KADER BEGINS LONDON FELLOWSHIP
by Janie Magruder
Armed with dozens of documents from the 400-year-old treason trial of a man accused of plotting to kill Queen Elizabeth I, Professor David Kader is headed to London for a three-month research project.
Kader, a faculty member at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, has a fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, which is affiliated with the University of London. He hopes to learn more about the highly unusual arrest, trial, conviction and execution in 1594 of Dr. Rodrigo Lopez, the queen’s personal physician.
The quest won’t be easy: the documents, which likely contain much of what Kader is seeking, are in Latin and some Law French, handwritten in the calligraphy of the time. He has obtained copies of the originals, some of which are written on animal skin and housed at The National Archives in Surrey and at other locations in Great Britain.
The saga of Lopez, who was of Portuguese/Jewish descent, has long fascinated the professor. Lopez is descended from Jews expelled from Portugal in 1493.
Kader, an affiliate faculty member of ASU’s Center of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, is intrigued by the parallel characters in Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe and The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.
Both plays have prominent Jewish characters and both were successful, albeit briefly, in London shortly after Lopez’s trial. According to The Double Life of Doctor Lopez, a book by Dominic Green, the trial breathed new life into Marlowe’s play, which previously had flopped, and may have been the impetus for Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and its main character, Shylock.
The fellowship will enable Kader to focus on the legal questions of Lopez’s unusually long ordeal of approximately eight months, from his lengthy detention following arrest, to the extraordinary tribunal for his trial, to the brutality of his execution. Other questions the professor will investigate: Was he guilty? Did the Queen believe him to be guilty? Why did she later adopt his wife and four children and have them cared for?
“The Lopez trial intrigues me at many levels – from its probable connection to Shylock and Shakespeare, to what it can reveal about the treachery abundant in the English Court during Elizabeth’s reign, and ultimately, I believe, about the treatment of “the other” in a country struggling with its own identity,” Kader said. “It’s a theme not so foreign to our national experience presently.”
In time, he hopes to write an article or perhaps a book about his findings. But even if he doesn’t solve the mystery, Kader has gotten plenty of mileage from his interest in the riddles spawned by Shylock and Lopez.
He designed and taught the course, Merchant of Justice, based on the trial scene in The Merchant of Venice, at both Cambridge University and at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. In 2003, he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study at Oxford University, where he looked into the possible reasons for Shakespeare creating such a character as Shylock in the late 1590s, in a nation that had banned Jews 300 years earlier and not officially readmitted them until the 17th century.
“In essence, I am asking myself, `Why Shylock?’ and answering, `Lopez?’ I like answering a question with a question,” Kader said. “I am sure more questions will follow come my time in London.”
Kader will be abroad from late February through about June 1.