Rodrigo Lopez was Queen Elizabeth’s physician during the time of

[Rodrigo Lopez was Queen Elizabeth’s physician during the time of Christopher Marlowe, and is mentioned in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus—but not by Marlowe.]

From Wikipedia on Rodrigo Lopez:

“Rodrigo Lopez (c. 1525 – June 7, 1594) was physician to Queen Elizabeth, and may have been an inspiration for Shakespeare’s Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.”

He was born in Crato, Portugal and raised as a New Christian. He was driven away from Portugal by the Portuguese Inquisition and was known to be a Marrano (a hidden Jew).

He made London his home in 1559 and successfully resumed his practice as a doctor, soon becoming house physician at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. He developed a large practice among powerful people, including Robert Dudley and Francis Walsingham. His success was less due to his medical skill and more to his skill at flattery and self-promotion. A 1584 libelous pamphlet attacking Dudley suggested that Lopez distilled poisons for Dudley and other noblemen as well. In 1586, Lopez reached the pinnacle of his profession; he was made physician-in-chief to Queen Elizabeth. Lopez earned the queen’s favour for in 1589 she granted him a monopoly on the importation of aniseed and sumac. His success continued as he neared retirement. He was viewed, at least outwardly, as being a dutiful practicing Protestant.

In October of 1593, Lopez was wealthy and generally respected. At that time, he owned a house in Holborn and had a son enrolled at Winchester College. However, also in October, a complex web of conspiracy against Dom António, Prior of Crato began to come to light. Subsequently, Robert Devereux accused Lopez of conspiring with Spanish emissaries to poison the Queen. He was arrested on January 1, 1594, convicted in February, and subsequently hanged, drawn and quartered on June 7. His trial at London’s Guildhall was referred to by Charles, Prince of Wales in his Guildhall address to the Board of Deputies of British Jews on 5 July 2011.

The Queen herself was uncertain of his guilt and delayed his execution. Lopez maintained his innocence and his true conversion from Judaism to Christianity. According to the 16th century historian William Camden, just before Lopez was hanged, he said to the crowd that he loved his queen as well as he loved Jesus Christ. The crowd laughed at this statement, taking it for a thinly veiled confession.

Some historians and literary critics consider Lopez and his trial to have been an influence on William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. “Many Shakespearean scholars believe Dr. Lopez was the prototype for Shylock,” which is believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. There is also a mention of Lopez in the posthumously published text of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, comparing him to the titular hero: “Doctor Lopus was never such a doctor!” This reference was presumably added after Marlowe’s death in 1593.

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[If the final point was missed: Marlowe was dead by the time Lopez’s problems began, so clearly he didn’t write it. Like other works of the time Doctor Faustus was written for the stage and could have had several contributors as well as multiple revisions for performances over time. See further:]

From Old English Drama

Old English Drama. Select Plays: Marlowe’s Tragical History of Doctor Faustus; Greene : Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, Edited by A. W. Ward. Clarendon Press series. Edition 2. Clarendon Press, 1887.

Download the PDF at
…Or see it at Google Books:

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