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Reviewed by:
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Karen Coats
Shakespeare, William; The Merchant of Venice; ad. and illus. by Gareth Hinds. Candlewick, 2008; [80p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-7636-3024-9 $21.99 Paper ed. ISBN 978-0-7636-3025-6 $11.99 Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 7-10

In his third graphic novel treatment of a classic text (Beowulf, BCCB 7/07; King Lear), Hinds sets Shakespeare's arguably most controversial play in a modern context, or at least as modern as possible considering the plots of marriage by lottery and forfeiture of a pound of flesh to settle a debt. His figures sport contemporary if fancy clothes, and he begins the text by using language that, while relatively formal, is his own, not Shakespeare's. As the play progresses, the language becomes truer and truer to Shakespeare's, until the Bard's own memorable passages take readers from the climactic courtroom scene to the end. This transition is so remarkably smooth as to be almost imperceptible, and the adaptation glides neatly over elisions from the play; the plot and themes remain intact despite the cutting of some of the scenes, in particular the comic ones. The figures are, as a note documents, drawn from models, but their expressions have more vitality than such modeling often confers; the color scheme of gray, black, and slate blue, however, tips from subdued into monotonous. Ultimately, the modernization isn't itself new, and this play isn't really successful under the treatment; readers must be willing to accept a Sopranos-style code of justice, a Harry Potter-ish process of finding a husband for Portia, and a very politically incorrect meditation on identity politics in order to accommodate the shift, and playing these things out in double-breasted suits and sport coats renders them bizarre rather than helpfully informing them. However, this could still be useful as a read-alongside-the-original, especially for students struggling with the flow of the plot amid the Elizabethan language. A note explains Hinds' approach to the adaptation.



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