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Merchant of Venice, F3v

Editorial note

Roadman: a 21st-century slang word, describing a boy (normally at a teenage age) as someone who thoroughly knows the ins and outs of his area, and the people in the area – he will also be involved in popular events such as trapping, driving (cruising), parties, etc.  (Urban Dictionary) 

For our digital edition of F3v, we’ve decided to focus on the perception of class and what defines “classy” in The Merchant of Venice. In order to make the class divisions more visible for a Gen Z audience, we changed the language of the characters Jessica and Bassanio into roadman slang. We envisioned our edit of The Merchant of Venice as a contemporary take on the play in the context of London’s diverse street culture for a younger audience of today’s society.

We chose Jessica to speak in roadman slang because of the classist discrimination that exists in the play. As a Jewish living in Venice, the community that she lived in was considered a “ghetto” by Venetian standards at the time. Her status as a Jew, along with her father’s profession as a merchant/money-lender, emphasizes her position as an outsider among all the other Christian characters. Her father’s status as a Jew in the money-lending business also makes Jessica seem “untrustworthy” because of the “sketchy” nature of her father’s business.

Meanwhile, the choice of having Bassanio speak in roadman slang emphasizes his hyper-masculinity, along with the hyper-masculinity that is prevalent in roadman language. Despite coming from a respectable background, he indulges in a debauched lifestyle that is synonymous with the 21st-century definition of a roadman. In our edit, we want to show Bassanio in his true colors. Even though he has all the privileges of an upper-class, white, and Christian male in society, he chooses to abuse his privileges instead of being aware of them. Therefore, his attempt at “cosplaying” a different social class is a choice to show his lack of respect for the difficulties faced by those less privileged than he is. 

We chose not to include Portia in our edits because she is a part of the ruling class in Venetian society of the time. By maintaining her original language, we are also maintaining her elevated status over Jessica and Bassanio. Portia is considered the Christian ideal of a woman, and the lack of change in her language also signifies the rigid standards of behavior expected of her by those whom she interacts with. Which she is later allowed to overcome through her crossdressing and becoming the lawyer Balthazar. We wanted to show a stark contrast between her and Jessica. While Portia must keep up a formal and “posh” facade, Jessica as a woman isn’t held in the same esteem as Portia due to her status as a Jew. 

Aside from the complete modern transcription, we chose to omit parts of the original text and replace them with roadman slang words and roadman grammatical structure. We will explain the definitions in the context of the characters in the footnotes, along with the decisions behind our changes.

Roadman Slang Edition


I linked up1 with him innit?2 I heard him swear

To Tubal and to Chus, his mandem3,

That he would rather have Antonio’s flesh

Than twenty times the value of the bands4

That he did owe him. And I know, my lord,

If law, authority, and power owned him5,

It will be hard on6 poor Antonio.


Is it your dear friend that is thus in trouble?


My best mate7, a solid8 chap9,

Bruv’s10 true fam11 with dench12 spirit

To roll with13, and one in whom

The ancient Roman honor more appears

Than any that draws bare14 breath in Italy.


What sum owes he the Jew?


Bruv.15 For me, he owes the pagan16 three thousand ducats.


What, no more?

Pay him six thousand and deface the bond.

Double six thousand and then treble that,

Before a friend of this description

Shall lose a hair through Bassanio’s fault.

First go with me to church and call me wife,

And then away to Venice to your friend!

For never shall you lie by Portia’s side

With an unquiet soul. You shall have gold

To pay the petty debt twenty times over.

When it is paid, bring your true friend along.

My maid Nerissa and myself meantime

Will live as maids and widows. Come, away, 

For you shall hence upon your wedding day.

Bid your friends welcome, show a merry cheer;

Since you are dear bought, I will love you dear.

But let me hear the letter of your friend.

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, F3v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by [Dolly Davidson and Laney Nguyen]. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).

Outside Sources: Ilbury, Christian. “The Recontextualisation of Multicultural London English: Stylising the ‘Roadman.’” Language in Society, 2023, pp. 1–25.,




  1. Linked up: meet up
  2. Innit: literally a contraction of isn’t it, put at the end of sentences to reaffirm what the speaker just said.
  3. Mandem: a close group of friends. This is a masculine slang word that emphasizes a group of friends that consists of only men.
  4. Bands: a large sum of money.
  5. Owned him: dominated him. This is our savage spin on Jessica’s original line, We view this as a verbal “revenge” from Jessica on Antonio for the mistreatment of her father.
  6. Be hard on: be difficult for, not specifically roadman slang but included as more casual language. We chose to also make this a double entendre to show Jessica’s awareness of the sexist society she lives in and the domineering male presence in her life.
  7. My best mate: my best friend
  8. Solid: reliable, trustworthy, overall good.
  9. Chap: boy or man who the speaker is friendly with.
  10. Bruv: brother, close male friend who is like a brother
  11. Fam: family, or close friends who are like family added for comedic effect directly after bruv, which is making a similar reference to family to show he is very close with and loyal to Antonio.
  12. Dench: good/great. The origins of the word comes from the London music scene, we added this word to further show Bassanio’s self-indulgence lifestyle which likely involves music and partying.
  13. Roll with: spend time with, get along with
  14. Bare: a lot, We added this as an extension to the original as an exaggeration to show Bassanio’s dishonest nature.
  15. Bruv: this use of bruv is different from the last, used as an exasperated exclamation, imagined here said with a sigh
  16. He owes the pagan: in roadman slang pagans are slang for enemies or rivals, this religious and historical reference to pagans being the enemy of Christians ties back into the religious tension of the play although in the play it is between Christianity and Judiaism not Christianity and Paganism. In this the pagan is Shylock.