The Dark Lady’s Mask by Mary Sharratt

Published: 2016 Genre: Historical Fiction 1. First lines. 2. Cover: Houghton Mifflin 3. William Shakespeare [No known copyright] via 4. Aemilia Bassano Lanier [Public Domain] via Wikipedia

Some of William Shakespeare’s sonnets refer to “the Dark Lady”, and although the playwright does not identify who it is, there have been many proposed theories. In this story, the author speculates that Aemilia Bassano Lanier, an English poet of Italian origin, is William Shakespeare’s muse. The story follows Aemilia’s life, making imagined connections with the life of William Shakespeare.

“All of us are players,” she told him. “Putting on one mask or another, pretending to be what we are not.”

“The Dark Lady’s Mask” by Mary Sharratt
  • Glanceabook: This is an engaging read with a believable premise as the plot. The Shakespearean era has been realistically brought to life but the emphasis on the female characters’ viewpoints feels one-sided, and the feminist viewpoint overdone. Shakespearean quotes, and references to the plays of Shakespeare add an interesting dimension to the story.
  • Historical Society: “Sharratt creates a believable and delightful portrayal of Lanier and her possible role as Shakespeare’s Dark Muse. Her characters are rich and complex, and the intricacies, joys, and pains of their lives are realistic. The speculation within the novel works extremely well, because Sharratt works with historical fact and academic theory in the space between the documented facts of Lanier’s life, Shakespeare’s life, and their written works. Very highly recommended!”
  • Kirkus: “An ambitious fictional biography burdened by an overly intricate plot.”


“The high ladies of court flaunted their velvet, forbidden by law for those of lesser rank. With their faces painted in white lead and red vermilion, they seemed creatures apart.”

Author: Mary Sharratt

Other edition.


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