cover image The Serpent of Venice

The Serpent of Venice

Christopher Moore. Morrow, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-177976-3

Moore’s mash-up of Othello and The Merchant of Venice with Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” is a standout sequel to Fool, his twisted retelling of King Lear from 2009. After a dastardly trio of Venetians (including Iago) plot to bury alive Pocket the fool for thwarting an attempt to cook up a new Crusade from which they’d hoped to profit, he is saved by what he believes is a seriously horny mermaid. He washes up in Venice’s Jewish ghetto and is rescued by Shylock’s lovably abrasive daughter, Jessica. She leaves with Pocket, hoping to elope with a Venetian gentile with whom she is in love, as he attempts to rescue his motley companions with his friend Othello’s help, and to warn the general that a plot’s afoot. Moore’s imaginative storytelling, bawdy prose, puns aplenty, as well as his creation of a violent sea creature intent on helping Fool’s cause, and Jessica’s “piratey” disguise, succeed in transforming two classical tragedies into outrageously farcical entertainment. In conjunction with the historical setting, the humor also allows Moore to skewer greed, hypocrisy, and racism—e.g., Middle Eastern wars for profit, segregation (in this instance, of the Jews)—all of which are still endemic in modern culture. (Apr.)