The Mysteries of the Sonnets

Vargo 1 William Shakespeare?s sonnets may have been the best poetry ever written. The sonnets are beautifully written with many different feelings expressed in them. Although they may have been the most autobiographically written poems of all time, they still present a number of questions. Many Elizabethan historians and Shakespeare enthusiasts often wonder who Shakespeare was writing about when he wrote the sonnets. There are three main questions which come to mind when one is reading the sonnets. The mysterious dark lady, Mr. W. H., and the young man that Shakespeare wrote of are three of the sonnet mysteries. Although William Shakespeare did not write the sonnets to be a puzzle for the reader to solve, the dark lady of the sonnets is perhaps the most puzzling of the mysteries. There is a whole sequence of sonnets that mention the dark mistress. Sonnets 127-154 are the sonnets that deal with the dark lady. From these sonnets, a good description of the dark lady is given. The first of the dark lady sonnets, Sonnet 127, gives a good physical description of the mistress. ?...Therefore my mistress? eyes are raven black, / Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem/ At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,/ Slandering creation with a false esteem./ Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,/ That every tongue says beauty should look so? (Booth ed. 110). Lines 9-14 of this sonnet tell the reader that the mistress has dark features and there is a hint that perhaps she wore makeup. Also, in Sonnet 130, another good physical description of the dark lady is given. ?My mistress? eyes are nothing like the sun;? Coral is far more red then her lips? red;/ If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head./ I have seen roses damask?s red and white,/ But no such roses see I in her cheeks;...?(Hubler 104) Although Shakespeare gives a harsh description of the dark lady?s features, he does mention that he cares for her. ?He does not say that he loves her in spite of her faults; he loves her faults and all.? (Hubler 104) In other sonnets, such as Sonnet 127, William Shakespeare admits that he finds the dark lady?s features beautiful. The variety of Shakespeare?s descriptions of the dark lady make it seem as if there may not be a dark lady at all. She may be a literary creation. Vargo 2 The identity of the dark lady cannot be based on physical description alone. A good behavioral description of the dark lady can be found in many places in the sonnets. ?And whether that my angel be turned fiend,/ Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;/ But being both from me, both to each friend,/ I guess one angel in another?s hell...? (Hubler 107). This section of Sonnet 144 tells the reader that the dark lady had a way of torturing Shakespeare. He has figures out that the mistress is unfaithful and he does not know what exactly she is doing. According to Edward Hubler, Shakespeare?s sketch of the dark lady is a piece with the view of sex without romance revealed throughout his works (107). It seems that Shakespeare did not find the dark lady to be a very appealing person, but he did, however, find her to be very sexually appealing. William Shakespeare was not in love with the dark mistress. It seems that his feelings for her are clearly only lustful ones. William Shakespeare was in contact with many women throughout his life. Therefore, there are many theories as to who the mysterious mistress is. The most popular name concerning the dark lady?s identity is Mary Fitton. Mary Fitton was a maid of honor to Queen Elizabeth and was a mistress to William Herbet. ?She was a lively lady who became the mother of three illegitimate children by different men, but afterward married richly and died very respectable.? (Harrison 44). The only problem with Fitton being the dark lady is that she did not possess the dark features that Shakespeare so vividly described throughout his poetry. In addition to Fitton, another woman named as the dark lady as Mistress Davenant. Davenant was the ?wife of an Oxford innkeeper, who is thought to have favored both Shakespeare and Southampton, and who was