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In this chapter, Boucher argues that Slavoj Žižek’s theory of the traumatic kernel of the Real at the center of social antagonism provides the key to understanding what is for contemporary critics Shakespeare’s most problematic play, The Merchant of Venice. Homing in on the disturbing affect generated by the interaction of ideology and aesthetics throughout the play, Boucher shows how Žižek enables us to link the aesthetic interference between its romantic comedy and its incipient tragedy to the libidinal dynamics of social exclusion and ideological fantasy at the beginning of the modern epoch. In so doing, he demonstrates how the quasi-resolution of the play’s comic plot and tragic subplot depends on the neutralization of a figure of excessive enjoyment (Shylock) whose problematic ability to utter a final reply to the main characters has a profoundly disturbing effect on the imaginary closure that the structure of the play seems to demand.

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