William Shakespeare (1564-1616) wrote 154 sonnets. The most accepted date of their composition is between 1592 and 1598 . The sonnets can be divided into three major groups: in the first are sonnets 1-126, which have a handsome young man as their subject; the second related group is from 127 to 152 which address the "Dark Lady"; and the third group includes the last two sonnets, which are not authentic works but translations. In my essay I would like to discuss the second group, the so called Dark Lady Sonnets, with special attention to sonnets 129 and 130.
The arrangement of the Dark Land sonnets does not seem adequate. Their numbering was done by Thomas Thorpe, who published all sonnets of Shakespeare for the first time in 1609, probably without the poet's permission. Many critics, including Dowden, Stirling and Auden tried to establish the correct order of these poems without success. .
The next important question is about the identity of the woman. This problem as well remains unsolved, although there are a lot of theories. One of the suggestions is Mary (or Mall) Fitton, who was Maid of Honour to the Queen and by the way she was the mistress of William Herbert (the Earl of Pembroke), who is suggested to be the subject and addressee of the first 126 sonnets. The only problem with her is that her skin was white. If this mistress had to be a black-skinned woman necessarily than we may think of Lucy Negro who was a popular woman in one of the London brothels those times . Even George Bernard Shaw wrote about this question: The Dark Lady of the Sonnets.
The supposed audience may also be a question. It is very unlikely that the poet actually sent these sonnets to his mistress, because of their tone and the puns included in them the woman would not have received the poet anymore. The more probable audience could have been his close friends, whom Shakespeare told about his relationship with irony.