“The Serpent of Venice(Not Your Grandfather’s Shakespeare)



Christopher Moore has written thirteen books before “The Serpent of Venice”, and they all drip like poison on a wine glass with a fine wickedness you will surely enjoy. Before writing his first book Practical Demonkeeping in 1992, Moore had been a grocery clerk, insurance broker, waiter, a roofer, and amongst other things a rock and roll DJ. “The Serpent of Venice”, April 22 2014, is a mash-up of “The Merchant of Venice” (from which the book owes its title) “The Cask of Amontillado” and “Othello”. Moore takes these characters and other bits and pieces from canonical literature and pits them against the Fool Pocket, his monkey Jeff and an always aroused giant and apprentice fool, Drool.

Christopher Moore has a command of the vulgar. He is able to slash through the classics with a sick wit that would make many cringe. From Fool’s forced fornication with a sea monster, to Drool’s constant fondling of his member readers will find themselves far from the classic (and somewhat dry) tales most of us had to read in high school. Marco Polo had to spend some time with Drool, “In my travels I have learned to be respectful of other people’s culture.” “What culture?” “Well, he’s English, isn’t he?” “Nonstop wanking is not a part of English culture.” Sticking to the traditional themes of these classic tales such as the pursuit of power, deception, and murder Moore takes these tales and flips them on their heads. With love and money, honor, the threat of war, assassinations and more knives in backs than you can shake a cockscomb at, Moore plays on the themes of the classic works he riffed on, with a shag or two thrown in for good measure.

Moore takes the works of Bill Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe and with a few tweaks ties them together perfectly. Though written separately and spanning different times Moore weaves them together so well I felt the need to go back and revisit them. Moore’s reinventing of these classic tales begs you to go back and reread these stories, and after reading The Serpent of Venice I gained a new appreciation for them. I found myself picking up on the more lurid details, reading them from a new perspective.
Christopher Moore’s The Serpent of Venice takes classic tales and ramps them up with a more modern sense of humor. There are the players, the Merchant Antonio; the Senator Montressor Brabantio; and the Naval officer, Iago. Fool and his party, amongst many others, a ghost (there’s always a bloody ghost) and the Chorus. The Chorus becomes a character that can now interact with the cast, sometimes funny and at other times part writers convenience, the fourth wall is constantly broken down.

The Chorus chimes in from time to time, to set the scene, wrap things up or simple tare into the character and bring to light their faults and follies.
Chorus: “And so, chained in the dark, naked and bedeviled by a hellish creature unknown, after five changings of the tides, the fool went mad.”
Fool: “I am not mad”

Christopher Moore uses classic tales and blends them with techniques, diction and a writing style that is easily accessible to readers today. Multiple stories are being told simultaneously, breaking the fourth wall where the characters blatantly question how the world around them works. Moore treats the book itself like a play, setting up the cast and setting the stage. While setting the stage Moore ends it by saying “Strangely, although most of the characters are Venetian, everybody speaks English, and with an English accent. Unless otherwise described, assume conditions to be humid.” From this moment Moore sets the stage that even though he is working with classic tales, this is meant to be fun. That these great works are a playground, and Moore has brought his A game.


– By: Lou Bizzaro