Elizabeth I had people of Jewish origin in her personal circle, such as the famous physician Rodrigo Lopez, who was a relative of an influential Jew called Álvaro Mendes. Mendes was born in Portugal, and later took refuge in the Ottoman Empire, where he was known as Salomon ibn Ya’ish; we know that he exchanged correspondence with Elizabeth I, and the queen always favoured him in her missives to Sultan Murad III. The queen knew that Mendes received, while a Christian, a knighthood in the Order of Santiago, since she dubbed him ‘Eques’ in her correspondence. So even if ibn Ya’ish lived exiled in the Ottoman Empire, Elizabeth I still considered him a ‘Westerner’. The question that arises is: to what extent did this pragmatic diplomacy of Elizabeth I with Islamic states where some ‘Western’ Jews appear as pivotal elements shape their image in Elizabethan England, especially in the eclectic circles in which Shakespeare lived?
Josè Alberto Rodrigues da Silva Tavim is the Chair of the Seminar ‘The Jews in Portugal and in the Diaspora’ at the University of Lisbon.