Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Shakespeare and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets:
a play by Enzo Condello

byJoanna Clyne
Brighton Secondary College

While the themes of Shakespeare and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets are complex and confronting, the text expresses them with a simplicity which would make it suitable for year eleven or twelve students. It would lend itself well to being studied in conjunction with a Shakespeare play such as Hamlet by providing students with an introduction to the prime themes and unique language of Shakespearean text.

Shakespeare and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets relies on historical fact to present the reader with an interpretation of William Shakespeare’s life and character. As a modern tribute to the bard, Condello’s play could effectively inspire discussion on how Shakespeare has influenced contemporary literature. The play addresses the many facets of characterization, as the text features a protagonist figure enacted by two different performers. This raises many issues of realism, transformation, symbolism and dual casting. The characters are dramatizations of historical figures, imbuing students with some fundamental information and a basis for further research. Additionally, the play could be used to introduce students to the many theatrical conventions which are often prevalent in text, such as time-shifting and the ‘play within a play’.

Both the language and themes are formulated in the authentic style of an Elizabethan text, and address the almost omnipotent power of the storyteller. Shakespeare and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets is crafted from the perspective of Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare. Texts written from the perspective of the wives of famous men, have gradually become a defined genre. Consequently, this play could be studied in comparison with works such as ‘Ahab’s Wife’ or ‘The Mistress of Lilliput’.

In the play, Shakespeare suffers the indignity of becoming a character himself, influenced by his own writing and manipulated by the whims of his author wife. The characterization of Shakespeare is an interesting concept, which could be further investigated through films such as ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and ‘Stage Beauty’. In many ways, this play subscribes perfectly to Shakespeare’s own thesis that: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”, as he becomes a pawn of this own themes and text. It is well-constructed and could be used alone or to complement classroom texts.

Shakespeare and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets is clever play which could effectively help engage students with the dense and often intimidating text of Shakespearian plays.

For information about this play, contact Enzo Condello at


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