Reviews for Merchant of Venice : A Play by William Shakespeare


Booklist Reviews 2008 March #2
Candlewick's graphic-format Shakespeare adaptations, with glossy paper and lavish art, seem diametrically opposed to the fast, energetic retellings of Abrams' Manga Shakespeare line. In this follow-up to King Lear (2007), Hinds (Beowulf, also 2007) cleaves to the darker elements of Shakespeare's "comedy," using realistic, rough-around-the-edges figures (Shylock looks like Al Pacino) and ink-and-chalk shades of grey. Certainly young, contemporary readers won't find many laughs in a story centering on a Jewish moneylender's attempt at merciless revenge against a young man in his debt, nor in the moneylender's shockingly anti-Semitic (by today's standards) comeuppance. The romantic element in the original has survived abridgement, but by excising large portions of the play (including characters devoted to comic relief) and setting the tale in modern times, Hinds has, instead, invited readers to engage with the most controversial notions of the play. An occasional incongruous passage of contemporary language aside, this is a powerful visual showcase for Shakespeare's work--though by no means a definitive one. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Fall
Hinds reformats Shakespeare's play as a graphic novel, with interesting--if mixed--results. Mostly using excerpts from key speeches (plus some incongruous colloquial paraphrases), Hinds shapes a coherent narrative. His characters, dressed in mid-twentieth-century clothing, convey as much meaning through expressive gestures and facial expressions as through dialogue. The clarity of narration (verbal and visual) makes this a fine bridge to Shakespeare's language. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #4
Hinds reformats Shakespeare's play as a graphic novel, with interesting -- if mixed -- results. Characters (usefully distinguished in a pictorial "Dramatis Personae") convey meaning as much through their expressive gestures and faces as by their dialogue, which begins with some incongruous shifting between Shakespeare's words and colloquial paraphrases. Portia: "'Oh, Nerissa, I am so tired.' 'Well, no wonder, with all your miseries -- oh, wait, you don't have any.' 'Good one...I can easier teach twenty what to do than be one of the twenty to follow my own teaching. But anyway, I can't choose my own husband: how's that for a misery?'" Overall, however, mostly using excerpts from key speeches, Hinds shapes a coherent narrative. Meanwhile, he limns characters with a sharp, rather unflattering pen, often on somber blue or gray wash. Eschewing costume drama, he dresses his elongated figures in mid-twentieth-century suits and dresses; no-nonsense Portia is especially tall and angular, while Shylock's daughter Jessica, in stylish spectacles, updates the Jewish stereotype that is the story's problematic heart. Antonio's and Shylock's rancor are equally distasteful here, with prejudice on both sides as clear as in the play, making this a good basis for discussion as well as a useful pre-performance introduction for young people; best, the clarity of the narration (verbal and visual) makes it a fine bridge to Shakespeare's language. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2008 April #1
Of late, there have been many unsuccessful attempts to adapt Shakespeare into the graphic-novel format; Hinds's beautiful new offering now sets the standard that all others will strive to meet. Presenting readers with deftly drawn characters (based on live models) and easily read dialogue that modulates over the course of the work from adapted prose to the original Shakespeare, he re-works the classic Shakespeare play of deception, greed and revenge. Though located in a modern setting, readers will easily follow the premise and find themselves lost in the intricately lovely Venetian backdrop. While this adaptation may leave purists sniffing at the omission of entire scenes and characters, Hinds carefully explains to his readers in a note why and how he made those choices. A deceptively simple graphic novel on the surface, this volume begs for multiple readings on a closer level, at the same time acting as a wonderful introduction to the original. Easily on a par with his stellar adaptation of Beowulf (2007), it's a captivating, smartly executed work. (Graphic novel. 12+) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 February #1

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 "you may be pleased to collect whatever usurious interest pleases your Jew heart." An author's note encourages further research on that matter and clarifies some of Hinds's creative decisions. (May)

[Page 43]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 May

Gr 7 Up -Shakespeare's original play has been modernized and recast in a graphic format with characters drawn from posed models, creating a realistic feel. The cover depiction of a casket, embossed with images of the courtroom scene, sets the stage for the multiple layers of meaning embedded within this drama, and beautiful endpapers with the "fish" map of Venice foreshadow the opening scene. The careful use of color to signal scene changes and page headings helps readers follow the action and refer to the original play. As the author's note explains, the decision to modernize the story creates visual and textual anachronisms. The men are attired in dress shirts and business suits. Portia wears an evening gown, even while traveling. Shylock sports a neatly trimmed beard and a slightly off-center bow tie, making it hard to envision him brandishing a knife in the courtroom. Even more jarring is the shift between modernized speech and the original Shakespearean language. For example, in Act I, Nerissa tells Portia, "Your father was a pretty sharp guy." In contrast, Nerissa announces in Act II, "My lord and lady, we that have stood by and seen our wishes prosper wish you joy." Despite the inconsistency, readers looking for an accessible introduction to the plot, major characters, and themes of The Merchant of Venice will enjoy this visually appealing book.-Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

[Page 156]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2008 June
In modern-day Venice, Bassanio consults with good friend Antonio about his chances for winning the hand of beautiful heiress Portia. Antonio, a merchant whose ships are about to come in, gladly offers to get credit for whatever wealth Bassanio needs to compete with the princes who also seek to woo Portia. When her wit and his sincerity prove the perfect match, all seems well, but Antonio's ships are lost at sea and his creditor, Shylock, demands a brutal payment. Only love and cunning can save the day as Shakespeare's timeless tale receives the graphic novel treatment. Hinds follows his well-received William Shakespeare's King Lear: A Graphic Novel (TheComic.com, 2007/Graphically Speaking, VOYA February 2008) with another ambitious and lovely Shakespeare adaptation. As with Lear and with Hind's Beowulf (Candlewick, 2007/VOYA June 2007), he changes styles to suit the material, this time drawing from life models to lend an air of reality and modernity. Also as with the previous books, he makes changes to the Bard's language in order to adapt the story to a shorter format and to increase accessibility. In the back of the book, Hinds explains the magnitude and nature of these changes (the most famous and significant passages are left intact), but the heart of the play remains present and clear. The Merchant of Venice is renowned not just for cleverness but also contentiousness, none of which is occluded by the move to a new format. Hinds's chiefly black-and-white art and new language are effective and go a fair way toward creating the feel of a play in the paper medium.-Lisa Martincik Illus. 4Q 3P J S A/YA G Copyright 2008 Voya Reviews.

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