Willobie His Avisa


Avisa "The Bird Not Seen"

The Dark Lady and Loves Labour Lost

« Back to Album Photo 36 of 39 Previous | Next
The Dark Lady  and Loves Labour Lost
Scholars have long noticed the striking similarities between The Dark Lady of The Sonnets and the character Rosaline from Love's Labour Lost . Scholars have often interpreted Rosaline as being a black woman but I disagree . Rosaline is described as a "Whitely wanton with a velvet brow and two pitchballs stuck in her head for eyes and one who will do the deed although Argus be her eunuch and her gaurd" What this passage tells us is that Rosaline has dark brows black eyes and is a promiscious woman whose complexion is approaching but not actually white in otherwords swarthy. Whitley means approaching white. Because of her slightly swarthy complexion blushes cannot be seen in her cheeks we are also told that her hand is snow white so it is certain that Rosaline is not a black woman. Instead Shakespeare is repeating the oxymoron of black being couched in white and representing the new form of beauty. This is an oxymoron Philip Sidney had played on in his Astrophel and Stella sequence which had been written for The Blonde Haired Black eyed Penelope Rich. Like Rosalind Sidney describes Stella as being guarded by a hideous Argus ( Her keeper Robert Rich). Even more revealing is the fact that there is significant punning on the name Rich associated with this character. Prior to Shakespeare's sequence Sidney had already celebrated Penelope Rich as yje woman who made black the new form of beauty . This is a conceit that Shakespeare specifically references in his description of The Dark Lady. The Dark Lady is a parody of Penelope Rich and Berowne ( Her suitor) represents Shakespeare himself. In his Dark Lady sequence Shakespeare worries that the Dark Lady will consider him an unlettered youth. In addition the Dark Lady is addicted to cosmetics to outwardly paint her fading mansion . The Dark Lady clearlyiwasn't young. And appears to be older than Shakespeare and also was of a higher education than Shakespeare correct both times for Penelope Rich. Rosaline and The Dark Lady and Stella were all depictions of the same person ... The Lady Penelope Rich
Posted on February 3, 2011 Full Size| Slideshow