The Fair Youth, The Dark Lady, and The Rival Poet
The focus of the 154 sonnet series appears to narrate the author's relationships with three characters: the Fair Youth, the Dark Lady or Mistress, and the Rival Poet. Beginning with Looney, most Oxfordians (exceptions are Percy Allen and Louis Bénézet) have asserted that the "Fair Youth" referred to in the early sonnets refers to Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, Oxford's peer and prospective son-in-law. The Dark Lady is believed by some Oxfordians to be Anne Vavasour, Oxford's mistress who bore him a son out of wedlock. A case was made by the Oxfordian Peter R. Moore that the Rival Poet was Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.
Sobran suggests that the so-called procreation sonnets were part of a campaign by Burghley to persuade Southampton to marry his granddaughter, Oxford's daughter Elizabeth de Vere, and says that it was more likely that Oxford would have participated in such a campaign than that Shakespeare would know the parties involved or presume to give advice to the nobility.
Oxfordians also assert that the tone of the poems is that of a nobleman addressing an equal rather than that of a poet addressing his patron. According to them, Sonnet 91 (which compares the Fair Youth's love to such treasures as high birth, wealth, and horses) implies that the author is in a position to make such comparisons, and the 'high birth' he refers to is his own.
... named 'Alba' (a character in Dream of Fair to Middling Women modelled on Ethna MacCarthy whom he had loved when he was a young man), then 'Celia' (the name of the green-eyed prostitute with whom Murphy ... to Peggy Sinclair also appears in Dream of Fair to Middling Women in Smeraldina, the "little emerald" ... Beckett did not remember this." The dark young beauty There appears to be no direct correlation between this character and anyone living ...
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