A Sonnet Review of ‘The Serpent of Venice’

serpent-of-veniceIt takes awhile for me to know an author enough to put on my “must read” list. With “The Serpent of Venice,” I think I must put Christopher Moore on that list.

“Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” was an amusing story that steered clear of blasphemy without going too far into reverence.

But I really liked the cleverness of “Serpent.” Moore treated Shakespeare’s words like dialect, retaining enough of the original to convey the flavor without bogging down the text. Take this example: Pocket, the Fool from “King Lear,” and former king of England and France, is disconsolate after the death of his queen, Cordelia, is rescued by Othello after falling drunk into the Grand Canal:

“She is dead. My love.”

“I know,” said the Moor.

“You don’t know love. Look at you. You’re a soldier — a hard, scarred, killing thing — a weapon. You’ve had an alehouse whore or the odd widow of the conquered, maybe, but you don’t know love.”

“I know love, fool. Love may not be mine, but I know it.”

“You lie,” said the fool.

The Moor looked at torchlight reflecting on the canal and said, “When a woman looks upon one’s scars with wonder, and sees not the glory of battles won, but sheds tears for the pain of injury suffered, then is love born. When she pities a man’s history and wishes away his past troubles with present comforts, then is love awakened. When that which makes a warrior hard is met with beauty offered most tender, then can he find love.”

It should also be noted that “The Serpent of Venice” is a beautiful book. The page edges are tinted blue to match the cover, and the chapter titles and headers are printed in red on luscious cream paper. Also reddened are the words of the Chorus, which pops up to comment on the story and sometimes argue with the players. All of it is clever fun.

Here are two shots to show what I mean. .

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(Click on the one below to embiggen)

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Finally, let me apologize in advance for the below:

The ghost of the Bard might rise and cry “hold!”
And file a copyright suit with menace,
But Christopher Moore created a mash-up,
Of Othello and the Merchant of Venice.
“The Serpent of Venice”” is a sequel,
To “Fool” starring that foul-mouthed clown,
Seeking revenge for his queen foully killed,
And breaking his love, his life and his crown.
The stories unfold along Shakespeare’s lines,
Iago plots, Portia whines, Othello rides stallions,
Fool rescues his friends in motley and tights,
As a snake snacks on red-shirted Italians,
“Serpent” takes stories many find a chore
And make us rise from our chair crying “Moore!”