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William's first poem

Shakespeare's marriage may also have inspired what might be his earliest surviving poem, a work that surfaced some thirty years later in an almost confessional collection of his sonnets detailing his extramarital love for a young man and sexual passion for a mysterious Dark Lady. At first dismissed as too juvenile to be by the Bard, re-examination does point out a Shakespearean pun or two, and perhaps the seed of a great talent.

Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breath'd forth the sound that said I hate
To me that languish'd for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come.
Chiding that tongue, that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom:
And taught it thus anew to greet:
'I hate' she alter'd with an end
That follow'd it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
'I hate' from hate away she threw,
And sav'd my life, saying 'not you'

An understanding on the pun relies on the Warwickshire pronunciation of Hathaway. Also in the last line is it possible that Shakespeare is playing with the sound of words to make it appear to say 'Anne saved my life?'

Widely thought to be "not very good," compared with his later works, it does however illustrate a passion that is hard to square with the idea he was forced into marriage.


the Dark Lady at virginalEmilia Lanier (the Dark Lady?)

sketch of Anne HathawayAnne Hathaway

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