With these immortal lines Shakespeare begins his most famous sonnet and perhaps the most famous love poem of all time. This poem and more than one hundred others, first published over 400 years ago in a slim volume entitled Shake-speares Sonnets, was written by Shakespeare not about a beautiful young woman, but a beautiful young man, whom Shakespeare addresses as his "lovely Boy".
Shakespeare was apparently infatuated with this young man, but who was he? Shakespeare did not keep a diary and the Sonnets are the closest he comes to telling us about his personal relationships. But what do they actually reveal? Did the lovely boy and Shakespeare have an intimate relationship? If so, what do we make of the Dark Lady of the later sonnets? And if the lovely boy was a rich aristocrat, as the poems seem to suggest, how did Shakespeare, a young man from the country who started his career on the fringes of respectability, make his acquaintance? And what about the Sonnets' enigmatic dedication that refers to a mysterious "Mr.W.H."? Is Mr.W.H. the lovely boy or do these initials refer to someone else? And if Mr.W.H. is someone else, why is he mentioned at all, and how does he relate to what we read in the Sonnets?
These puzzles, and numerous others, have occupied the minds of scholars for centuries. But despite extensive research and erudite speculation by the best literary minds, published in numerous books and academic journals, no consensus has been reached on what the Sonnets are really about. The poems seem to demand a fresh approach, and in this book scientist and author Peter McIntosh takes up the challenge of finding what the great early twentieth century biographer Lytton Strachey described as "the key which shall unlock the mystery of Shakespeare's Sonnets". The quest takes the reader on a literary journey through the 'undiscovered country' of the Sonnets and the personal and historical events that influenced their composition.
In this ground-breaking study Dr McIntosh brings together all the various strands of evidence concerning the origin of the Sonnets and comes to a conclusion that will change forever our understanding of Britain's greatest poet.