Shakespeare's Sister?: Aemilia Lanier, Poet and Muse


In this reading recognizing the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, author Mary Sharratt will discuss her newly released novel, THE DARK LADY'S MASK.

Date & Time:

Friday, April 22, 2016
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM


O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library, O'Shaughnessy Room (Building #4 on campus map)
University of St. Thomas
2115 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105

Mary Sharratt's novel, The Dark Lady's Mask, is the story of Aemilia Bassano Lanier (1569–1645), the first professional woman poet in Renaissance England, and her collaboration—and star-crossed love affair—with William Shakespeare, as his Dark Lady.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin to secretly write comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country—and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later he publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

Mary Sharratt is an American writer who lives with her Belgian husband in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers. Her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine inspired her to write her award-winning Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen, which explores the dramatic life of the 12th century Benedictine abbess, composer, polymath, and powerfrau.

Winner of the 2013 Nautilus Gold Award, the 2005 WILLA Literary Award, and a Minnesota Book Award Finalist, Sherratt has also written the novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, The Vanishing Point, and co-edited a subversive fiction anthology which celebrates female anti-heroes–strong women who break all the rules. Her short fiction has been published in Twin Cities Noir and elsewhere. Mary’s articles and essays have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Publisher’s Weekly, Minnesota Magazine, and Historical Novels Review. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually riding her spirited Welsh mare through the Lancashire countryside.

This event is sponsored by the English Department and Luann Dummer Center for Women.

Parking (available for a small fee)

Anderson Parking Facility--located at the corner of Cretin Ave. and Grand Ave.

Morrison Parking Ramp--located beneath Morrison Residence Hall, visitors parking in the Morrison ramp should enter campus at the intersection of Selby Ave. and Finn St. Follow the drive aisle south , under the skyway, toward the stadium. Take a hard right at the end of the drive aisle. The visitor ramp entrance is the eastern entrance beneath the residence hall.

McNeely Parking Ramp--visitor parking is available at the McNeely Ramp only after 4:00 pm and on weekends. The McNeely Ramp entrance is located within parking lot K, underneath McNeely Hall.

Anderson Student Center Parking Garage--visitor parking is available at the Anderson Student Center Parking Garage only after 4:00 pm and on weekends. The Anderson Student Center Parking Garage entrance can be accessed from the Anderson Student Center turnaround off of Cretin Avenue.

To make an accessibility request, call Disability Resources at (651) 962-6315.