fortunate!" (Shakespeare,
Merchant 1.1 173-176)
However, Antonio has, "neither the money, nor
commodity/to raise a present sum" but urges Bassanio
to go through Venice to try to secure a loan using
Antonio\'s bond as credit (Shakespeare, Merchant 1.1
178-179).
One of the resident money-lenders of Venice is an
individual called Shylock, a person of Jewish descent.
The practice of usury was traditionally banned by the
Christian church. This allowed many Jews, because
their belief system contained no objection to
profitable money-lending, to become the de facto loan
officers. Bassanio approaches Shylock to ask for a
loan, and Shylock seems as if he is going to agree,
however, he first asks to speak with Antonio. It is
revealed in an aside that Shylock harbors a secret
hatred of Antonio because of his religion and
Shylock\'s belief that Antonio\'s practices drive down
the interest rates that Shylock can charge in Venice.
Here we see the second instance of trickery and
deception within The Merchant of Venice. Shylock
seems to have great knowledge of the positions of
Antonio\'s fleet and ominously notes that, "ships are
but boards, sailors but men" (Shakespeare, Merchant
1.3 20). Earlier in the scene Shylock seems hesitant,
which, "we can construe as playing for time while he
forms his plan (Barber 211). Shylock agrees to accept
the loan, using Antonio\'s bond as credit, but refuses
to charge interest on it. Instead, he chooses, in
"merry sport," to insert a clause that states he will
have the right to one pound of Antonio\'s flesh if the
bond should be forfeited. Antonio, thinking that his
ships will arrive before the date the loan falls due,
agrees to the conditions that Shylock sets forth.
Clearly, Shylock has calculated that the chances of
Antonio\'s fleet not making it back to port are rather
good, and this bit of trickery sets up the main action
of the play.
Trickery is also present in The Taming of the
Shrew. In this work, Bianca, the "good" daughter has
three suitors vying for her love. Gremio, an old,
prosperous, and well-respected gentleman; Hortensio,
another gentleman in the town; and Lucentio, a newly
arrived wealthy traveler, all will fight for her
affections. Gremio figures very little in the
courting of Bianca, mostly due to his age and small
chance of success, but the remaining suitors hatch a
plot to win the love of Bianca.
Hortensio and Lucentio decide to become
schoolteachers, because Baptista, Bianca\'s father, is
planning to find tutors for her. Hortensio decides to
become a music teacher, and Lucentio a Latin teacher.
They approach Baptista who consents to let them both
tutor his daughters. The initial session, held with
Kate, the shrew, does not go well for either, but then
they are allowed to tutor Bianca. Lucentio eventually
discloses his true identity to Bianca and tells her
their plot. Bianca reveals that she is interested in
Lucentio but still leads them both on for quite some
time. This is one of the examples of trickery and
deception practiced in The Taming of the Shrew.
Trickery is also present in Much Ado About
Nothing. In this work Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon,
hatches a plan to bring Beatrice and Benedick
together. Benedick is a lord, and a well-known
philanderer, who is adamantly against