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Elizabethan Orientalia

‘Jews’in Late Tudor England and the Ottoman Jews

Josè Alberto Rodrigues da Silva Tavim


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?