At the height of the American Civil War, the debate on slavery raged in the American North and South. The North supported the abolition of slavery whereas the South wanted to keep the institution of slavery to sustain their plantation-centric economy. Where Shakespeare’s The Tempest enters the fray is with a political cartoon published at the midpoint of the war: January 24, 1863.
June 7th 1594—ten years before the first performance of The Merchant of Venice. Dr. Rodrigo Lopez, who some suspect inspired the character of Shylock, awaits his execution. His formal charge is treason against the Queen—attempt to poison, supposedly. His second, more subjective charge is obvious to the angry crowd delighting in his death. Lopez probably didn’t attempt to kill Queen Elizabeth; he did, however, convert from Judaism to Christianity—neither of which the public believes. The crowd and court ignore his pleads of innocence on both religious and criminal charges. Continue reading