|Earl Showerman, MD and Michael Delahoyde, PhD|
at Folio: Seattle Athenaeum, March 13, 2018
March 14, 2018
Two Shakespearean scholars, Earl Showerman, MD and Michael Delahoyde, PhD discussed critical topics about Shakespeare’s impressive work The Merchant of Venice.
Dr. Showerman discussed a real person, Gaspar Ribiero, as the likely model for Shylock; Dr. Delahoyde showcased the need to view different perspectives in Merchant. These presentations took place Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at Folio: The Seattle Athenaeum where approximately 50 people attended. These conversations are timely because The Seattle Shakespeare Company is producing Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice March 20-April 15, 2018.
Showerman’s thesis: Ribiero is Shylock
Earl Showerman clearly presented many excellent reasons why Gaspar Ribiero, a Sixteenth-century, Portuguese Jew living in Venice — and forced to convert to Christianity — could likely be the model for Shylock. Dr. Showerman added that he believes Edward de Vere, seventeenth earl of Oxford, was the true Shakespeare. Both de Vere and Gaspar Ribiero attended the same church in Venice; and de Vere may have known Ribiero.
Ribiero’s reputation in the Venice and Jewish community, however, was well known during the time de Vere visited and lived in Venice in 1575. Further, Ribiero’s daughter eloped with Ribiero’s ducat’s — just as Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, elopes with Shylock’s money and jewels.
While Showerman offers several additional similarities between Ribiero and Shakespeare’s Shylock, perhaps none is more convincing then the unusual language used by Ribiero: he repeated words and phrases just as someone with dementia. In fact, Ribiero’s language style is mirrored in Shylock’s speaking style, with similar repeating words and phrases.
Dr. Michael Delahoyde insightfully integrates the art of Sixteenth-century Venice with the play The Merchant of Venice. He believes The Merchant of Venice should be viewed from different perspectives. He demonstrated that Venetian painting during the Sixteenth Century showed different perspectives of the same scene from different vantage points. He pointed out that while Shylock appears to be a villain, Antonio and Portia are villains to him. In the trial scene, Portia asks Shylock for mercy, but offers none to Shylock. We know both Jewish and Christian religions endorse mercy, but no one does in the Merchant. To paraphrase a critic of the play: In The Merchant of Venice we see everyone behaving badly.
There was a lively and interesting question-and-answer session after these discussions by Earl Showerman and Michael Delahoyde. Many questions and comments centered on how the true author of Shakespeare — a man from Stratford, or Edward de Vere — could have known these intimate details of characters and ambience in Sixteenth-century Venice.
Note: For more information on this topic, read:
- “Shakespeare’s Shylock and the Strange Case of Gaspar Ribeiro” by Earl Showerman, Shakespeare Matters 10:3 (Summer 2011).
- The Shakespearean Guide to Italy by Richard Paul Roe (Harper, 2011)
- Shakespeare in Venice by Alberto Toso Fei and Shaul Bassi (Elzeviro, 2007)