Scour Shakepeare’s London, seeking the Dark Lady. An excellent solo game of decision and deduction.

Scholars still argue over the identity of the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets ~ the woman who held him in agonised thrall while she also was conducting an affair with the Fair Youth: see DarkLadypedia.

Why Black Sonata?
Well, having themed the game around Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, John Kean sought a name that would evoke a shadowy pursuit. In the sonnets, Shakespeare repeatedly refers to the Lady as black (both in colouring and deeds): but “Black Sonnet” didn’t seem to sound right. Black Sonata did, especially since in Shakespeare’s time ‘sonata’ could refer to any instrumental music – music that was “sounded” rather than “sung”.
Also, sonata and sonnet share the same word origin.

The manner in which the lady’s movements through the city are brought about is amazing – “how did he do it?” (John Kean, that is.) There’s a deck of small cards that have to be sorted into a specified order (all clearly shown in the manual), and these determine her hidden movements from place to place. There are only eleven places she goes to, but the nearly thirty different routes that are offered means that the chances of her steps from start to finish ever being utterly predictable is very small.

This terribly clever pre-game management of the cards and the order in which the Lady visits different locations takes the place of luck.

The solo player must deduce her location as she moves around town: trying to be in the right place to catch a glimpse of her when she also drops in there, and gain a clue to her identity ~ is she in Cripplegate now, or Blackfriars?

Several clues will be needed to work out who she is. The extent to which you’re fortunate enough to get clues that tumble together varies from game to game. Sometimes you might want to make a guess about her, and go for pot luck.

Annoyingly, with each clue that’s gained the Dark Lady runs away ~ and she runs further each time each time you gain a clue!

There are times when you are certain that you know where she is. Then she takes a path that leads back to uncertainty. What a woman! 😁

Black Sonata clue cards

Can you identify her characteristics and reveal her identity, thereby solving one of literature’s greatest mysteries?

Or will the Dark Lady elude you too?

The box includes a nicely produced, highly informative overview of the women that might have been the Dark Lady, along with interesting notes about the locations you will visit as you chase her around town.

And here’s a big bonus … a link to John Keay’s advice on how to approach the business of using clues to deduce the identity of the Dark Lady.

In a nutshell …

  • takes three or four minutes to set up the cards each time
  • definitely advisable to do the easy game first, to get used to it
  • the guide makes all pretty clear
    (theres a good quick summary at the back)
  • deduction, puzzle solving is paramount
  • minimal luck involved, but it sometimes doesn’t feel that way
  • replayable … quietly exciting
  • having someone nearby to help or comment is permitted
  • swearing at the Lady is forbidden … 😊
  • you do not take a card at your starting location …. except, perhaps, in very easy mode