Home » Exercises » Merchant of Venice: The College Years

Merchant of Venice: The College Years

Ideally, all these actors would be in my adaptation, and it would be filmed in 2000.

Ideally, all these actors would be in my adaptation, and it would be filmed in 2000.

“Cut us, we bleed. Tickle us, we laugh. Screw us over, and we’ll screw you over!”

~Shy, My Adaptation

I was bored in Shakespeare class yesterday and outlined a modern-day adaptation of one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, The Merchant of Venice, as set in a college environment. Shakespeare-inspired teen comedies were turned into a fun subgenre back in the late 90s-early 00s, but I don’t think anyone has attempted a version of the play that centers around one guy trying to chop a pound of flesh out of another. The play just doesn’t work well for adaptation. Which is what makes it fun to attempt.

Dramatis Personae:

Tony – The popular, friendly, good-guy jock senior.

“Shy” – A bitter nerdy senior. Nicknamed for his quiet demeanor.

Bill – Tony’s best friend, who has just transferred from another college.

Portia – A smart, driven pre-law student. She’s looking for love, but disillusioned by the self-serving guys within her major.

Jessica – Shy’s freshman sister.

Lorenzo – A dweeby freshmen. Often teased for having a name out of Shakespeare or something.

Plot:

Shy works at the registrar’s desk, overseeing the fraternities on campus. He harbors a deep grudge against Tony, whose frat voted to keep him out back in their freshman year. When Tony comes to him to get Bill into the fraternity at short notice, Shy sees his moment for revenge: he cuts a deal. Bill’s in the fraternity, but if he can’t keep his grades up high enough to stay in, Tony must give Shy his Facebook and LinkedIn passwords — career suicide.

A sub-plot follows Bill’s romance with Portia after he wins a date with her in a contest during Greek Week. He’s the least materialistic, so she picks him. Also, Jessica starts dating Lorenzo, much to Shy’s dismay.

In the end, Bill’s grades tank, and unless he aces his last final, Tony’s career will go down in flames before it has started. Tony must appeal to the student fraternity board, where Portia masquerades as a frat member in order to qualify to defend Tony. Shy is defeated. Everyone else lives happily ever after.

I have a few loose ends to figure out… like how Portia stops Shy, or how the plots can tie together better than they do in the source material. Or how to deal with the extra ring subplot from the original play. I still need a good title. Also, I might give Shy a love interest so that it’s not a totally downer ending for him.

But, perhaps most importantly, this adaptation sets up a nice mirror of the original’s line about Shylock wanting a pound of flesh in order to bait fishhooks:

“What do you want his linkedin password for, anyway?”

“To bait phishers with.”

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