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Merchant of Venice, F4r

Editorial note

For this page, we decided to create a stick figure comic representation of the important plot points from the page. Our goal with this depiction was to make the character interactions way clearer as well as make the scene feel very comedic. To represent who was who, we put the characters' names on their faces to make it very clear who was who. However, to make it more visually compelling we used different head features such as hair lengths and hat colors that related to the character's known features. We adapted this by giving them each their respective versions of those frequented features. For Portia, we went for the classic “girl” long hair as a humorous representation of a girl. As seen in many theatrical and movie adaptations, Shylock and Antonio both wear hats, Shylock in a red hat and Antonio in a black hat. Bassanio also sports a common hairstyle, medium-length curls which we adapted with a brown curly line similar to Portia’s hair. The Jailor gets his own modern “Sheriff Badge” to represent his political authority. Additionally we used fonts to express visually what voice we believe a character speaks in. 

What is Gained:

By doing this stick figure comic we were able to focus on the most important plot points from the page, excluding the dialogue that felt unnecessary and/or detracted from the story. By simplifying the dialogue into more modern text we were able to make it feel more like a comedy. By specifically detailing the six characters and their interactions with each other we were able to clearly display the movements of each character and how they affect the delivery of their lines. Through simplifying their bodies, the deliberate placement of their limbs captured exactly what we felt was the most important representational motion for that moment.

What is Lost: 

By choosing to go with a stick figure comic strip style, we lose a lot of the poetry and prose of the original text. Not only are we missing the prose, but actual words and phrases go unsaid as well. We paraphrased the lines to simplify the meaning of this page’s content and provide clarity to our audience. Furthermore, we modernized the language when we paraphrased the dialogue (“looke” becomes “look” / “jaylor” becomes “jailor” / “phanges” becomes “fangs”), so the audience is no longer seeing the early modern English spellings.


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, F4r. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Grace Murphy and Katherine Yanulis. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).