Friday, 10 February 2012

Review - Shakespeare's Lady by Alexa Schnee

Shakespeare’s Lady
BY: Alexa Schnee
PUBLISHED IN: April 1, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8249-4528-2
Pages: 360
Reviewed by Billy Burgess

Unexpectedly I received an advanced reader’s copy of the upcoming Shakespeare’s Lady by Alexa Schnee from Summerside Press/Guideposts. I do not read much from the Shakespearean period, but I became interested after flipping to the back pages and reading the author note. I was unaware of who Emilia Bassano was, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen Elizabeth and one of the first women poets in England. Historians have debated over the years if Emilia wrote some of William Shakespeare’s plays, especially the wacky A Midsummer’s Night Dream. There have also been debates about who Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady” is. Was it Emilia Bassano? Nobody knows if it was actually her, or if William and she actually had a relationship. Both William and Emilia would have been around Queen Elizabeth’s court at the time. That is where Alexa Schnee’s plot comes in, the romantic relationship between the two.

Being completely unfamiliar with the lifestyles of the 14th century, I was shocked read about how the women, especially the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, were treated. The women were mistress for the higher class, older married men. The main character, Emilia, became of the mistress of the Queen’s first cousin, Henry Carey. If I recall right, there is a forty-five years age difference between Emilia and Henry. Despite hating Henry, she becomes pregnant with his child. With the Queen’s approval, Emilia married her first cousin Alfonso Lanier, a court musician.

Emilia was a poet at heart, but she mostly wrote in secret, as Henry and later her husband, Alfonso, was displeased with her passion. William Shakespeare, who she met briefly at the Queen’s court, admired her poems and fell for the married Emilia. Most of Shakespeare’s plays ends in tragedy, so unfortunately so does the relationship between the two.

Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying reading about this era, and at the same time I found myself somewhat sadden that this is a work of fiction. Nobody truly knows if there was a romantic relationship between William and Emilia. The author cleverly unravels a romance between the two, and brings new light to the Emilia Bassano’s legacy.


  1. This sounds great :) I'll definitely be checking it out.

  2. This sounds great :) I'm looking forward to reading it.


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