the speaker’s relationship with a woman who has become known as the ‘dark lady’, though this phrase occurs nowhere in Shakespeare’s poems. In fact, the phrase obscures what Shakespeare actually does say about the woman: that her beauty is ‘black’. Sonnet 127 explores this idea at witty length, and it is repeated in sonnet 130 where the woman’s hair is described as ‘black wires’, in sonnet 131 where her black is ‘fairest in my judgment’s place’, and in sonnet 132 where the speaker is willing to ‘swear beauty herself is black’. The woman’s colour is mentioned only once again in the sequence, in sonnet 147, when she is pronounced ‘as black as hell’. Shakespeare has made a clear effort to establish her ‘blackness’ early in the sequence, so it must be of some importance. What might the speaker intend by using the word ‘black’?
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