Was dark lady the real writer of the Bard’s works?
New Globe director to stage play on poet which claims she penned Shakespeare’s classics
THE new artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe is to begin her first season with a play exploring the theory that a woman may have written some of the Bard’s plays.
Michelle Terry has commissioned a writer to produce a daring new work on Aemilia Bassano, a published poet in her day and the mistress of Henry Carey, first cousin of Elizabeth I.
Born into a Jewish family with Venetian origins and married to an Italian musician, she is thought by some academics to be the “Dark Lady” who inspired Shakespeare’s sonnets of the same name. Others have gone further, claiming she authored some of his work.
It is a radical suggestion dismissed by most historians, but Terry is open-minded on the question of whether Shakespeare wrote the plays that bear his name.
“My view is: whether it was one man, one woman or 10 people, it exists. And no one else, or no other body of people, has ever matched it. It is the greatest offering to literature that has ever been made,” she said. Terry replaces Emma Rice, who repeatedly clashed with the board over her experimental productions featuring amplified sound and artificial lighting rigs.
Rice’s recent staging of Romeo and Juliet featured nuclear warheads, pounding music, and Juliet’s father dancing to disco music in a dinosaur costume. The job description stipulated that the new post holder must return to the old way of doing things.
“That decision has been made. There will be no amplified sound, there will be no imposed lighting rig,” she said, describing the theatre as “a raw, naked space” in which the ability to see the audience from the stage is paramount.
She promised an “unplugged” approach and suggested that during Rice’s tenure something of the Globe’s uniqueness was lost. “My offer to a director would be: if you want to do disco-dancing Capulets, if you want to get people to dance in a production… go as far as you can with your imagination, and then unplug it. What can you do with a drum? People dance to ceilidhs every night of the week and that’s a drum and a fiddle. What can you do to unplug your idea?
“Every other theatre can do lights and sounds. What is unique to the Globe is that we don’t.”
She has read every Shakespeare play and “loves all of them” – a contrast to Rice who, in a quote that came back to haunt her, said she would rather listen to The Archers than plough through some of his texts.
An actress by trade, Terry has no directing experience. “Luckily I’m not going to direct, so nobody has to worry about that. I think it’s a skill that I don’t have, and my passion is acting,” she said, adding that she hoped to appear in one production per season.
Terry pledged to continue Rice’s policy of a 50:50 gender split in all productions, promising to be “gender blind, race blind and disability blind”. Her notable Shakespearean roles including playing the lead Henry V at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park.
Terry got the job after sending a letter to the Globe’s chief executive “pledging allegiance and saying I’d love to be part of the artistic conversation”. He wrote back suggesting she make a formal application.
Joking that she hoped to survive in the job at least until Christmas, she added: “I take great courage in the fact that they are taking an enormous risk by putting an actor in this position. I think that smacks of bravery. That gives me great hope.”
‘My view is: whether it was one man, one woman or 10 people, it exists and no one else or no other body of people has ever matched it’
Bassano by Nicholas
Terry, left, the new Globe director, is staging a play that suggests she might have had a hand in Shakespeare’s works