The Shakespeare Stealer
|Cover artist||gary blakwood|
|Genre||Young adult novel|
|Publisher||E. P. Dutton|
|May 1, 1998|
|Media type||Hardcover and Paperback
Audio CD and cassette
|Pages||208 pp (hardcover)
224 pp (paperback)
|Followed by||Shakespeare's Scribe|
The Shakespeare Stealer is a 1998 young adult novel, written by Gary Blackwood. The novel is a historical fiction, and takes place in Elizabethan England. It was an ALA Notable Children's Book in 1999.
In Elizabethan England, fourteen-year-old Widge is an orphan who does not know his real name. Widge's previous master, Dr. Timothy Bright, taught him charactery, a shorthand language, to steal other preachers' sermons. His current master wants to use Widge's talent to acquire William Shakespeare's Hamlet, which has not been printed.
Simon Bass, Widge's master, gives Widge the assignment to write the play out in shorthand, and he sets off to London with a companion named Falconer. Falconer is a ruthless man, whom Bass assigns to ensure that Widge succeeds. The performance of Hamlet so enraptures Widge that he forgets his assignment. When he returns for a second try, his notebook is stolen.
Widge returns, posing as a hopeful player. The Lord Chamberlain's Men accepts him, and for the first time, Widge feels like a part of a family. However, Falconer constantly presses Widge to steal the play, and Widge must decide between his master and the company.
Trustful of Sander, Widge decides to try to avoid Falconer. After Falconer is killed in a duel, Widge remains at the Globe to work toward his dream career with his newfound family.
- Widge: an orphan who does not know his real name. The name "Widge" is short for "Pigwideon." Widge knows charactery, which enables him to write things very quickly and in a way that most people would not be able to decipher. Widge has never known his father, and his mother died giving birth to him.
- Alexander 'Sander' Cooke: Widge's closest friend when he starts his acting career at the Globe Theatre
- Julia 'Julian' Cogan: Widge's second closest friend. The other players discover at the end that she poses as a boy to be allowed on stage.
- William 'Will' Shakespeare: The playwright of the Lord Chamberlain's Men and the ghost in Hamlet.
- Simon 'Falconer' Bass: Widge's second master who wants him to steal Hamlet. Bass disguises himself to be a messenger, Falconer. At the end, Falconer reveals that he is Simon Bass, as he dies.
- Nick: He is an arrogant lad who is part of the Lord Chamberlains Men with Widge, Sander, and Julian. He doesn't like playing lower parts (i.e. women's roles), and he often comes in drunk and late. He nearly kills Widge. He accidentally pierces Julia's chest which leads to the discovery of her secret.
- Dr. Timothy Bright: Widge's first master who asks him to copy sermons and scientific notes. He is a rector and a doctor who runs the apothecary in Yorkshire. He was eventually caught and reprimanded by a wily old rector at Leeds. Widge lived with Dr. Bright for seven years, then he was sold to Simon Bass for ten gold sovereigns.
- Thomas Pope: Good-natured head of boy's home where Widge was staying. He made Widge feel part of a family by taking care of his needs.
Awards and nominations
- 1998 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
- 1999 ALA Notable Children's Book
- 1999 ALA Best Book for Young Adults
The novel's popularity led to two sequels:
- Shakespeare's Scribe (2000)
- Shakespeare's Spy (2003)
The three novels were published together as a trilogy in a single, 784 page volume in 2004.
- "1999 Notable Children's Books". American Library Association. Retrieved 2011-06-04.
- "SLJ Best Books 1998". School Library Journal. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- "1999 ALA Best Books for Young Adults". American Library Association. Retrieved 2008-01-16.
- "Bookshelf: Children's Books in Brief". New York Times.