Notes on O Learned Judge!
This was a late addition to act two, which was inspired when I came across this news story about a mock appeal for Shylock held in Venice earlier this year, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presiding. I knew I couldn’t let the year go out without giving Portia the chance to make her rebuttal as only she can.
The nature of the sentence issued to Portia by Justice Ginsburg was a chance to point up the issues of class with these characters. What would be a punishment for Portia would in fact be a great opportunity for Nerissa – and therefore one she will never be given. Something I’ve tried to honour in my work is the odd power dynamic of Portia and Nerissa’s relationship. In both the play and the cartoons, they are friends and the closest confidante that either of them has – but at the end of the day, Nerissa is lower class and she is Portia’s employee. She crosses lines that servants generally wouldn’t, but it doesn’t mean the lines aren’t there.
This was a fun one to write, and one of the wordier cartoons that isn’t using Shakespeare’s original dialogue. I realised in the process that Portia is the character whose voice is clearest in my head now, whether that’s a healthy thing or not I cannot tell.
Portia and Nerissa are definitely my most valuable players for act two. They’ve grown as characters to a point where they can sustain a narrative as well as a one-page funny, and this is something I intend to make use of in the future…