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Merchant of Venice, G1v

Editorial note

In this scene, Portia confides in Nerissa and shares her plan to dress as a man in order to help save Antonio from the gruesome fate that the bond entails. She decides on this course of action after hearing about the sinking of his ship. This news makes her acutely aware of the immediate action that needs to be taken to shift his fate, thus sparking the contents of this scene, in which she shares with Nerissa her plan to disguise as a man to change the course of Antonio’s fate. 

In re-writing this scene, we wrote it as a text conversation between the two women. The modern slang, relaxed punctuation, and the use of ‘inspo pics’ mirror a modern-day text conversation between two friends. Through this design, the original text becomes an accessible and interesting lens to view Shakespeare through. In many cases, adolescent or High School students are either required to or would simply like to read Shakespeare; but an inexperience, apprehension, or blanket disinterest with the early modern vocabulary repels younger readers from engaging with plays such as The Merchant of Venice. Framing the scene in a context that is familiar and engaging to these audiences not only widens the accessibility of Shakespeare but also seeks to grow appreciation and understanding of early modern texts, such as Merchant of Venice.  

The use of ‘inspo pics’ in Portia and Nerissa’s construction of a man was also a medium in which we could present how gender in the play is constructed, in a way that is still applicable today. Many readers may encounter the original text and find the construction of a man to be something of the distant past, but presenting it with pictures of the clothes, and characteristics we associate with manhood today, frames the construction of gender in a modern context, thus enriching the understanding and applicability of the play.  





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.

All screenshots are from Maisie Saganic.

Citing this page: Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice, G1v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Annelise Dramm and Maisie Saganic. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16).