Who was the merchant of Venice?

Many of those who seem to us fictional characters existed in reality and others who presented us as real may be a myth. Anti-Semitism is used without shame, truth and lies are manipulated in the service of prejudice.

Today’s article invites us more than on a literary journey, to a brief immersion in the tortuous, Machiavellian and bloodthirsty customs of the 1600s, not only in London, Venice or Lisbon, but in the entire society of a time when they did not even suspect the world they were generating. Nobody disputes that it is a work of art … but it contributed to consolidate racial prejudices against which we still fight today. In another order, it would not be surprising if the real Shylock, rather Rodrigo Lópes, was very similar to the characterization that Al Pacino did, in one of his most memorable works.

By Alberto Moroy

Surely the one in the cover photo is not. This is Al Pacino in the movie “The Merchant of Venice” playing the Jew Shylock. The Merchant of Venice is one of the most famous plays by the English playwright William Shakespeare. Pacino perfectly reflects the spirit and even the prejudices of the work, both in its complicated dialogues and in its artistic beauty, since when we see it it seems as if we were sitting in the seats of a theater. The film premiered on September 4, 2004 at the Venice International Film Festival. In Spain, Argentina and Mexico it was released at the end of the following year.

«To be or not to be», they found the merchant … but they discuss Shakespeare

On September 8, 2007, a series of academics and actors led by Sir Derek Jacobi (Yo Claudio) and Mark Rylance, former artistic director of the Globe Theater, solemnized the signing of a Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, referred to to the authorship of works attributed to William Shakespeare.

Will William Shaxper (Shakespeare) be the author?

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The Tragedy of Hamlet by playwright William Shakespeare 1601

The political situation of the time

The Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) was a conflict between the kingdoms of England, ruled by Elizabeth I of England, and Spain, where Felipe II reigned. The war began with English victories such as that of Cádiz in 1587, and the loss of the Invincible Armada in 1588, but several Spanish victories such as that of the Contra-armada (England) in 1589, as well as the enormous improvement in the escort of the fleets of the Indies and the rapid recovery of Spain from the losses, finally weakened England definitively and led to the signing of a peace treaty (Conference of Somerset House 1604) favorable to Spain in London 1604.
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Rodrigo Lopez (The real one) / Vintage lithograph (dismemberment of R. Lopez)

The Merchant of Venice was registered for the first time on July 22, 1598, but it is likely that its writing and premiere date back a few years. Inspiration is likely from the bloody executions of two traitors, ordered by Queen Elizabeth. The first was Rodrigo Lopez, the queen’s personal physician, who was hanged, gutted and dismembered on July 7, 1594. The second, Robert Southwell, was a Jesuit priest and poet who suffered the same execution on February 20, 1595.

English music 1580

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Who was Shylock?

Many people ignore that the famous Shylock, the character that Shakespeare put on stage in “The Merchant of Venice” was not one imagined by the playwright. The original Shylock existed. He was a Jewish doctor of Portuguese nationality, called Tuy or Rodrigo Lopez, who, thanks to his talent and also his spirit fond of intrigue, obtained the trust of Queen Elizabeth I of England.

The Merchant of Venice (Spanish version)

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Merchant of Venice Characters

This individual took up residence in London in 1559 and was for many years the Queen’s chief physician until the moment when he was seduced by politics. He was also a doctor at the Hospital de San Bartolomé. Little esteemed by his companions who attributed various actions “non sanctus” to him. He was able to capture the friendship of some important characters, thanks to whom he obtained from the queen (IsabeI I, the “virgin” queen) the privilege and monopoly of the importation of anise and sumac (Astringent and antifungal berry, also for culinary use).
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Hospital Of St. Bartholomew, Oxford. / Conde de Essex 1566-1601 (Robert Devereux)

Location 51 ° 44′43 ″ N 1 ° 13′36.66 ″ W

Elizabeth I of England Would she be a virgin?


A Machiavelli in the court of Queen Elizabeth I?

At court Rodrigo López became known to the 2nd Earl of Essex (Robert Devereux), and thus he got in touch with Don Antonio, pretender to the Portuguese crown, and with Antonio Pérez, secretary of Felipe II. Lopez aided them in trying to “convince” the queen to allow the attempted invasion of Portugal in 1589, and suffered a major loss of influence through its failure. An indiscreet revelation of some of the Earl of Essex’s ailments turned him against him; and around 1590 Rodrigo López began intriguing against Antonio with the court of Spain, at first with the connivance of Francis Walsingham (English politician), who was waiting through Manuel de Andrada (Portuguese spy), one of López’s followers. , to obtain useful information on Spanish projects.

Rodrigo Lopez (Shakespeare’s Shylock) the charlatan

Besides being a doctor, he was a charlatan in every sense of the word. Speaking of him wrote William Harvey (English doctor: He is not one of the wisest, nor one of the most expert doctors of the court, but he praises himself very much and has known how to pass himself off as the best and thanks to his business practices, he has managed to accumulate an immense fortune and to create a certain reputation with the queen and a few figures and high-class ladies.

Attempted assassination of Queen Elizabeth I

Faced with the offer of 50 thousand crowns that various conspirators made him if he took part in a plot to kill the queen, the doctor’s greed was aroused: he listened and discussed the proposal, and he committed himself in such a way that he was barely thrown in jail. the plot was known. The process was investigated and sentenced to death by the court. He was executed in 1597, to the lively satisfaction of all contemporaries. Lopez, because he was capable of anything and with this character he has been represented after his death in more than one play.

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February 28, 1594 Trial of Rodrigo López for attempting to poison Queen Elizabeth I

Other representations

One of the authors who took advantage was Shakespeare creating Shylock; Marlowe used it in “The Jew from Malta” and in “Faust”: Dekker and Middleton presented it in other plays, although Shakespeare was the first to take it to the theater, since “The Merchant of Venice” was performed two months after the execution of Lopez.

.The Jew of Malta Official Trailer [HD] (Marlowe)

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William Shakespeare 1564-1616 / Antonio reproaching Shylock (M. of Venice)

Jews in England

Lo blanco y lo negro de los judíos en Inglaterra, una mirada a través de la historia (Parte I)