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Merchant of Venice, G1r

Editorial note

This edit of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice focuses on introducing his works to children through use of the popular game, Roblox. One of the main reasons we chose Roblox over other world creation games such as Minecraft is its accessibility. While other games can be locked behind paywalls, Roblox is free to download and play, making it useful for children who have limited access to games.

We decided on a performance-style edit of Shakespeare's text because we wanted to capture the low attention spans of children. In addition, it preserves the text's format as a play. On that note, we also wanted to ensure the dialogue we used was modern but still maintained Shakespeare’s original meaning. For instance, young children may find it wordy to read "My people do already know my mind and will acknowledge you and Jessica in place of Lord Bassanio and myself," so we shortened it to "My servants know that you and Jessica are in charge." The use of "servants" rather than "people" in this edit elucidates the different power dynamics within the play. Ultimately, Portia is still an heiress, and similar to the past, she has attendants waiting on her and her family. Her voice, in regard to telling her people what to do, contributes to the theme of bargaining within the play. She is able to make decisions based on the fact that her family wields money's influence.  It’s worth noting that from the third folio onward in The Merchant of Venice, the traditional spelling of many words became regularized.  (See footnotes below.)

Another aspect of our translation is the modern-day lingo which includes (but is not limited to): "bae," "acc," "bestie" and "bet."  By inserting common phrases used by children today, we make it more fun for them to read and more immersive.  The inconsistent capitalizations, abbreviations and emoticons give the grammar a child-like quality, reminiscent of an actual Roblox conversation.  These phrases also signify the characters’ close relationships, since they are comfortable using this language with one another.  The Roblox chat filter also influenced our edition of the text, as certain phrases and names would be censored, so we had to adjust accordingly (i.e. "Balthazar" became "Balthasar").

While this page (G1r) was framed with more lighthearted language, it is important to note that The Merchant of Venice touches on darker subjects in its other scenes.  If we were to recreate the entire play in Roblox, it would be important to acknowledge all latent racism, religious discrimination and other pressing subjects with more sensitivity and appropriate seriousness, especially in regard to a younger audience.  Carefully teaching this kind of literature to children–telling its story while calling attention to its flaws–can help to solidify their awareness and sensitivity to racial inequities, especially at a stage when their worldviews are still developing.

The world created in Roblox features a castle set on a green plain, with water surrounding it, reminiscent of Belmont.  The castle emphasizes Portia’s inherited fortune, a symbol which children would likely understand.  The characters' wardrobes were chosen to accentuate certain elements of the play.  Dr. Bellario is given a professional suit, which alludes to his powerful, professional role, and mirrors his cousin Portia's wardrobe.  Balthazar wears a red robe; red being related to pink, this also associates him with Portia, as he is her servant.  Lorenzo's outfit features a cross necklace, while Jessica wears blue and white – together symbolizing the union of two people from different religions (Christianity and Judaism).  We felt it necessary to highlight this because religion plays a huge role as a dividing aspect in the lives of the characters.  Portia wears a pink power suit, further highlighting her strength and power in this scene--an unusual characterization to be given to a woman during the Elizabethan era.  The color pink is used both in her outfit and in the background to emphasize the dynamic between Portia’s femininity and her dominance.

This scene highlights feminist themes of Portia's rise to power.  From the beginning of the play, she is written as the object of affection to numerous suitors, and is given no choice about whom she will marry.  She is powerless to the Will that her father left behind.  As the play goes on, Portia's wealth and status enables her to make more decisions for herself and take charge, using her riches to save Bassanio (her husband) and Antonio from their debt to Shylock.  Defying typical Elizabethan gender roles, Portia is more powerful than Bassanio, who depends on her status, intellect, and money for support and salvation.  While Portia’s gender plays a role in this theme, it is also important to acknowledge that she possesses other traits (as a white Christian from a high social class) which contribute to her privilege.

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.

Works cited:
Shakespeare, William.  “The Merchant of Venice.”  Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, histories, and tragedies. Published according to the true original copies. The third impression.  Chetwinde, Philip, London, 1664, sig. P4v-P5r, Internet Shakespeare Editions,  

Shakespeare, William.  “The Merchant of Venice.”  Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, histories and tragedies: published according to the true original copies. The Fourth ed.  Herringman, Brewster, Chiswell, and Bentley, London, 1685, sig. N6v-O1r, Internet Shakespeare Editions,  

Baszucki, David and Gregory Baszucki.  “Roblox.”  For Windows PC, Roblox Corporation, 2004.

Citing this page: Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice, G1r. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Allison Joe and Lexi Moore. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).


1. Shakespeare italicized all the character’s names up through the third folio of The Merchant of Venice, but stopped italicizing in the fourth folio when the names are in stage instructions. For clarity's sake in this 2023 editorial version, the character names are neither italicized nor abbreviated, and they are left justified, making comprehension of who is speaking more kid friendly.

2. Most of Shakespeare’s wording was regularized after the third folio of The Merchant of Venice. For example, often the “v” and “u” in Shakespeare’s traditional words are switched today: “vntill” is now “until.” Other examples of regularization include the “e” was dropped for Shakespearean words such as owne, returne, vowe, doe, etc. Yet the “e” was added in certain words such as “far” which became today’s “fare.” This makes a big difference today for certain Shakespearean words like “doe” and “far” which have completely different meanings in today’s English if the “e” is not dropped or added. Additionally, Shakespeare often used the letter “v” twice to make a “w” -- he wrote “vvhich” in place of “which”; he also often depicted the letter “s” as “f” such that today’s “house” looked then like “houfe.”

3. The spelling here differs from Shakespeare’s original: the “u” was added in Shakespeare’s “cosin” – becoming today’s “cousin.” Shakespeare also sometimes drops the “u” such as in words like “commaunds” which became today’s “commands.”  Modernizing the spelling for these words helps young readers to more efficiently grasp the lexical semantics, so they can focus on understanding the actual content of the story.

4. Shakespeare wrote this line differently utilizing the traditional words “doth” and “thee” which are no longer used today. We translated "he doth giue thee" to "he gives you." (“Doth” means “does”, “thee” means “you” in the singular objective case.) We cut out the “does” altogether and instead of saying "does give", we put "gives." As mentioned in Footnote 2, Shakespeare’s “u” in “giue” is now a “v” in today’s “give.” Also notable is Shakespeare’s use of the word “thou” which means “you” in the singular subjective case.

5. Shakespeare’s old version spells this as Ferrie – capitalizing the word and using “ie” at the end instead of today’s “y.”  The reason for Shakespeare's capitalization of "Ferrie" is not clear, but this was changed due to its inconsistency with today's capitalization rules.