The name Emilia Lanier is unique in the context of English history and poetry. Emilia Lanier, nee Aemilia Bassano, lived in 1569-1645 and appeared to be the first English woman, who claimed herself a professional poetess. This fact was surprising for the people of this epoch. She resided in London, and her activity refers to the movement of the English Renaissance. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to reveal her professional activity, namely the most well-known poems and feminist themes, and cover Dark Lady Theory.
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Professional Activity: Poems and Feminist Themes
Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (Hail, God, King of the Jews) is the most famous collection of poetry written by Emilia Lanier. It was published in 1611 when the poetess was 42 years old, and at this time, it was unusual for women to present their writings in order to earn money for their living (“Aemilia Lanyar: Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum”). This book appeared to be the first one, which comprised original poetry created by the English woman (“Aemilia Lanyar: Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum”). Before Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, Emilia Lanier introduced short poems, which are addressed to aristocratic women, including the Queen.
The value of this composition cannot be underestimated, as it provides an in-depth insight into the mind of a woman of the 17th century. In addition, the poem implies the defense of all women in accordance with the Bible:
“Yet Men will boast of Knowledge, which he took
From Eve’s fair hand, as from a learned Book” (Lanier).
Furthermore, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum is occasionally seen as one of the earliest feminist publications, as Emilia Lanier attempts to provide defense for women, which was unhabitual at that period. All the defenses advanced by the poetess are presented from a woman’s perspective (“Aemilia Lanyar: Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum”). For this reason, this work presents a matter of interest for modern literature researchers. Interestingly, Emilia Lanier introduces her opinion via her poems on the role of woman and their priorities. She highlights the significance of the spiritual and material sides of life in women’s connection (“Aemilia Lanyar: Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum”). Therefore, from her perspective, it is crucial for women to concentrate on the material world and their role in it, as it is considered to complement the spiritual one.
Dark Lady Theory
There are numerous assumptions that Emilia Lanier is Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, though this issue presents a matter of hot debate. A. L. Rowse was the first, who advanced this idea, and it was supported by several other specialists. For instance, this idea was mentioned in the book “The Bassanos: Venetian Musicians and Instrument makers in England 1531–1665”. Although her hair color stays unknown, her description includes the adjective “black”, which may refer to her hair or complexion.
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Some parts of her biography, such as the fact that her family comprised Court musicians match the poems of Shakespeare. In Sonner 152, it is mentioned that Emilia Lanier adhered to another man, which is similar to the relationship between Emilia Lanier and Shakespeare’s patron, Lord Hunsdon. However, some researchers do not find this evidence credible enough to consider the poetess the Dark Lady.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that there are a great number of mysteries associated with Emilia Lanier, which cannot be revealed these days. There is no range of historical sources, which may clarify her personality. However, it is evident that the poetess was a prominent personality, who is engaging to get acquainted via books and articles. She was innovative, audacious, and bright, and for this reason, her personality draws considerable attention.
“Aemilia Lanyar: Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum”. Press Books. Web.
Lanier, Amelia. Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women.