Thursday, April 5, 2012

Shakespeare's Lady by Alexa Schnee Review

Shakespeare's LadyShakespeare's Lady by Alexa Schnee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads: For centuries, readers have debated the identity of the mysterious Dark Lady in William Shakespeare’s sonnets. Emilia Bassano—lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth and one of the first women poets in England—could be the answer. 

Emilia Bassano is one of the most dazzling ladies at court when she meets the little-known playwright William Shakespeare, and despite everything, they fall in love. But the course of true love never did run smooth, and the Virgin Queen does not take lightly to her ladies straying. These star-crossed lovers must fight for their love—and, eventually, their lives. 

From the plague-ridden streets of London to the throne room of Greenwich Court to the stage of the Globe Theater, Shakespeare’s Lady explores grace, forgiveness, and forbidden love between the greatest poet the world has ever known and the woman who inspired him.

My thoughts: Shakespeare had a secret muse. She had certain characteristics as we know from his writings of love and longing. She is the dark lady. It is also an accepted fact that William was not in a loving, happy marriage with his wife, Anne Hathaway. She also was not the dark lady. There was a woman in Queen Elizabeth I's court who did have dark, striking features. Her name was Emilia and she really did exist. She lived the same time as William Shakespeare and may have (or not) have crossed paths with him. She is also the first female to publish her own works. The author, who is surprisingly a high school student (more on that in a minute) hypothesizes that Emilia is Shakespeare's Dark Lady and the woman he loved, longed for and wrote about.

This is not like reading a term paper, by any means. The author is a gifted writer and researcher. The story includes details about the life in Elizabethan court, the roles of women and their lack of options. As much as I have read about England in this time period, I have not come across a more accurate (at least, what I would call accurate) portrayal of how life would be for a woman who is not the queen. The queen is on the plane of deity. If she approves of an affair, the virgin will be given as her cousin's mistress. Even if he is 45 years her elder. She will serve him until she no longer of use. The queen chooses her husband. To displease the queen/deity may result in a beheading at worst, great sacrifice at best.

I think the historical accuracy is really the book's strongest point. The fictional relationship with William Shakespeare is what I liked least about it. It seemed a little too contrived, although clever to drop some of Shakespeare's quotes into the text. The best part was the history and description of court and Queen Elizabeth.

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