Friday, April 20, 2018

'The Dark Lady' in Shakespeare's sonnets.

Shakespeare’s sonnets from 127 to152 are addressed to a woman commonly known as the 'Dark Lady' because her hair is said to be black and her skin "dun". In these sonnets we come to know about the dark lady and the speaker’s relation with her. 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.

The nature of love to the lady

The love the speaker develops towards the dark lady is undoubtedly the misguided love.The lady is worthless.Not physically attractive the lady has also a loose moral character.She has many other lovers except the poet. But the poet is so infatuated that he can’t but love her.But this infatuated love can’t bring the mental satisfaction which we see in his relation with the young man.This frustrated love affair bring mental suffering for him.His love towards the young firiend brings him comfort.On the other hand his love for the lady brings him despair.

The antipetrarchan heroine

As it is seen in the sonnets 127 and 129, Shakespeare treats the Lady in a very ani-petrarchan manner. Unlike the Petrarchan heroine, the Lady is very unattractive or black. In Elizabethan days, so the poet tells us, black was not considered beautiful: "In the old age black was not counted fair, / Or, if it were, it bore not beauty's name." However, what is considered beautiful — at least to the poet — has changed; "now is black beauty's successive heir." This change in what is considered beautiful is the poet's main concern here in Sonnet 127 and in succeeding sonnets.

The degree of emphasis on the Dark Lady's color varies in the sonnets, so sometimes she seems black-haired and other times merely brunette. The poet's appreciation of the Dark Lady's appearance is complex: He is glad that she does not use cosmetics to lighten her appearance, which would be "a bastard shame," but she is not physically attractive to the poet, for all her erotic appeal. However, her black eyes become her so well "That every tongue says beauty should look so." Black, then, becomes another means for the poet to discredit the use of cosmetics; his mistress' good looks are not "slandered" by unnatural measures.

The anti-petrarchan treatment of love and the lady

The poet does not find in his mistress those beauties which have conventionally been attributed by writers to their beloveds. For instance, the eyes of the poet’s mistress are not bright like the sun, her lips are not as red as coral, her breasts are certainly not white like snow, her hairs are certainly not like golden wires, her cheeks certainly do not have the hues of roses, her breath is certainly not as sweet as perfumes, her voice is certainly not as pleasing as music. In short, the poet’s mistress is no goddess but just an ordinary woman walking on the ground. In spite of all this, the poet looks upon his beloved as a rare woman, as rare as any woman who has most extravagantly been praised by any writer.

This sonnet is a satire on the unreal comparisons in which the poets of the time used to indulge when writing about the beauty of their mistresses. All kinds of artificial comparisons were made to eulogize and glorify a woman in those days. Many of those comparisons figure in this sonnet, but here the poet speaks in a negative vein pointing out that these comparisons are not valid in the case of his beloved. Thus the poem is a satirical rejection of the false comparisons which were current in the poetry of the Elizabethan times. Shakespeare here adopts a more realistic approach while describing his beloved, but at the same time he affirms that she is a rare woman. From the point of view of the style, it is one of the easiest of the sonnets and is completely free from any kind of obscurity. Here we have an example of Shakespeare’s lucid style.

Lady has exquisite talent for music

But the quality for which the poet truly admires the Lady is her exquisite talent for music. In the sonnet 128, the poet describes the Lady’s talent for music. Besides the Lady’s talent for music, the poet also  fantasizes about kissing the woman in the same tender, controlling manner that she uses when playing. What makes the sonnet so physically sensual despite the poet's never once touching the woman is not only his description of her playing technique but his personification of the instrument's response to the woman's touch. In the concluding couplet, the poet continues to personify the wooden instrument's levers, calling them "saucy jacks so happy" because the woman physically touches them. The only consolation the poet has is his fantasy of kissing his mistress, which is an empty comfort given that the poet craves the sensuous touch the Dark Lady uses as she plays the musical instrument.

The speaker feels disgust for his own lust

The speaker knows that the lady has developed a sexual relation with his young friend.  Whereas Sonnet 132 makes the mistress into a chaste beauty, Sonnet 133 maligns her for seducing the poet's friend.The story of the poet's friend's seduction unfolds in Sonnet 134. Hoping to gain the woman's favor, the poet sends the young man to the woman with a message. However, she seizes the opportunity to make the youth her lover, and the youth responds to her advances wholeheartedly.
The sonnet is saturated with terms common to usury: The poet is "mortgaged" (used as security) by the woman (the "usurer") to gain the affections of the youth (the "debtor").

The speaker himself would like to satisfy his sexual hunger

That the speaker’s love with the Lady is misguided is seen in the sonnet 135. The speaker himself would like to satisfy his sexual hunger.The poet wants to continue his sexual relationship with his mistress, but she is already bursting with lovers: "Whoever hath her wish, thou hath thy Will, / And Will to boot, and Will in overplus."

