‘The Serpent of Venice’ book review
By Joshua Grant, Columnist
Were William Shakespeare alive today and decided to write novels, his work might have turned out a bit like that of Christopher Moore. Moore’s newest book, The Serpent of Venice, is a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Venetian dramas featuring bawdy humour, transvestism, and liberal borrowing of plot and character. His weapon for literary mayhem is the Fool characters, who traditionally serve as both comic relief and critical commentary.
The Serpent of Venice takes place some time after the end of Moore’s King Lear-inspired novel Fool (2009), with Pocket the Fool sent to Venice on a diplomatic mission. Dashing through Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Othello, as well as Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” Pocket, Othello, Shylock, and Jessica contend against plotting villains Antonio and Iago.
The Fool rights wrongs, foils plots, and delivers somewhat anachronistic remarks—such as Othello getting accused of being “a secret Muslim,” which is relevant both now and against the backdrop of a looming crusade. The novel also pokes fun at the conventions of drama, as how characters are painfully aware that they all have English accents and are able to hear and argue with the Chorus.
The novel is fun, but unfortunately, despite his apparent lack of control, the Fool is just too good at fixing things. The book also lacks some of the dread and sadness that could have made it a deeper, more rewarding read.