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Welcome to Episode 172 of That Shakespeare Life the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the real life and history of William Shakespeare by interviewing the experts who know him best. 

Born in Portugal, Dr. Roderigo Lopez fled to England in the 16th century as a Jewish refugee. His family was Jewish, forced to convert to Catholicism, and when he arrived in England he joined the Church of England to become Protestant while still practicing Jewish rituals at home. Serving at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1576, Lopez rose through the ranks as a doctor until he was the Chief Physician there. He served as doctor to some of England’s most notable dignitaries including Sir Francis Walsingham, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex, and even Queen Elizabeth herself. These highly prestigious professional connections were  a boon for Dr. Lopez’ medical career, but the danger of these connections led to Dr. Lopez being entangled with spies and ultimately to his execution on grounds of plotting an assasination against Queen Elizabeth. The scandal of Dr. Lopez’ trial in 1594 happened while Shakespeare was in London, and the cultural anti-semitism of 16th century England that played a role in Lopez’ conviction is echoed in some of the references to Jews we find in Shakespeare’s plays. 

Here today to tell us the story of Roderigo Lopez and his part in the life of William Shakespeare is our guest, Susan Abernethy.

Join the conversation below.

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Susan Abernethy has a degree in history and is a member of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association.  Her blog, The Freelance History Writer has been continuously publishing historical articles since 2012, with an emphasis on European, Tudor, medieval, Renaissance, Early Modern and Women’s history.  Her latest novel, a biography of a prominent Stuart royal, is currently in production. Find out more about Susan, and explore her work at www.thefreelancehistorywriter.com

In this episode, I’ll be asking Susan Abernethy about :

  • The Queen had a household staff of at least 15 physicians, how and why did she choose to add Roderigo Lopez to her staff? 
  • Dr. Lopez treated Sir Francis Walsingham and was an immigrant from Portugal during a time when Spain was invading Portugal and England was enemies with Spain. Did Dr. Lopez’s position in the Queen’s household staff put him in a position to serve as an intelligence agent for Queen Elizabeth during these conflicts?
  • What happened to cause a falling out between Dr. Lopez and the Earl of Essex? 
  • … and more!

Here’s what’s available for this episode:

  • 17th century woodcut of Roderigo Lopez as he conspires to poison Queen Elizabeth I
  • Image depicting St. Bartholomew’s Hospital during the medieval period.
  • 16th century portrait of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
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Want to learn more?

Here are some books and resources recommended by Susan Abernethy.

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