The Merchant of Venice: The Novel (Digital Download)
Shakespeare: envision whirlwind comedies, electric performances, and edge-of-your-seat plots. Incredible on stage, but sometimes, the magic fades a bit on the page.

However, what if The Merchant of Venice was recast not just as a play, but as a gripping modern novel?

Embark on a journey with Bassanio, a Venetian nobleman, as he navigates the complexities of love and ambition, setting his sights on the radiant and affluent Portia of Belmont. This reimagined version employs contemporary language and storytelling techniques to rejuvenate the classic tale, making it more accessible and captivating than ever. Dive into Shakespeare's wit and wisdom, now tailored for the modern reader's palate.






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Chapter 1 

 The streets of Venice bustled with people. The spring weather had struck the rare balance of warm while managing to avoid being too humid- a miracle of a sort for a city surrounded and cut through with water.

Since Antonio had no important meetings that day, he had decided to close down his trading company's office for a bit and join most of Venice in walking about. Along the way, he ran into Salarino and Salanio, two friends who joined him. As they walked and talked, the conversation turned to Antonio's mood.

“I have no idea why I am so sad,” he said. “It tires me and you say it tires you, too. And how I came about being so sad-- whatever it’s about and where it comes from-- I do not know. It all makes me feel so stupid, and I have to make it my business to know myself.”

“You’re thinking about the ocean and wondering how your ships are doing,” said Salarino very matter of factually. “They are fine, like citizens on the deep waves or like a play out on the sea— they are large and look down on the smaller ships that bow to them and pay them respects as they fly past with their elegant sails.”

“Trust me, if I had dealings going on like you do most all of my thoughts and attention would be on the business overseas,” Salanio agreed. “I would be plucking up blades of grass to figure out which way the wind blows and peering at maps looking for ports and piers and roads. Any little thing that might make me afraid of bad luck taking over my business would fill me with doubt and that would make me sad.”

“Blowing on my soup to cool it would make me feel so upset because I’d think of the harm a strong wind at sea might do to my ships,” Salarino continued. “I wouldn’t be able to look at sand in an hourglass without worrying about shallow waters with sandbars. I’d see my majestic ship Andrew docked in the sand, upside down with the sails in the water sinking to her death. If I were to go to church I’d see the stones it is made of and I couldn’t help but think of dangerous rocks which could split the sides of my ship, scattering all the spices in the hold into the ocean and tossing the silks inside upon the waves. In an instant- It’d be worth nothing.” Salarino snapped his fingers for emphasis at that last thought. “How could I have these thoughts about all that could go wrong and not worry? The things I’d imagine that could happen would make me so sad. You don’t have to tell me—I know, Antonio is sad to think of all that could happen to his merchandise.”

Antonio shook his head at his friends' speculating. “No, trust me, that’s not it. I am financially stable and I don’t have everything invested in one ship or in one place. My finances are not dependent on how well I do this year, so it’s not the merchandise in the ships making me sad.”

“Well, then, you must be in love,” said Salarino with a surety that made Antonio laugh.

“Get out of here!” said Antonio with a chuckle.

“Not in love, either?” asked Salarino with a smile. “Well let’s just say you are sad because you are not happy. It would be just as easy for you to laugh and dance and say you are happy because you are not sad. Humans have two faces and many people have strange ways of expressing moods. Some will look out at the world and laugh at just about anything while others are so sour and bitter they won’t ever crack a smile, even at the funniest jokes in the world.”

“Here comes your cousin Bassanio, along with Gratiano and Lorenzo,” said Salanio. He motioned his head down the street where the three young men were approaching. Bassanio waved his hand and Antonio waved back. “We’ll see you later- they’ll be better company for you.”

“I would have stayed until I cheered you up if friends you are closer to hadn’t shown up,” said Salarino

“You are worth much to me in that way,” said Antonio. “I’m thinking your own business needs you and you are taking the chance to leave.”

“Hello, my good men!” said Salarino.

“Hello, both of you,” said Bassanio. “When will we get together for fun? When? I never see you these days. Does it have to be that way?”

“We’ll be available whenever you want to get together,” responded Salarino. He and Salanio shook hands and walked off, leaving Antonio with new company.

“Bassanio, since you have found Antonio, we will go ahead,” said Lorenzo. “But at dinner time don’t forget we’re getting together.”

“No problem, I’ll be there,” said Bassanio.

Not taking the cue to leave Gratiano began speaking. “You don’t look so good, Antonio. You take the world too seriously. You don’t gain anything by investing so much. Trust me, you don’t seem quite yourself.”

“The world is just the world, Gratiano,” responded Antonio. “A stage where every man must play a part, and mine is a sad one.”

