My historical novel, DARK LADY: A NOVEL OF EMILIA BASSANO LANYER, tells the story of Emilia Lanyer, a spirited, beautiful, and intelligent woman who was Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady,” a poet in her own right, and one of the first women in England to publish a book.
Daughter of a Court musician and secret Jew, Emilia at a young age becomes the mistress of a much older nobleman, Lord Hunsdon. Through Hunsdon, she meets the brilliant, witty player and poet Will Shakespeare, and they fall in love. Dressed as a boy, Emilia goes on adventures around the city and countryside with Will. But the poet from Stratford has his own secrets, and their liaison ends unhappily.
Emilia, being pregnant, marries her cousin, Alfi Lanyer, and has a son, Henry. She learns from Alfi’s mother, Lucretia, what she has long suspected: that her family are secret Jews. Although she was raised in the English Church, she is drawn by the beauty and spiritual strength of her family’s religion. To help her husband on a sea voyage, she visits the unscrupulous astrologer and magician Simon Forman and through him learns about the secret world of dark magic. She becomes addicted to a potion he gives her. When Emilia breaks her addiction and begins to write poetry, she is encouraged by two friends, very different from one another: Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland and the cross-dressing underworld character, Moll Frith. Emilia publishes her book, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, in 1611, becoming one of the first women in England to publish a book.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a definitive portrait of Emilia. The people pictured above appear as characters in DARK LADY. Left to right: Margaret, Countess of Cumberland, Emilia’s mentor; Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, Will Shakespeare’s patron and friend; Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke; and Emilia’s lover, William Shakespeare.
DARK LADY: A NOVEL OF EMILIA BASSANO LANYER will be published by She Writes Press on June 27, 2017.