THE MERCHANT OF VENGEANCE

Simon Hawke, Author . Forge $23.95 (253p) ISBN 978-0-7653-0426-1

In Hawke's solid fourth entry in his somewhat discursive series about ostler Tuck Smythe and young Will Shakespeare (after 2002's Much Ado About Murder ), Will wants to write a better play than Kit Marlowe's Jew of Malta , but he has never met a Jew (nor has almost anyone else in late 16th-century England, for they were expelled 300 years earlier). When Will and Tuck question their best-traveled friend, Ben Dickens, about Jews, they learn that a tailor's promising career and imminent marriage have been shattered by his prospective father-in-law's discovery that the young man's mother was a Jew. Tuck's suggestion that the couple elope determines the course of the rest of the tragic story, which roughly parallels the plot of The Merchant of Venice . The author nicely evokes Elizabethan London: the wherrymen who supply the equivalent of taxi service along the Thames; Paul's Walk, the nave of the old St. Paul's church, which has become a place for assignations and booksellers; and the highly organized criminal underworld, where justice is meted out without appeal and Will finds himself defending a man accused of murder. Hawke does a better job of drawing his male characters than his female ones, but he provides all his principals with enough depth for readers to care about their fate. Fans should look forward to further adventures as Will develops as a playwright. (Dec. 10)

Reviewed on: 12/01/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
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