London - The Dark Lady who inspired some of Shakespeare’s romantic sonnets may have had a rather unladylike profession.

An expert on the Bard suggests she may have been a notorious prostitute called “Lucy Negro” or “Black Luce” who ran a brothel in Clerkenwell, London.

Shakespeare scholar Dr Duncan Salkeld said he had unearthed documents that indicate she is “the foremost candidate for the dubious role of the Dark Lady”.

Many of the sonnets 127 to 152 are addressed to an unidentified woman with whom Shakespeare imagines having an affair.

In Sonnet 144 the temptress is referred to as “my female evil” and “my bad angel”. The identity of the Dark Lady has mystified academics for years.

Black Luce was tentatively suggested in the 1930s, but Dr Salkeld, reader in Shakespeare studies at the University of Chichester, believes that he has found a definite connection between her and the playwright.

He found references to Black Luce and fellow brothel owner Gilbert East in the diary of Philip Henslowe, the man who built the Rose Theatre and whose acting company rivalled Shakespeare’s.

The Bard’s plays were often performed at the Rose, and it is thought Henslowe’s tenants moved in theatrical circles.

The striking Black Luce was certainly a woman that Shakespeare could hardly fail to notice.

Shakespeare also had strong connections with the Clerkenwell area, with relatives thought to live there.

A Matthew Shakespeare was listed in Clerkenwell parish records at the time. Perfect cover for a man keen to visit his Dark Lady in the same neighbourhood.

Black Luce was described by contemporaries as “an arrant whore and a bawde”, catering for everyone from “ingraunts” (immigrants) to “welthyemen” and the aristocracy.

Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence offers few clues to the Dark Lady beyond her dark eyes, hair and complexion, with hints that she was married. - Daily Mail