“Well then let me play the fool’s part.” Gratiano became excited at the chance to spout some thoughts he had been mulling over earlier. “I will have fun and laugh until I am wrinkled. And let me ruin my liver with wine rather than my heart be ruined with crying. Why should a man whose blood is warm sit still like the statue of his grandfather carved in stone? Why should he sleep when he is awake and grow sickly from being irritable? I’ll tell you what, Antonio- I love you, and it is my love that speaks when I say there is a type of man whose face becomes frothy and scummy like a stagnant pond, who is purposely silent and still, to try to make others see them as wise, respected and important, as if they are saying ‘I am Mr. Wiseman, and when I open my mouth, dogs should stop barking!’ Antonio, I know of many men who are thought to be very wise simply by saying nothing, but I’m sure if they were to speak, it would be painful to hear and those hearing them would see them as fools.”

Glancing at Lorenzo, Gratiano finally understood that he was overstaying his welcome. “I’ll talk more about this some other time. But for now, stop looking for sadness It’s foolish to do so, in my opinion. Come on, Lorenzo, let’s go. I’ll say more about this after dinner.”

“Well, we will see you at dinner time,” Lorenzo as he shook Bassanio's hand and started walking away. “I must be one of these dumb wise men because Gratiano never lets me speak.”

“Well, hang out with me for another couple of years and you won’t even recognize the sound of your own voice.”

“See you later. I’ll become a talker after all of this!” said Antonio.

“Thanks, and trust me, silence is only good in a cow’s tongue that’s ready to eat or that of an old maid.”

Left alone, Antonio turned to Bassanio. “Is that important what he says?”

Bassanio shrugged his shoulders. “Gratiano says a lot about nothing- more than any other man in Venice. The point he tries to make is like two grains of wheat hidden in a haystack: you spend the whole day looking for them and once you find them, you realize they weren’t worth the trouble.”

Antonio smiled at the answer. He could see in Bassanio's young eyes his close friend, who had died more than a decade ago, followed soon by his wife. This tragedy solidified the relationship between Antonio and the orphaned Bassanio, which moved between that of father and son to brothers depending on moods and context. Right now it was the former, as Antonio had heard word of what Bassanio was up to.

“So, tell me now who is the girl you’re taking a secret trip to see? The one you promised to tell me about today?”

“Well, as you know, Antonio I’ve more or less ruined my finances by living the high life and spending way beyond my means.”

Antonio knew very well. As Bassanio had no close relations to speak of, the tidy fortune that his father had left him was quickly spent, as one left to an unsupervised young man in Venice was bound to be.

“I’m not complaining about having to cut back from what I was used to spending,” Bassanio continued “and my main concern is to be able to pay off all of the debts that all that time of extravagant overspending left me with. To you, Antonio, I owe the most, in both money and appreciation, and because of your kindness I feel it is my duty to share with you my plan for clearing myself of the debts I owe.”

Antonio had never expected Bassanio to pay him back, as he had given the money out of love. It was Bassanio who had kept a close account of what he took from Antonio, grateful for it. “Please, Bassanio, tell me your plan and if it sounds solid, as you yourself do, on my word, you can be certain that my money, myself and anything I can do for you are at your disposal to help you.”

“Back when I was in school, if I lost an arrow I would shoot another one in the same direction in the exact same way, but I’d watch it closer in order to find the first one, and by shooting both I found both, most of the time. I tell you this story because what I’m about to say may sound silly. I owe you a lot, and like a stubborn child, I lost everything I owe you. But if you are willing to shoot another arrow in the same direction as the first one you shot for me, I have no doubt I will watch where it goes and find both or, at the very least, bring the second one back and only owe you for the first.”

“You know me well, and you are spending too much time going on about our friendship with such detail,” said Antonio. “You’re doing more harm by doubting our friendship and making me wonder about us now than if you had destroyed all that I have. Just tell me what it is you need me to do and as long as you know I am capable of doing it, I will do it. So, just tell me what you need.”

“In Belmont there is a woman who has inherited a lot of money and she is beautiful, and even better than that, she is a good person. Sometimes the way she looks at me makes me think she is trying to let me know she likes me. Her name is Portia, and she is no less valuable than the Portia who is Cato’s daughter and married to Brutus. The whole world knows how wealthy she is and the four winds from every direction blow in famous suitors, and her blond hair falls in her face like the golden fleece in the Greek myth, and her estate on the coast of Belmont is like Colchos, and many men come to win her, like Jason in the myth. Antonio, if I only had the money to hold my own against them, I know in my mind I could win her heart and I have no doubt I’d be successful!”

“You know that all my money is invested in my ships and I don’t have the money on hand or the goods to raise the cash you need.” Antonio waited a beat before continuing. “So, let’s go and see what my good credit in Venice can drum up. We’ll get as big a loan as possible to provide what you need to get to Belmont and beautiful Portia. Go ask around, and so will I, let’s find out where the money is and I won’t hesitate to sign for it in my name.”
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