Tuesday, May 10, 2016

549 (2016 #15). Shylock Is My Name

by Howard Jacobson

Shylock is My Name is The Merchant of Venice retold - the second in the Hogarth Shakespeare series of books where bestselling authors are commissioned to retell stories from Shakespeare.  Howard Jacobson did this one - unfortunately, I'm not familiar with his other work.

I have to admit that at first I did not see it with this book.  But then, The Merchant of Venice is less familiar to me than many of Shakespeare's other works.  In all the years (ten!) I watched Shakespeare in the Park in the Seattle area (four different plays per year). The Merchant of Venice was only performed once. I had to re-read my Folger Shakespeare Library edition of the play to more clearly see the parallels.

Plury in Jacobson's story is Portia from Shakespeare's, and instead of the three caskets (gold, silver, and lead), she tests her suitors with a Porsche Carrera, a BMW Alpina and a Volkswagon Beetle.  Plury's suitor Barnaby is Portia's suitor Bassanio. and the art dealer D'Anton is the parallel to the merchant Antonio, the one who has to give over the pound of flesh (or maybe it's an ounce - the price here is a circumcision).

The differences?  Shylock (who, along with his daughter Jessica, retains his name from Shakespeare's play) is NOT the villain.  Instead, it's another Jew named Simon Strulovitch, who, like the Shylock of the play, has a daughter (Beatrice, a parallel Jessica) who gets involved with a Gentile.

Unfortunately, none of the characters are particularly likable, and the conversations between Strulovitch and Shylock on what it's like to be Jewish became especially tiresome.  I like the idea behind the book, though, and look forward to reading others in the series.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this advance reader edition through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]

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