It has been rumored for years that a Black woman named Amelia Bassano Lanier was the female writer who is responsible for all of William Shakespeare’s plays. Is this true? Well, to answer that question we first need to properly introduce and identify who exactly this woman was.
Amelia was born in 1569 in England into a family of Venetian Jews who were court musicians to Queen Elizabeth I. At about the age of 13, she became mistress to the 56-year old Lord Hunsdon, Henry VIII’s reputed son. Hunsdon was in charge of the English theatre and would become the patron of the company that performed the Shakespearean plays.
Amelia lived with him for a decade, during which time she also had an affair with the playwright Christopher Marlowe. When she became pregnant, Amelia was exiled from court and next surfaces as the mysterious ‘dark lady’ in Shakespeare’s sonnets.
According to a book entitled Shakespeare’s Dark Lady by John Hudson, at the age of 42, she became the first woman to publish a book of original poetry, employing linguistic features resembling the later Shakespearean plays. However, there is no solid evidence that clearly shows that she secretly wrote his plays.
Was she Black?
Historians have never described Amelia as being of African ancestry. However, some agree that she may have been dark-complected. For this reason, she is often referred to as “Shakespeare’s Dark Lady”.
In addition, according to a paper published in a 2009 issue of the Oxfordian, a journal of Shakespearean authorship studies, some of Amelia’s relatives were referred to as “Black” when they first arrived in London likely due to their dark complexions.
To most people of color, this is convincing enough, but many white scholars are in complete denial that she was Black.
Was she properly compensated?
History does confirm that Amelia was definitely in all the right places and had all the right knowledge, skills, and contacts to have produced the Shakespearean canon. However, again, no one is 100% sure if she really did write or contribute to his plays. However, if she did, she definitely was never credited or compensated for her work.
Amelia died in poverty in 1645, but her legend will remain forever.