Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Pound of Flesh... The Merchant of Venice

I've been neglecting my Italian Reading Challenge for a while and it's time to get back on track. You can read more about it here, or even join me in the challenge and discover the beauty of Italy!

Two days ago, I started reading The Merchant of Venice and as usual Shakespeare tends to intimidate me a bit. I'm only halfway through the play and will be entering Act III soon, which starts at page 41.

The play was adapted into a movie (click here) starring Al Pacino (as Shylock), Joseph Fiennes (as Bassanio), Jeremy Irons (as Antonio), Lynn Collins (as Portia), and a few others, so I'd definitely be on the lookout for it.

Let's get back to the book. I looked for the easy way out and decided to use SparkNotes to provide the overview of The Merchant of Venice, the story which I believe many are already very familiar with.
Antonio, a Venetian merchant, complains to his friends of a melancholy that he cannot explain. His friend Bassanio is desperately in need of money to court Portia, a wealthy heiress who lives in the city of Belmont. Bassanio asks Antonio for a loan in order to travel in style to Portia’s estate. Antonio agrees, but is unable to make the loan himself because his own money is all invested in a number of trade ships that are still at sea. Antonio suggests that Bassanio secure the loan from one of the city’s moneylenders and name Antonio as the loan’s guarantor. In Belmont, Portia expresses sadness over the terms of her father’s will, which stipulates that she must marry the man who correctly chooses one of three caskets. None of Portia’s current suitors are to her liking, and she and her lady-in-waiting, Nerissa, fondly remember a visit paid some time before by Bassanio.
In Venice, Antonio and Bassanio approach Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, for a loan. Shylock nurses a long-standing grudge against Antonio, who has made a habit of berating Shylock and other Jews for their usury, the practice of loaning money at exorbitant rates of interest, and who undermines their business by offering interest-free loans. Although Antonio refuses to apologize for his behavior, Shylock acts agreeably and offers to lend Bassanio three thousand ducats with no interest. Shylock adds, however, that should the loan go unpaid, Shylock will be entitled to a pound of Antonio’s own flesh. Despite Bassanio’s warnings, Antonio agrees. In Shylock’s own household, his servant Launcelot decides to leave Shylock’s service to work for Bassanio, and Shylock’s daughter Jessica schemes to elope with Antonio’s friend Lorenzo. That night, the streets of Venice fill up with revelers, and Jessica escapes with Lorenzo by dressing as his page. After a night of celebration, Bassanio and his friend Gratiano leave for Belmont, where Bassanio intends to win Portia’s hand. [Read more...]
I'm not sure I'd ever be able to agree to pay for a debt with a pound of my own flesh... Upon finishing the SparkNotes summary before I finish the book, I marveled at the genius of Shakespeare's plot and how the characters are so clever, especially Portia.

With Trio my cat in my lap and the book in my hand, I continue my reading. Happy Saturday!

P/S: Have you read or watched The Merchant of Venice?