REVIEW: Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare

The Hogarth Shakespeare Series is a series of retellings written by bestselling authors that are slowly being released by Hogarth Press. I plan to read them all and am adding them to my TBR shelves as they are released.

I read The Merchant of Venice as a prelude to reading Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson and to satisfy Books and Chocolate’s Back to the Classic’s challenge: A classic originally published before 1800. I enjoyed the play by Shakespeare much more than the retelling by Jacobson.

Venetian Bassanio wishes to marry the heiress Portia, but first he must pass her father’s test and in order to court her he must borrow money, through his friend Antonio, from the Jewish money lender, Shylock. Shylock purports to extract a pound of flesh from Antonio if the debt is not repaid on time.

Bassanio passes the test and Portia agrees to marry him, but trouble falls to Antonio and he is unable to make good on his loan. Bassanio hurries to his rescue with a disguised Portia following him. She defends Antonio in her disguise as a lawyer and not only frees him from the debt, but turns the tables on Shylock requiring him to turn his wealth over to Antonio and Venice.

Antonio returns his portion of the money to Shylock but requires him to forgive his daughter for running off with a Christian and to convert to Christianity himself, both of which he unwillingly does.

Shylock is the only bitter person at the end of the play. A bitterness that Jacobson used well in his retelling.


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