The Merchant of Venice is an intriguing drama of love, greed, and revenge. At its heart, the play contrasts the characters of the maddened and vengeful Shylock, a Venetian moneylender, with the gracious, level-headed Portia, a wealthy young woman besieged by suitors. At the play's climax, Shylock insists on the enforcement of a binding contract that will cost the life of the merchant Antonio — inciting Portia to mount a memorable defense.
In this richly plotted drama, Shylock, whom Shakespeare endowed with all of the depth and vitality of his greatest characters, is not alone in his villainy. In scene after scene, a large cast of ambitious and scheming characters demonstrates that honesty is a quality often strained where matters of love and money are concerned.
The gravity and suspense of the play's central plot, together with its romance, have made The Merchant of Venice a favorite of audiences, and one of the most studied and performed of Shakespeare's plays. It is reprinted here from an authoritative text, complete with explanatory footnotes.
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 \x93you may be pleased to collect whatever usurious interest pleases your Jew heart.\x94 An author's note encourages further research on that matter and clarifies some of Hinds's creative decisions.