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Merchant of Venice, D1r

Editorial note

We addressed our page as a stand-alone. We wanted the performance on the page to tell a single story that is not necessarily connected to other pages but still represents the ideas we found most compelling in the play. 

To make it easier to read the page alone, we removed the first three lines for the original. They were remnants of the previous page and didn’t add very much to our page. We also modernized some of the lofty language in the play to plain language to make it more accessible to the general public. In the past, the lofty language was probably to serve the elite who were most likely to see these places. We wanted to de-emphasize the elitism that is promoted through the difficult language and produce something that is still poetic but more accessible. 

The play also explores power dynamics between individuals and most of our edits were aimed at emphasizing the hierarchy of power on our page. In the general context of the play, Shylock goes from being powerful in relation to some people and powerless in relation to others. However, on our page he remains comfortably situated above both Lancelet and Jessica. Between those characters there is also a hierarchy in relation to Shylock. Lancelet is above Jessica in this moment, in relation to Shylock. To emphasize these ideas we used colors, bold, italics, and punctuation.

Identity is also a key element of the play. We used capitalization and brackets to label the characters in ways that reflected not only their position in the hierarchy on the page, but the impact of their identities and roles on their characters outside the page.

For Shylock’s name we capitalized the L to emphasize the “lock” in his name which is a key part of his character. He locks people or indents them to him using contracts. He locks his money in that he doesn’t spend it loftily and he locks his daughter up in the sense that he is extremely possessive of her. We also capitalized “THE JEW” because that is his most important identity in the play. That title governs how every character interacts with him or sees him and we thought it was important to emphasize that. His name is in a bolded bright red because we want it to stand out the most and show how dominant he is in this moment. His lines are all punctuated with a colon and the spaces between his name and lines are larger than that of the other characters. This is to create the visual illusion of “ShyLock THE JEW” being the most important idea on the page. We want that title to visually dominate the page, even his lines, since this title is his most implicating identity in the play. 

For Lancelet, we wanted his character to be easily identifiable as the second most powerful name on the page. His name is also bolded but it is a light grey to emphasize that he is below Shylock still but he is now a “former” clown and is less powerless in relation to Shylock. In our edit he is identified as “former CLOWNE TO Shylock THE JEW”. This is supposed to emphasize certain parts of his identity beyond the page and within it. The decision to keep the “e” in “clowne” goes back to a feministic perspective. When we were reading it, Lancelet came across as more of a masculine persona, but to modernize it more we wanted to make room for feminism, thus keeping the “e”. On our page he is more powerful than Jessica since he isn’t still tied to Shylock, which is emphasized by the bolding of his name Lancelet. However, in the larger scheme of the play, much like Shylock, his identity as a “clown” dominates all his other roles. We wanted to reflect the importance of these roles and labels in the play. Hence, the uppercase “CLOWNE TO” and “THE JEW.”  Another thing we wanted to emphasize with Lancelet is the implication of his relationship with Shylock in the beginning of the play when he was still his clown. “To” has more of a possessive connotation than “for” and we wanted to emphasize the idea of Shylock locking and possessing, except this time with people. This idea is emphasized through our expression of Jessica’s character. 

Jessica’s character has her title as “Daughter to Shylock” as her most prominent identity. The “to” again shows possession by Shylock whose name is introduced as an extension of her and Lancelet’s character, to preserve the idea of him as the most powerful person in the moment. Jessica is the least powerful character in this moment. This is because she is still tied to Shylock unlike Lancelet. Her very being is controlled and defined by her relationship to Shylock and we found that problematic. We wrote her name in a color that blends in with the rest of the text and used all lowercase to emphasize the misogyny in the play, especially in relation to Jessica. Another way we emphasized her character’s role, to society, as an extension of her father was by placing a “we” in brackets within her name. 

ShyLock uses a lot of “My, I, and Me” on this page and we highlighted them in red to emphasize first, his selfish desire to maintain authority, and second, to emphasize how successful he is in ensuring his dominance in this moment. He appears to think of himself as the final authority and the other characters don’t seem to challenge that. Lancelet uses “I” a few times which may be symbolic of his slight increase in power after leaving Shylock, but Jessica doesn’t refer to herself in any way and she is barely in the scene with only one line. 

Jessica’s character is the most powerless one on this page. However, in the play, her powerlessness is emphasized as a result of her affiliation to her dad. This is why the “we” in the bracket is so important to us. We colored that and part of her name to represent her identity as a “Je(we)ss”. Her relationship to Shylock who has “JEW” as his most important identity imposes the “Jewess” identity on her. While she doesn’t subscribe to that identity she is implicated by it. We didn’t bold it because we wanted to emphasize her dilemma concerning her relationship with her father and its implications. The other characters also don’t appear to relate with her based on this identity, unlike Shylock. 

Finally, we wanted to tie all these ideas together and position the characters in relation to their lines and the page as a whole. We used a red border around the page to emphasize Shylock’s locking of the power on this particular page. We also used a hyphen to place the lines as an extension of the other characters rather than said by them like Shylock. With a colon, the character gets a voice and appears to be saying the lines. But with a hyphen, the characters lack agency and are given lines that are merely an expectation of their characters. They don’t get to say things as themselves. They say them because it is required of their characters. 

Act 2.5 (continuation)

(ShyLock THE JEW) As thou hast done with me. —[He calls.] What, Jessica! —And sleep, and snore, and rend apparel out. [He calls.] Why, Jessica, I say!

LanceLet [former CLOWNE TO ShyLock THE JEW] – Why, Jessica!

ShyLock THE JEW: 

Who asked thee to call? I did not ask thee to call.

LanceLet [former CLOWNE TO ShyLock THE JEW] – You always desired to tell me I could do nothing without bidding.

Enter je(we)ssica [DAUGHTER TO ShyLock THE JEW].

je(we)ssica [DAUGHTER TO ShyLock THE JEW] – Did you call? What is it?

ShyLock THE JEW: 

I am bid forth to supper, Jessica. There are My keys. But why should I go? I am not bid for love—they flatter Me— but yet I’ll go in hate to feed upon the wasteful Christian. Jessica, My girl, look to My house. I am reluctant to go; My fortune seems to be ill at the moment, for I did dream of moneybags tonight.

LanceLet [former CLOWNE TO ShyLock THE JEW] – I beseech you, sir, go. My young master doth expect your presence.

ShyLock THE JEW: 

So do I his.

LanceLet [former CLOWNE TO ShyLock THE JEW] – And they have conspired together. I will not say you shall see a mask, but if you do, then it was not for nothing that my nose bled on Black Monday [Easter] at six o’clock in the morning. The same thing happened four years ago on the afternoon of Ash Wednesday.

ShyLock THE JEW:

What, are there masks? Hear Me, Jessica: lock up My doors, and when you hear the drum and the vile squealing of the wry-necked flute, clamber not up to the windows then, nor thrust your head into the public street to gaze on Christian fools with varnished faces; but stop My house’s ears—I mean My windows. Let not the sound of shallow fools enter My sober house. By Jacob’s staff I swear I don’t feel like feasting tonight; but I will go. Go before Me, sirrah. Say I will come.

Image credit: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library, copy G.176.16. The most excellent historie of the merchant of Venice. First Quarto. London: 1600.

Citing this page: Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice, D1r. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Esther Yankah Koranteng and Mélanne Ghahraman. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).