Of the several candidates for the role of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady of the Sonnets, three seem to catch (or have caught) the imagination of novelists and playwrights: Emilia Bassano Lanier, Lucy Morgan, and – though less and less – Mary Fitton.
Usually Emilia is depicted as fiery, passionate, wilful and intelligent – juggling her talents at the virginals and in bed, with a short temper and a calculating streak, while Lucy is usually the plucky “blackamoor” girl, striving hard against prejudice and terrible odds as she tries to make an independent life for herself. Both are portrayed sympathetically – Lucy even more so. Mary Fitton, though, is a dark horse of another colour. Fictional Marys are growing few and far between, but used to be to be cold-hearted, cruel, calculating and ambitious, regarding poor Will Shakespeare as an amusing interlude and/or a stumble in their Court career… Continue reading