The hidden life of Shakespeare's lover
Shakespeare's personal life brought about such controversies. Among
them, the young man to whom he addresses in his sonnets, admiring the
youthful beauty, is still a debatable topic. The only clue Shakespeare
gave us was that his name was 'Mr. W.H.' Some believed him to be William
Herbert, 3rd Earl of Southampton, William Hatcliffe, the printer William
Hall, or the young actor Willie Hughes. After reading 'The Portrait of
Mr. W.H' by Oscar Wilde, the presence of young Willie Hughes in
Shakespeare's life started to appear more definite to me.Wilde who was
good at connecting portraits with literature as seen clearly from his
greatest masterpiece 'The Portrait of Dorian Grey', brings a story full
of exploration with one of his mostly compelling short stories about the
personal life of our greatest dramatist. The story begins with the
narrator meeting a friend named Erkshine. They open up a conversation
about how Erkshine's friend, Cyril Graham believed in Willie Hughes.
has done a lot of research to consolidate the fact that it's definitely
Willie Hughes in the sonnets and no one else. Since Erkshine rejected
his ideas, Graham in his quest for truth, struggling to put out his
ideas but seeing his efforts all useless, has killed himself. In his
utter desperation has also faked a portrait of Hughes.
The narrator embarks on his own voyage of discovery. He turns the
pages of Shakespearean sonnets and analyse them in accordance to dead
Graham's revelations. When Erkshine gets to know the narrator's
findings, he is dying of a deadly disease in Paris. The narrator also
amidst the confusion of his friend's sudden death and his new
discoveries, is not really sure whether it really is Willie Hughes.
What Wilde believed was that, Willie Hughes was a tender and soft
hearted youth who has acted in Shakespeare's plays, maybe he acted
characters like the sprite Ariel in The Tempest. He could also be the
person referred to in
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" Wilde also surmised that
this exploration to who the youth really was developed to an addiction
ultimately resulting in death.
In finding about the youth, although there weren't much evidence to
prove his presence, both the narrator, Erkshine and Graham sway between
acceptance and rejection, finally ends up trying to prove that it was
really Willie Hughes. But what we could clearly see is that Shakespeare
has been very careful in giving information about his lover, to make the
quest of finding his true identity a hard task.
Willie Hughes is also mentioned by many other writers. Especially
when literary discussions are brought out as in James Joyce's
masterpiece Ulysses. The tender feminine nature in Willie Hughes might
have been the reason for Shakespeare to regard him as a muse.
Although enthralled by Wilde's brilliant portrayals and finding
enough details pertaining to Willie Hughes in Shakespeare's sonnets, I'm
unable to say whether it was really that talented youth that inspired
The literary explorer in me wants to find out the exact truth but I
have no evidence to prove except for what has been revealed to us by