Because the woman already has several Wills, or lovers, the poet wonders why she does not accept him, his "will," as well: "So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will / One will of mine to make thy large Will more."

There is more than a little cynicism in the poet's admission of lust for a thoroughly disreputable woman. Begging to have sex with the woman, the poet barely masks his jealousy of the woman's many lovers: "Shall will in others seem right gracious, / And in my will no fair acceptance shine?" What is so wrong, he asks her, with his sex organ that she won't accept him as her lover? Sarcastically, he bawdily asks her why her own sex organ, which so easily accommodated other men's, cannot accept one more.

The relation is based on the lie

Sonnet 138 presents a candid psychological study of the mistress that reveals many of her hypocrisies. Certainly she is still very much the poet's mistress, but the poet is under no illusions about her character: "When my love swears that she is made of truth, / I do believe her, though I know she lies." He accepts without protest her "false-speaking tongue" and expects nothing better of her. Cynically, he too deceives and is comforted by knowing that he is no longer fooled by the woman's charade of fidelity to him, nor she by how young and simpleminded he presents himself to be.

The main theme of the concluding two lines is lust, but it is treated with a wry humor. The poet is content to support the woman's lies because he is flattered that she thinks him young — even though he knows that she is well aware of just how old he is. On the other hand, he does not challenge her pledges of faithfulness — even though she knows that he is aware of her infidelity. Neither is disposed to unveil the other's defects. Ultimately the poet and the woman remain together for two reasons, the first being their sexual relationship, the second that they are obviously comfortable with each other's lying. Both of these reasons are indicated by the pun on the word "lie," meaning either "to have sex with" or "to deceive": "Therefore I lie with her and she with me, / And in our faults by lies we flattered be."

The poet is overcome by despair and threatens the lady

Sinking quickly into despair over the sad state of his relationship with the woman, the poet threatens the woman with public humiliation should she not at least feign love for him. The first warning is in the first quatrain, in which he cautions her not to be too public in her flirtations with other men. In the second quatrain, the poet uses a simile to convey his thoughts of how the woman should treat him. Like a dying man who wants only false reassurances from his doctor about his condition, he wants the woman to falsify her love for the poet. Sadly, the poet's suggesting this action shows how knowledgeable he is that the relationship's end is near. The third quatrain contains another threat that the poet will publicly slander the woman's character: "For if I should despair, I should grow mad, / And in my madness might speak ill of thee." Lest the woman not heed his first two warnings, he adds a third in the sonnet's last three lines, overtly forewarning his mistress that "Slanderers by mad ears believed be," and that she should "Bear thine eyes straight, though thy proud heart go wide." In other words, when they are in public, she must pay attention only to him and not to any other man; if she does not do as he wishes, he will publicly slander her.

The infatuation comes to the end

Delving into the awareness of sin, Sonnet 142 sums up the poet's whole fatuous and insatiable passion. He supports the woman's rejection of his love because he deems his love for her unworthy of him: "Love is my sin and thy dear virtue hate, / Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving." He cannot help loving her, but he despises himself for doing so. Note that in lines 1 and 2, the poet compares himself to the woman using opposite qualities: The poet's "Love" opposes the woman's "hate," and "my sin" contrasts to the cynical "thy dear virtue." He believes that he deserves her contempt because of her damnable behavior, not because of his. Yet the poet feels that he deserves the woman's pity because he shares her vice. That is, he loves the woman in the same manner that she loves her many suitors: artificially, meanly, and basely. Ironically, however, her flirting with others becomes such an artful and "sinful loving" that he admires her and wants her more.

The relation breaks up

The end of the relationship between the poet and the woman becomes apparent. Addressing the woman with a sense of shame and outrage, the poet is fully conscious of his own adultery and that of his mistress, as well as her infidelity to him and his lack of moral perception: "In loving thee thou know'st I am forsworn, / But thou art twice forsworn." A reconciliation between the poet and the woman is suggested, but subsequently the poet accuses her of "vowing new hate after new love bearing."

Thus, from his sonnets from 127 through 154, we come to know about a Dark Lady with whom the poet was acquainted. There have been many speculations about the identity of the Dark lady. But no-one has yet been able to show convincingly whether the sonnets do or do not have autobiographical or topical character. On the basis of sheer speculation, several young women of Queen Elizabeth I's court—including Mary Fitton, Emilia Lanier, and Lucy Morgan—have been put forth as historical models for the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets.These dark lady sonnets, however, are important beacuse they highlight Shakespeare's personality as well as his anti-petrarchan conception of beauty.