When deciding the format of our translation, we wanted to choose a structure that would maintain the seriousness of this scene. Though this page alone may feel trivial, it is positioned immediately between Jessica being told that she can never go to heaven even if she marries a Christian and when Shylock is brought before the royal court. Those pieces of context surrounding this page necessitated that we treat our page with seriousness, and thus not translate it into a more comedic form such as a text message.
We chose to modernize the wording of the play while still maintaining the original play format, changing names and phrasing to fit with 21st-Century language. Our goal in doing so was to convey the message of the page in a casual and straightforward manner so that a wide range of audiences would be able to understand it while not straying too far from the essence of the original text. Another way that we updated this page while staying consistent with the play was by modernizing the names Lancelet, Jessica, Lorenzo and Lord Bassanio, but not changing Bassanio/Bruno’s title as a lord. For extra clarity, some stage directions were also added, such as tone indicators and which characters were being addressed.
Much of this page concerns opinions of other characters; we sought to improve the clarity of these moments, especially when Lorenzo reflects on his annoyance toward Lancelet and when Jessica expresses her opinion of Portia. In the original text, these opinions are described using lengthier language, most of which is foreign to modern readers. Our changes are intended to make Lorenzo’s and Jessica’s opinions clear to a broader audience that includes those who are not well-versed in Shakespearean literature.
Our translation aims to make this older text more accessible to a variety of modern audiences while maintaining the spirit, if not the words, of the text.
Lance. That is done too, sir. Everything's covered.
Lance. Like I said, it’s covered.
Enzo. Cut the crap, Lance. What I’m saying is very simple–try to keep up. Tell the other servants to set the table, serve the meat, and we’ll come to dinner.
Lance. (sarcastic) My apologies, oh gracious master. The table will be set, the meat will be ready, and, if you so desire, we humble servants will be honored to have you join us for dinner.
Enzo. He may think he’s clever, but I’ve met plenty of idiots more witty than him. Besides, he’s just talking nonsense… [Turns to Jess] How are you, Jess? What did you think of Lord Bruno’s wife?
Jess. Lord Bruno is truly blessed to have such an amazing wife. If he doesn’t appreciate heaven on earth, he doesn’t deserve heaven after earth. No other woman compares to her–she’s truly out of this world.
Enzo. I’d be just as good a husband as she is a wife.
Jess. Oh, I’d love to tell you what I think about that.
Enzo. How about you tell me exactly what you think after dinner?
Jess. Let me praise you while I’m still in the mood.
Enzo. Let’s save it for dinner–then, I promise to listen.
Image credit: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, The British 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, G2v. London: 1600. Cacodemon Digital Shakespeare. Edited by Olivia McGeever and Vineet Kaushik. Source edition: Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library (copy G.176.16). http://cacodemonshakespeare.com/comedies/merchant/g2v.