|This article relies on references to primary sources. (August 2011)|
The dark lady of the sonnets was based on a real life person. Sonnets 127 to 152 are addressed to a woman commonly known as the ‘Dark Lady’ because her hair is said to be black and her skin “dun”. These sonnets are explicitly sexual in character, in contrast to those written to the ‘Fair Youth’. It is implied that the speaker of the sonnets and the Lady had a passionate affair, but that she was unfaithful, perhaps with the ‘Fair Youth’. The poet self-deprecatingly describes himself as balding and middle-aged at the time of writing.
Many attempts have been made to identify the “Dark Lady” with historical personalities, such as Mary Fitton or the poet Emilia Lanier, who was Rowse’s favoured candidate, though neither lady fits the author’s descriptions. She has also been identified with Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Southampton.
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This article uses material from the Wikipedia article The Dark Lady of the Sonnets, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.