The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0410  Friday, 4 March 2005

From:           D Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 25 Feb 2005 07:37:22 -0600
Subject: 16.0368 Venetian Usury
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0368 Venetian Usury

Bruce Richman:

"Ezra Pound's Cantos XXV and XXVI address the debasement of art and
culture in 16th century Venice by usury and manipulations of credit.
Although Pound is well-known to have vilified Jews as usurers, the
usurious practices in the Venetian Cantos are not those of small-time
businessmen like Shylock, but of major institutional players like the
Florentine Cosimo de Medici, who routinely did business in Venice
("almost as a Venetian to Venice" Canto XXVI) and manipulated the money
supply throughout Europe by calling in international debts that couldn't
be paid. Florence was the banking capital, but Venice was the center of
brokerage, and lending money at high interest to governments and
nobility was a regular activity among wealthy and influential Christians."

This did not square with my memories of Renaissance history, so I
checked and indeed Cosimo died in 1464. Whether this lapse occurred in
Pound or in the typing of the letter, it is important to keep these
Medicis straight since there were such a flaming lot of them. In any
case, Pound seems to be dead wrong, for surely it was the rapid
expansion of trade-especially in money-that paid for the amazing
outpouring of Renaissance art, starting in Italy, moving to their main
trading partners in Flanders and its environs, and then spreading to the
rest of Europe.

(Also, the Knights Templar were involved in this business before the


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