The Merchant of Venice

Overview

With elegant, contemporary artwork and a faithful but succinct adaptation, this graphic novel casts a classic drama in a provocative new light.

Here is the tale of young Bassanio, who, to win the love of fair Portia, entangles his dearest friend, Antonio, in a dangerous bargain with the moneylender Shylock. Only Bassanio’s heartfelt efforts — and a clever intervention by Portia — will save Antonio from paying Shylock "a pound of flesh." Moody and mesmerizing, this graphic novel ...

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The Merchant of Venice

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Overview

With elegant, contemporary artwork and a faithful but succinct adaptation, this graphic novel casts a classic drama in a provocative new light.

Here is the tale of young Bassanio, who, to win the love of fair Portia, entangles his dearest friend, Antonio, in a dangerous bargain with the moneylender Shylock. Only Bassanio’s heartfelt efforts — and a clever intervention by Portia — will save Antonio from paying Shylock "a pound of flesh." Moody and mesmerizing, this graphic novel adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s more controversial plays boasts a chic modern cast, high drama, and all the dark, familiar beauty of Venice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Fans of the play will find this an intriguing adaptation. Hinds sets his version in modern dress and dramatically edits the text to the basics while keeping the Shakespearean flavor of the dialogue (increasingly as the book goes on). The coloring in shades of slate blue and pale gray gives it an antique patina that's counterbalanced by the way Hinds leaves construction lines visible. That makes it feel like reading someone's unpolished sketchbook, as though the characters were observed, not created. It's always a benefit to see Shakespeare acted out, to make the universal situations clear to the modern viewer, and that benefit extends to the graphic medium, especially when the characters have a sense of motion, as here. Some aspects of the original are still discomforting; Hinds is faithful to the play in its treatment of the bloodthirsty, money-hungry Shylock, and some readers may be put off by the inclusion of lines such as "you may be pleased to collect whatever usurious interest pleases your Jew heart." An author's note encourages further research on that matter and clarifies some of Hinds's creative decisions. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
KLIATT - George Galuschak
The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare's most controversial plays. Bassanio wants to woo Portia, his true love, but in order to do so he needs money. He approaches his best friend Antonio, a merchant of Venice; Antonio in turns borrows money from Shylock, who is Jewish. Shylock doesn't want interest; when the loan defaults he demands a pound of Antonio's flesh in payment, as per the terms of his contract. This play begs the question—was Shakespeare anti-Semitic? Structurally, Shylock is the play's primary antagonist; he is portrayed as cruel and obsessed with money; and the other characters derisively refer to him as "the Jew." The scene in which Shylock protests his humanity (‘if you prick us do we not bleed') is offset by his bloodthirsty antics in the courtroom ("I can not find it; tis not in the bond"—Shylock's response to having a doctor nearby, to staunch Antonio's wounds). Gareth Hinds's intriguing adaptation is rendered in shades of gray. The art focuses on the characters, who are all modeled on real people. The author's map of Venice—depicted as a hooked fish—is wonderful. Hinds's version is abridged—scenes and characters are omitted. The language is a hybrid: some scenes are in modern English; others preserve Shakespeare's text. This play contains quite a bit of commentary about contracts, both social and legal; and the quality of law, the spirit vs. the letter. The Merchant of Venice contains anti-Semitic references. Recommended for libraries with graphic novel collections emphasizing the classics. Reviewer: George Galuschak
Children's Literature - Michael Jung
Those who realize Shakespeare's plays need to be seen in order to be appreciated should check out Gareth Hinds' version of The Merchant of Venice which retells the Bard's classic comedy in graphic novel form. The basic story line is intact—spendthrift Bassanio wishes to woo the wealthy Portia and asks his well-to-do friend Antonio for a large loan. Antonio, whose fortune is tied up in overseas ventures, gets the money from unscrupulous Jewish moneylender Shylock, who makes Antonio promise to give up a pound of his flesh if he reneges on their deal. When it appears Antonio cannot pay back the loan, wise Portia must argue for Antonio in court and save his life. However, some elements of the play have been altered. The comic relief characters Launcelot Gobbo and his father are eliminated and many lines have been changed from verse to prose (although Hinds reveals in his "Author's Note" that he shifted from prose to verse in the course of the story to get readers more comfortable with Shakespearean verse). Hinds also acknowledges the story's anti-Semetic reading and encourages readers to research the play further if they were offended or intrigued by its events. Art-wise, Hinds illustrates the story in a modern Venice setting, making many of the characters dress in three-piece suits. While this does not detract from the story, many male characters are drawn with similar features, creating some confusion over which characters appear in which scenes. Despite this, the graphic novel provides a useful supplement to anyone interested in studying Shakespeare and seeing how his work can be constantly updated. Reviewer: Michael Jung
School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up -Shakespearea's original play has been modernized and recast in a graphic format with characters drawn from posed models, creating a realistic feel. The cover depiction of a casket, embossed with images of the courtroom scene, sets the stage for the multiple layers of meaning embedded within this drama, and beautiful endpapers with the "fish" map of Venice foreshadow the opening scene. The careful use of color to signal scene changes and page headings helps readers follow the action and refer to the original play. As the authora's note explains, the decision to modernize the story creates visual and textual anachronisms. The men are attired in dress shirts and business suits. Portia wears an evening gown, even while traveling. Shylock sports a neatly trimmed beard and a slightly off-center bow tie, making it hard to envision him brandishing a knife in the courtroom. Even more jarring is the shift between modernized speech and the original Shakespearean language. For example, in Act I, Nerissa tells Portia, "Your father was a pretty sharp guy." In contrast, Nerissa announces in Act II, "My lord and lady, we that have stood by and seen our wishes prosper wish you joy." Despite the inconsistency, readers looking for an accessible introduction to the plot, major characters, and themes of The Merchant of Venice will enjoy this visually appealing book.-Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Kirkus Reviews
Of late, there have been many unsuccessful attempts to adapt Shakespeare into the graphic-novel format; Hinds's beautiful new offering now sets the standard that all others will strive to meet. Presenting readers with deftly drawn characters (based on live models) and easily read dialogue that modulates over the course of the work from adapted prose to the original Shakespeare, he re-works the classic Shakespeare play of deception, greed and revenge. Though located in a modern setting, readers will easily follow the premise and find themselves lost in the intricately lovely Venetian backdrop. While this adaptation may leave purists sniffing at the omission of entire scenes and characters, Hinds carefully explains to his readers in a note why and how he made those choices. A deceptively simple graphic novel on the surface, this volume begs for multiple readings on a closer level, at the same time acting as a wonderful introduction to the original. Easily on a par with his stellar adaptation of Beowulf (2007), it's a captivating, smartly executed work. (Graphic novel. 12+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763630256
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 5/22/2008
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 529,444
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 10.40 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Gareth Hinds is the creator of BEOWULF and other graphic novels based on classic works. Of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, he says, "I find the fairy-tale symbolism and ethical dilemmas of this play compelling, and I wanted to use the graphic novel form to present them to a modern audience." He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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