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Title:
Fools and mortals : a novel

Fools & mortals
Title:
Fools and mortals : a novel
Personal Author:
Publisher Info:
New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, [2018]
Physical Description:
370 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
General Note:
Pagination may vary.
Abstract:
In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue. As William's star rises, Richard's onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty. So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangled in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal which threatens not only his career and potential fortune, but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the part of a lifetime.

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Summary

Summary

New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell makes a dramatic departure with this enthralling, action-packed standalone novel that tells the story of the first production of A Midsummer Night's Dream--as related by William Shakespeare's estranged younger brother.

Lord, what fools these mortals be . . .

In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue. As William's star rises, Richard's onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty.

So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangled in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal which threatens not only his career and potential fortune, but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the part of a lifetime . . . .

Showcasing the superb storytelling skill that has won Bernard Cornwell international renown, Fools and Mortals is a richly portrayed tour de force that brings to life a vivid world of intricate stagecraft, fierce competition, and consuming ambition.


Author Notes

Bernard Cornwell was born in London, England, on February 23, 1944, and came to the United States in 1980. He received a B.A. from the University of London in 1967.

Cornwell served as producer of the British Broadcasting Corporation from 1969-1976. After this he was head of current affairs for BBC-TV in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1979 he became editor of television news for Thames Television of London. Since 1980 he has been a freelance writer. he lives with his wife on Cape Cod.

Cornwell's Sharpe series, adventure stories about a British soldier set in the Peninsula War of 1808-1814, are built on the author's interest in the Duke of Wellington's army. Titles include Sharpe's Rifles, Sharpe's Revenge, Sharpe's Siege, Sharpe's Regiment, and Sharpe's Waterloo. The Last Kingdom series has ten books. Book ten, The Flame Bearer is on the bestsellers list. He has also written other works including Wildtrack, Killer's Wake, Sea Lord, Stormchild, Rebel, Copperhead, and Battle Flag. His title Death of Kings made The New York Times Best Seller List in 2012 and In 2014 his title The Pagan Lord made the list again.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

School Library Journal Review

Just three weeks into his apprenticeship, Richard Shakespeare flees from Stratford after stealing from and then striking his brutal master in the head. Seeking refuge in London in his older brother Will's theater company, he becomes an actor, but he plays only women's roles, is poorly paid, and has to suffer his brother's scorn as well. When Will writes A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard plays his first male role but one that still requires portraying a woman in "the play within the play." He contemplates defecting to another playhouse, but, when Will's two new scripts are stolen, it is Richard who retrieves them, and his reward is the plum, masculine role of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. Cornwell's novel is filled with historical and theatrical information, well-developed characters, intrigue, romance, and a fast-moving, ever-surprising plot. By focusing on Richard instead of on the Bard himself, the author reveals numerous details about the personal and professional lives of the Lord Chamberlain's Men while maintaining a distance from which his Richard can freely comment upon the action. Uncommon vocabulary is explained in context, and a wealth of details about Elizabethan customs and historical persons/situations add to the richness of the text, though some of the language can be rather crude. VERDICT An excellent, intimate portrait of Shakespeare's world for high school and public libraries with broad collection policies.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Review

In this delightful departure from his popular military historicals, Cornwell (The Flame Bearer, 2016) conducts a boisterous behind-the-scenes romp through the often sordid world of the Elizabethan theater. At center stage are the Shakespeare brothers, estranged for years but bound by their mutual love of the theater. William, already a celebrated playwright, and younger sibling Richard, an aspiring actor tired of playing exclusively female roles, clash until the theft of William's latest play entwines their destinies. When suspicion for the crime initially falls on Richard, he delves into the darkest recesses of London to recover the manuscript and salvage his personal reputation and theatrical career. Cornwell displays his usual masterful attention to detail as he vivifies the sprawling setting and firmly entrenches the narrative in historical context. Readers will learn much about the pathos and the pageantry of the Elizabethan theater while enjoying this sumptuously entertaining production.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2018 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Cornwell, best known for his "Saxon Tales" and "Sharpe" series, has taken a sharp right turn and written a marvelous novel about the founding of what would become modern theater. Readers will fall in love with Richard Shakespeare, the younger brother of the famous William. The brothers have a contentious relationship. At 21, Richard desperately wants to put aside his long skirts, makeup, and high-pitched voice and play men's roles, but his physical beauty and popularity with the masses has kept him locked into female roles. Loath to lose his talents for playing queens and fairies, William has denied Richard a male role at every turn. In addition to turmoil within the troupe, the players are beset by troubles from outside, as other playhouses plot to steal Shakespeare's plays and Pursuivants round up suspected Catholics and hidden priests. It isn't until the company is invited to perform at the wedding of Lord Hunsdon's daughter that their fortunes begin to change. VERDICT Full of drama, both on- and offstage, and with numerous delightful, laugh-out-loud moments, this novel is an absolute joy. A must-have for anyone who loves the theater, this is easily the best book this reviewer has read this year. [See Prepub Alert, 7/31/17; "Editors' Fall Picks," LJ 9/1/17.]-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage P.L., AK © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.