THE SERPENT OF VENICE by Christopher Moore



Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello, Antonio, the titular merchant of Venice, and Monstressor Brabantio from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” walk into a bar….

It’s a joke but it’s quite a complicated one in the latest historical farce from Moore (Sacre Bleu, 2012, etc.). In this follow-up to Fool (2009), Moore brings back Pocket of Dog Snogging, his prodigious companion, Drool, and pet monkey Jeff for another round of satirizing the Bard of Avon by way of the Marx Brothers. After trouncing King Lear, Moore has decided a mashup is in order, reconciling its multiple inspirations to a mythical Venice circa 1299. Pocket starts his new adventure poorly, having been walled into Poe’s fictional prison by Brabantio, where he’s reduced to talking to the Chorus (there’s always a bloody chorus). “I am not bloody mad, you berk,” he exclaims, to which the Chorus replies, “You’re shouting at a disembodied voice in the dark.” Bid by his queen, Cordelia, to travel to the sunken kingdom of Venice to help the Moor, Othello, and stop a conspiracy forged in greed from prosecuting a crusade, Pocket fumbles his way through a complicated adventure buoyed by Moore’s half-cocked Shakespearean dialogue, puerile humor and ceaseless banter. The setting helps the author’s cause, lending a rich historical backdrop that includes trade disputes, political intrigue and Shakespearean spectacle. Readers who are steeped in Shakespeare and aren’t too sensitive will enjoy outrageous lines like, “Cry havoc, and let slip the trousers of most outrageous bonkilation!” Purists are better advised to stick with safer adaptations, where they’re less likely to encounter Marco Polo lollygagging in a Venetian prison, the prodigious use of perennial Moore vulgarities (“Fuckstockings!”) or our hero shagging a dragon. It is, as the author himself calls it, an abomination, but fans who enjoyed the rollicking play within a play of Fool or the historical whimsy of Sacre Bleu will find many of the same gifts here.

Fool’s gold, replete with junk jokes, from one of America’s most original humorists.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-06-177976-3
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2013


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