Finished August 18
The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore, performed by Euan Morton
This satire pulls from three classic works, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare's Othello, and Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado. As he says in the afterward, he chose the two Shakespeare works partly due to their setting of Venice. He draws characters from all three of these tales, having some characters take on multiple roles.
He has adjusted the setting to the late 13th century, around the time of the long war between Venice and Genoa. His main character is the fool, aka Fortunato, aka Pocket, a diminutive man sent to Venice as an emissary from England. With the death of his queen and lover, Cordelia, he finds himself a place at court, a favourite of the Doge.
When our hero is led into a trap in the cellars of a Venetian estate, he finds himself the object of interest of a strange creature that he only gradually identifies. His quest to revenge himself against his would-be murderers, and save Venice from a dastardly plot leads him to Corsica, where the general Othello and his new wife are, and on to Genoa to rescue his sidekick Drool and monkey Jeff, back to Corsica to try to save Othello from a plot, and back to Venice to enact his revenge. At his side is an unlikely partner, an adventurous young Jewish woman, intent on her own escape from domesticity. They are joined by the adventurer Marco Polo, who plays a key role. There is also a ghost. As Moore says repeatedly "There's always a bloody ghost."
The plot involves more than just plots and revenge. It also includes love, jealousy, murder (lots of it), betrayal, a chorus with personality, and humour (lots of it). Moore's sly jests are wonderfully done, and Morton's reading makes it all come alive. I haven't yet read the earlier book Fool, but will definitely seek it out.