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Culture and Art Final Paper


The most universal and fundamental ideas explored within a literary work are themes. This analytical essay reflects upon three similar contemporary texts in terms of their themes and subject. One of the most famous passages in all of Western literature “All the world’s a stage, / and all the men and women merely players.” is featured by As You Like It. It has been a consistent crowd-pleaser over the years as well as Merchant of Venice. One of the most famous epic poems Beowulf is perceived both as a cornerstone of modern literature and as the archetypal Anglo-Saxon literary work. Both its canonical and historical position in English literature is complicated by the peculiar history reflected by it.


In As You Like It, like in the Merchant of Venice and Beowulf, an obstacle or arbitrary law is eventually overcome, the upshot of the play is affected by a camouflaged character, scheme is bought by a clown, for the final resolution, a large responsibility is upheld by a female character and the conclusion of the action is marked by reconciliation and forgiveness. Comedy often starts with some kind of irrational law and the main thrust of the comic story is blocked by it. However, the hindrance is often ignored or evaded by the comic story. Also, with a mood of deep gloom instead of the law, the play often starts and it is the major obstacle that is required to be overcome by the comic action.

The importance of establishing identity is the main theme reflected in Beowulf. With two principal components, i.e., individual reputation and ancestral heritage, the concept of identity is clearly central to the poem as the latter is essentially a record of heroic deeds. A world in which every male figure is known as his father’s son is introduced by the opening passages of the poem (Kieman 274). Without referring to family lineage, the characters in the poem are even unable to introduce themselves or talk about their identity. Since kinship bonds are emphasized by the poem; therefore, the concern with the family history has become quite prominent within the poem. Pride is taken by characters through ancestors. Similar standards as maintained by their ancestors have been maintained by the characters in the poem. Along with this, it is a classic poem, which includes in its melody many characters such as monsters and dragons (Wallace 231). As a matter of fact this poem was a complete presentation of the Anglo-Saxon era. Although it was recited in the 8th to the 11th century, the poem gained popularity and clearly reflects the era of Scandinavian culture. The depiction of the arrival of the associates of Anglo-Saxons who came from overseas can easily be perceived.

On the other hand, the themes which are observed and reflected in The Merchant of Venice are chauvinism, clemency, and authenticity. The depiction of clown scenes presents the theme of prejudice to the readers; it is also considered and thought widely through the depiction of clowns in The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare is purposely criticizing and amusingly presenting the attitudes, behaviors of the Christian towards the Jews (Falocco 102). In the play The Merchant of Venice the foremost feeling or presentation of the fact which is observed is the query of the existence of mercy in the world. It is felt obviously that the play keeps on asking and inquires if the mercy really exists in the world or not. Mercy is not seen or observed at all while in comparison of the intolerant behavior towards religion, personal pride, and vengeance. This play is completely based on the optimistic and pessimistic approaches regarding the society and the bonds between relationships. In the play, on the one hand, it is conveyed and presented through characters that love is the most important factor of life and there is nothing bigger or stronger. Love can overcome all difficulties and give strength to face all the consequences in life. It represents that being kind and forgiving is better than revenge, as the acts of kindness and love remain till eternity. It is also an established fact that love can win and do such things which power and even money cannot buy. History is replete with examples where such issues were resolved with the acts of kindness which had caused several wars in the past, whereas, on the other hand, it also depicts the importance and value of money. Money is such a thing without which it is difficult to think of life. Money buys everything which is necessary to sustain life. It severely presents and puts forward the power that money possesses in the world. It cynically depicts that mercy and love cannot rule the world and for being in power, ruling the world, and making things happen in desired way money is the most important factor. It also highlights the fact that after marriage the love is gone and the need and desire for money becomes the foremost factor. This is how these two factors, love and money, go side by side. Mercy and revenge are contrasted and put forward in the plot presented by Shakespeare. He has compared the two approaches in the play very smartly, i.e. optimistic and pessimistic approaches in the world which we again and again witness in our daily lives. In addition to this, the consideration and use of the two cities namely Venice and Belmont is done smartly in assisting the pessimistic and optimistic approach as the city of Venice is presented as being the city of reality, consisting merchants, mocking men, and usurers. Here, the effects of money and power can be seen quite prominently and prove that these are the most important factors of this world. Those having money and power lead a prosperous life while those lacking it have to bear the hardships of life. On the other hand, the use of city of Belmont presents pessimism as it represents the city where love and romance exists and all the desires and wishes come true and exists like fairytales. Here the people having strong values are at higher pedestal. Love and mercy have great value and those depicting love and mercy are held in high esteem. Love gives strength and all the desires can come true like fairytales where love and values always win, no matter how tough situations they have to face.


From the above analysis it can be concluded that in As You Like It, like in the The Merchant of Venice and Beowulf an obstacle or arbitrary law is eventually overcome, the outcome of the play is affected by a disguised character which actually presents forward the reality of people who from outer side are sugar coated but from inner side are filled with poison of revenge and mercilessness; the plot is added by a clown; for the final resolution, a large responsibility is upheld by a female character around whom the complete story revolves and possesses a very strong position in the plays, and the conclusion of the action is marked by reconciliation and forgiveness. In both plays love and romance do exist and the reality of life and its attitudes are also presented side by side. It is clearly represented in the plays that although love is the basic need of human nature and love is the power that can overcome anything and make difficult things happen easily, at the same time the importance and vitality of money is also shown and presented so that in this world love and mercy cannot be the rulers or the players of the world, but for being in power and having the ability to make the things happen in one’s desired way and manner money and revenge play a foremost role. Money can buy anything and make anything happen that even love cannot. Concluding with the fact that Shakespeare has always used the opposite themes in his work, that is reality and fiction, where, on the one hand, he showed that the eternal factors, love, courage, forgiveness, kindness etc. play very important roles in the world and are appreciated and should be acted upon as these virtues are of dire importance for the world to exist; on the other hand, he also reflects with his writing that although these eternal acts are of great importance, but in no way can take away the vitality and importance of the money, power, revenge etc. that make a person mold and things happen in the desired way.

Thus, it can be concluded that all the plays by Shakespeare having great position in literature have been a source of teaching lesson to the readers that all the virtues and acts are of a great importance. However, the importance of other factors like money, power, revenge etc. cannot be ruled out. It depends from person to person as to what behavior or attitude is chosen and practiced by him. Depending upon the attitude or behavior chosen by an individual, the behaviors of people around him / her are determined. 


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