In England, during the lifetime of William Shakespeare, oppression was occurring against people of different races, ethnicities, and even genders. The religious conflicts stemmed from the differing translations of G-d's word. This created conflicts and segregation by religion, turning some people into aliens in their own country. The battles existed between Catholics, Jews, and Protestants although, for the majority of the time, the Protestants pitted the Jews and Catholics on the same side, against themselves. In The Merchant of Venice, a play that was later dubbed a comedy, tragedy was just as evident. I believe that the tragedy of the play was the reality of the situation the play encompassed.
It cannot be a coincidence that there is such a parallel of situations that Shakespeare wrote about. The concept of a Jew being placed into the same circumstances that the Protestants were putting the Catholics into at the same time is obviously analogous of the oppression of the Catholics post-Reformation. The fact that during the estimated time that the play was produced there was a religious persecution ongoing in England is what I believe to be the tragedy of this play.
Roughly the time that Queen Elizabeth I's reign was coming to an end, Catholics were viewed as aliens. The reasons behind the separation and persecution of Jews, Protestants and Catholics respectively, were consequent of the theological differences between each religion. The Reformation led to a Protestant-England in the late fifteen-hundreds, when the play was written. Henry VIII transformed the throne, establishing the Protestant Church of England as the nation's church. After Henry, Edward VI reaffirmed the Reformation. Then after a brief period, post-Edward VI, Queen Elizabeth reinstituted the Protestant Church of England as the nation's church. However, many Catholic citizens still resided in the country, but were forced to conform and convert to Anglicanism. This notion of Catholics being aliens in a country that had for a long duration, been established as a nation under the Catholic Church, awakened suppressed bitterness that had been caused by both peoples' past sufferings. The reality that people were physically maltreating other people of a different spiritual background was a legitimate reason for Shakespeare to foundation for this analogous play.
Shakespeare created this production to give insight to people on just what was going on in England at the time. He positioned the audience in the shoes of Shylock, a usurious Jew who had been antagonized because of the label put on him by people of a different religion by conveying the circumstances that made him who he is in the play. Shakespeare even went so far as to give a brief insight into stereotyping as it existed during his era. When the dark-skinned Prince of Morocco is making his way to Belmont she ridicules his complexion and labels him what she deems appropriate. In regards to the prince's arrival "If...