Schumann: In his e-book discussion of Sonnet 134, Edward Furlong states that the male friend whom the author’s lover (presumably Anne Vavasour) has bewitched is John Lyly. What is your view of this?
Hughes: Along with a number of others, I see Sonnets 127 through 152 as expressing the feelings of someone so besotted with a sexually appealing young woman that nothing can break the spell, not the fact that she “belongs” to someone else, that she is unfaithful, that she is “unjust” and “tyrannous,” upbraiding him for things he can’t control, and so forth. He’s her love slave, he’s helplessly in love with her, as these poems testify, though of course we can’t tell how long the spell lasted. Such things are more often a matter of weeks than months or years.
As has also been pointed out by many, this series matches with a series of three sonnets, 40-42, that occurs during the first group, 1 through 126, written for and about “the Fair Youth.” In these the poet seems to be referring to the same situation, i.e., that the woman has seduced the poet’s young friend. In fact, however opaquely, Sonnet 134 sounds very much like he’s saying pretty much the same thing he’s saying to the youth in Sonnet 42.
As many concur, the Fair Youth was the Earl of Southampton, to whom Oxford dedicated Venus and Adonis in 1593 during the period when he and Burghley were trying to get Southampton to marry Oxford’s daughter. As I’ve indicated a number of times elsewhere, I agree with A.L. Rowse that the Dark Lady was the poet musician Emilia Bassano. Thus the answer to your question is that the friend that the Dark Lady bewitched was Southampton. This occurred at some point in the early 90s when Oxford was in his early 40s, Southampton was in his teens, and Emilia was in her early 20s.
It makes no sense to see Ann Vavasor as the Dark Lady. Emilia was half Italian, while Ann was pure anglo saxon with pale skin and light brown hair. Ann was also far too early. Oxford in his early 30s could not possibly have been in the mood he was in (“all chopped and tanned with antiquity”) when he wrote the Sonnets. The best authorities date them to 1590-96.
As for a word for word breakdown of the meaning of Sonnet 134 (or 135-137), I must confess it’s beyond me, and I would think beyond anyone to penetrate to the bottom––no pun intended, though puns definitely intended by Shakespeare, and surely as funky as he ever got. Our boy was having one heck of a mid-life crisis. I’d just as soon leave it at that.