1 year ago
Monday, June 20, 2011
As I looked over this week’s Magpie prompt, a thought flashed through my mind:
Why, she could be the Dark Lady…
As you may know, Will Shakespeare wrote, in addition to the plays, a number of sonnets.
Quite a number – 154 of ‘em, in fact.
The sonnets were brief poems that touched upon just about everything: life, love, death, the passage of time, etc. By studying them, scholars over the years became convinced they could learn a lot about Shakespeare the man – his personal life and loves.
As one example, two dozen of the sonnets are devoted to a young woman who has come to be known as the Dark Lady. No one knows who she was but we know what she was: she was vivacious. tempestuous, witty, and very attractive. She’s called Dark because she had black hair and perhaps dusky complexion.
Our Will was crazy about her.
They evidently had a passionate relationship for a while, then she found another. To put it in modern terms, Shakespeare was dumped.
His girl had not only found another man, but it appears the new guy was a member of the nobility. What this meant, of course, in those days when social position was all-important, was that Will, a commoner, had not the slightest chance, not the slightest, of winning her back.
Why, he wondered, did I have to be what I am?
“I look upon myself and curse my fate.
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possessed.”
He wrote that he once saw the two of them together; his jealousy had boiled over. He began to write about his Dark Lady as though he could convince himself that she was a person it was good to be rid of.
In one of his most famous sonnets, he wrote a strange love poem, quite possibly unlike any other ever written.
The body of the poem is devoted to all the things wrong with his lady love – and there’s a lot.
“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.
Coral is far more red than her lips red.
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks.
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.”
But then, in the rhyming couplet that ends the sonnet, he goes on to emphasize just how crazy he still is about her.