Megillat Ester in Ottava Rima: Mordecai Dato's poetry regarding sixteenth-century Italian Jewish women



The focus of the present paper is a translation of Mordecai Dato's Megillat Ester in ottava rima, a sixteenth-century poetic retelling of the biblical book of Esther written in Judeo-Italian. Previously untranslated, this poem provides subtle yet important insight into views of Italian Jewish women, and even into the reality of their daily lives. Dato's poetic version differs drastically from the original biblical text, indicating that these divergences were conscious choices on the part of the author and should therefore be considered evidence of the changing views of Jewish women by their male counterparts in sixteenth-century Italy. The introduction to the translation is an analysis of Dato's divergences from the biblical story in regards specifically to the characterization of his female characters. The poet mirrors a contemporary literary and artistic tendency to focus on the position of the woman in both society and religion, crafting marked changes that reflect the growing presence of women in sixteenth-century Italian Jewish society.