Thursday, July 5, 2007

the merchant

Many literal adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays have been made into film. Some may change the era but remain faithful to the script, some offer the original theatre performance captured on film, and still others are simply influenced by Shakespeare’s masterpieces. The following is my cinematic interpretation inspired by the casket scene in the merchant of Venice:

What you desire, what you deserve, and what you get:

A rich prince walks into a bar, sits down and immediately starts boasting about how rich and fabulous he is. He has three palaces in various countries, thousands of ladies to choose from, and millions of pounds at his disposal, which he has no qualms spending freely. The old maid bar tender listens attentively while washing out a glass.

Rich prince: give me a bottle of only your finest!

The old maid squints an eye and knowingly chooses a particular bottle. Handing the prince his bottle she warns him,

“he who drinketh this shall gain what many men desire”

The rich prince proclaims “well that is of no matter, I desire nothing!”

As soon as the prince takes one sip of “the finest” he drops dead and is never mentioned again.

A few weeks later a bitter apprentice comes strolling into the bar. This apprentice complains to the old maid about how he deserves much more out of life. He claims,

“My master knows nothing, and I have to put up with him day in and day out. If I had it my way I would be a well to do nobleman, with 5 wives and endless wine!”

The old maid nods her head at all of the appropriate comments while wiping down her bar.

Apprentice: “Hag, give me what I can afford!”

Slamming down his life’s earnings, he decides to drink to his self pity.

The old maid flares a nostril and calculatingly reaches for a specific spigot. Handing the apprentice a pint she cautions him

“he who drinketh this shall get what he deserves”

The apprentice: that’s fine by me I deserve all of the gold in the world!

And with one gulp thousands of pounds of gold come crashing down on the apprentice killing him instantly.

A few weeks later a poor wanderer wanders through the old maid’s doors. She looks up from counting her cash and notices the state of the man. He wears hand me down thrift clothes which have been shabbily patched. She judges they are probably his only possessions, when she notices a small mangy looking dog at his heels. The man reaches down and scratches the dog behind one ear, then continues to the bar.

Wanderer: “M’am, I am but a poor wanderer, I have not a pound to my name, but I assure you if you could spare some bread and water I would forever be in your debt.”

The old maid takes uncharacteristic pity on the man and breaks half a loaf for him and hands him a cup of water. As the man turns to head out the door she wagers, she will never see him again, and she was only abetting his begging ways. But at that moment the man bends down and offers the starving dog all of the bread and water.

Astonished, the old maid invites the man to share a pint of beer. The wanderer thanks her kindly and chooses a stool at the bar.

The old maid purses her lips and goes off in search of a certain brew. She pours two mugs and in her toast she explains “he who drinketh this must give and hazard all he hath” the wanderer doesn’t understand a word but humbly toasts and the two sip in tandem.

Sputtering, the wanderer chokes as all of his clothes change from flea ridden rags to a new suit. He watches in amazement as the old maid transforms from a wrinkle ridden old hag into a beautiful young bar maid.

Once the dog stops barking, and all chaos ceases, the once old maid explains that she had been cursed for centuries. She had been turned into an ugly old maid and was forced to judge men on their character and allot payment or punishment accordingly. When the wanderer came and did not demand a thing from life, or desire more than what he had, and gave everything he could, he broke the curse.

A few weeks later the now young maid and the wanderer exchange vows and live happily ever after.

While Shakespeare’s scene revolves around image and inner beauty, my scene spins off of his references to human character. The caskets in his scene remind the suitors that they cannot always have what they want, they cannot always get what they think they deserve, and they must always give in order to receive. Once the suitors spend time with Portia, they realize that the ornamental caskets are merely pretty boxes holding nothing inside. Lead however, is merely an ugly exterior holding true inner beauty. My scene revolves around the inscriptions on each casket and what they imply.

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