Usque, Solomon

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USQUE, SOLOMON (c. 1530–c. 1596), Portuguese poet of Marrano descent; probably born in Portugal, he spent most of his life in Italy and later in Turkey. It is believed that he was the son of Abraham *Usque, who printed the Ferrara Bible. In collaboration with Lazzaro di Graziano Levi, Solomon Usque wrote the earliest known Jewish drama written in the vernacular – a Purim play in Spanish entitled Esther, first staged in the Venice ghetto in 1558. Leone *Modena, a nephew of Lazzaro Levi, was responsible for an Italian version of the play early in the 17th century. Usque published a much-admired Spanish translation of the final part of Petrarch's sonnets (Venice, 1567); many copies appearing under the contracted pseudonym of Salusque Lusitano (i.e., Solomon Usque the Portuguese). This edition, which did much to spread Petrarch's fame abroad, was dedicated to Alexander Farnese, duke of Parma. Usque also wrote some Italian verse, including a poem on the Creation entitled Canzone sull' opera de' sei giorni; this was included in an anthology compiled by Cristoforo Zabata (Genoa, 1572). Usque was also active in Constantinople, where he is known to have engaged in Hebrew printing in collaboration with Abraham Ashkenazi in 1560–61. In 1595 at the request of the English ambassador, Usque wrote a report on events in Turkey after the death of Sultan Muted iii which was closely studied by Queen Elizabeth's ministers in London.


C. Roth, Gleanings (1967), 179–99; Piattelli, in: rmi, 34 (1968), 163–72.