Elizabeth Polack was an English playwright of the 1830s, notable for having been described by chroniclers of the period as England's first Jewish woman melodramatist.

Few historical records survive which detail Elizabeth Polack's life. Although neither the year nor place of her birth have been noted, documentation of her activity as a playwright active in London between 1830 and 1838 remains for posterity. Contemporary records credit her with five plays, only two of which, Esther, the Royal Jewess; or The Death of Haman and St. Clair of the Isles; or The Outlaw of Barra, have survived. Esther, with a story taken from the Old Testament, and considered in its time to be a type of an "Exotic East" melodrama, was successfully produced in 1835 at London's Mile End Pavilion Theatre in the East End (the Pavilion was later a centre for Yiddish theatre in London). 1838's St. Clair, based on an 1803 novel by Elizabeth Helme, met, however, with a very modest reception.

Polack may have been a relation of Joel Samuel Polack, the first Jewish settler of New Zealand. Joel's biographer writes that he lived with his sister in Piccadilly when he first returned to England; that sister may have been Elizabeth.[1]

No other details have emerged regarding Elizabeth Polack, including the year, place and circumstances of her death.

Plays by Elizabeth Polack

  • Alberti; or The Mines of Idria (no copy known to exist)
  • Angeline; or The Golden Chain (no copy known to exist)
  • Woman's Revenge (1832; attributed by some sources to John Howard Payne)
  • Esther, the Royal Jewess; or The Death of Haman (1835)
  • St. Clair of the Isles; or The Outlaw of Barra (1838)


  1. ^ Franceschina, John Charles (1997). Sisters of Gore: seven Gothic melodramas by British women, 1790-1843. Taylor & Francis. pp. 227–284. 

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