Has Welsh Author Found the Real Story Behind the Bard's Sonnets? WHO ARE THE 'DARK LADY' AND 'THE FAIR YOUTH'?

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 25, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Has Welsh Author Found the Real Story Behind the Bard's Sonnets? WHO ARE THE 'DARK LADY' AND 'THE FAIR YOUTH'?


Byline: ROBIN TURNER

A WELSH author claims to have identified two of Shakespeare's most mysterious characters after years of research.

The identities of the "Dark Lady" and the "Fair Youth" from the great bard's sonnets have long provoked intense speculation and academic debate.

But in her new book, Shakespeare's Friends Revealed, Rhondda-born Beryl Hughes claims the were two real-life 16th Century characters caught up in a web of love and betrayal.

Shakespeare's sonnets - a collection of 154 poems, dealing with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality - were first published in 1609.

Mrs Hughes, 80, a former teacher and one-time Welsh Ladies chess champion, has been trawling through ancient books and papers since the 1970s convinced her literary research would reveal the characters were based on people Shakespeare knew.

In her book, Cardiff University graduate Mrs Hughes, who lives in Penylan, Cardiff, claims Shakespeare's writings were inspired by the Bard's friendship with Father Robert Southwell, a good-looking Jesuit priest.

And she claims Southwell had a forbidden relationship with Catholic beauty Anne Bellamy, claiming the two fit the identities of the Dark Lady and the Fair Youth.

She said: "This book puts forward a theory which fits in exactly with all the words in the sonnets and with historically recorded facts.

"This theory reveals a fascinating and tragic story which will be very difficult to discredit."

Anne Bellamy was brought up in a Roman Catholic family in Middlesex at a time when Catholics were being persecuted.

Mrs Hughes said: "The first 126 sonnets urge the Fair Youth to marry and I believe this was Shakespeare urging Southwell to marry Anne.

"I believe Southwell did have a passionate affair with Anne but refused to marry her, leading to her seeking revenge."

Bellamy was arrested and charged with being a recusant - one who refused to attend Anglican services - on January 26, 1592, when she was 29.

While a prisoner, she is said to have "abandoned her virtue" to the Royal torturer, Richard Topcliffe.

Other accounts say he raped her.

In May of that year she provided evidence against Southwell, leading his capture and eventual execution. She later married Nicholas Jones, Topcliffe's henchman and underkeeper of the gatehouse at Westminster. There have been many attempts to identify the Fair Youth.

Shakespeare's one-time patron, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton has often been suggested, though Shakespeare's later patron, William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, has also become a popular contender.

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