cover image The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare. Candlewick Press (MA), $21.99 (68pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-3024-9

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. (May)