The years when she brought delight, desire and disgust to Shakespeare came after the Spanish Armada of 1588 and before the Gunpowder Plot of 1605: a long, unsettled period of theatre, music, warfare and brutal death. Those years were dramatically rich. Shakespeare wrote plays including Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, and King Lear. And he met the 'Dark Lady'. She was musical, alluring, married and faithless. Shakespeare never revealed her identity. Scholars have - but for different women. She was well-born, or a slut, or a housewife, even a phantom of Shakespeare's poetical mind. She was an anchor and agony to him. His sonnets sang of her loveliness and cursed her for her infidelity. The quest to discover her name began in Elizabeth's reign, became an obsession in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and continues today. Card-sharps challenge passers by to 'find the lady' from one of the three playing-cards shown, turned upside-down and shuffled. Take your pick. Aubrey Burl's challenge also is to find her. But there is no deception. The 'Dark Lady' can be found in Shakespeare's unshuffled sonnets.
'Solved: the mystery of the Bard's "Dark Lady"' 'Convincingly suggests that Aline, wife of John Florio, translator of Montaigne and "an Englishman in Italiane", was the stimulus to the greatest poetry ever written.'
Aubrey Burl is a historian and archeologist of forty years standing. He is Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. His other books include The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland & Brittany, A Brief History of Stonehenge, God's Heretics: The Albigensian Crusade, Prehistoric Avebury, and That Great Pyrate: Bartholomew Roberts and His Crew, 1718-1723. He lives in Birmingham.