The Shakespeare Stealer

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First edition
Author Gary Blackwood
Country United States
Language English
Series The Shakespeare Stealer trilogy
Genre Historical fiction, young adult novel
Published 1998 (E. P. Dutton)
Media type
  • 208 pp (hardcover)
  • 224 pp (paperback)
ISBN 0-525-45863-8
Followed by Shakespeare's Scribe

The Shakespeare Stealer is a 1998 historical fiction novel by Gary Blackwood. Taking place in Elizabethan-era England, it recounts the story of Widge, an orphan whose master sends him to steal Hamlet from The Lord Chamberlain's Men. It was an ALA Notable Children's Book in 1999.[2] Blackwood published two sequels, Shakespeare's Scribe (2000) and Shakespeare's Spy (2003).

Plot summary[edit]

In the late Elizabethan era, a fourteen-year-old orphan known only by his nickname, Widge, has learned shorthand from his previous master, a preacher who wants Widge to steal other preachers' sermons. Bass, his new master, wants to use Widge's skill to transcribe William Shakespeare's Hamlet before Shakespeare prints it. Widge sets off to London with Falconer, a ruthless man whom Bass assigns to ensure Widge succeeds. Hamlet's performance so enraptures Widge that he forgets his assignment, and when he returns for a second try, his notebook is stolen. Widge eventually settles into the acting troupe by posing as a hopeful player, and The Lord Chamberlain's Men accepts him. For the first time, Widge feels like a part of a family. Falconer continues to press Widge to steal the play, resulting in a constant cat and mouse chase between the boy and his chaperone. After Falconer dies in a duel with one of The Lord Chamberlain's Men, shareholder Robert Armin, Widge remains at the Globe to work toward his dream of being a player.


  • Widge: an orphan who does not know his real name and born around 1587. Widge's previous master, Dr. Bright, taught him charactery, a shorthand language, to steal other preachers' sermons. His current master, Simon Bass, wants to use Widge's shorthand to acquire Shakespeare's Hamlet, which has not been printed for the public.
  • 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 Shakespeare: The playwright of the Lord Chamberlain's Men and the ghost in Hamlet.
  • Simon "Falconer" Bashevi: Widge's second master who wants him to steal Hamlet. Bashevi disguises himself as a messenger, Falconer. At the end, Falconer is revealed as Bashevi by Richard Burbage as he dies.originally born Simon Bashevi, he changed his name to Simon Bass to avoid being outed as a Jewish man.
  • Nick: An arrogant member the Lord Chamberlain's Men with Widge, Sander, and Julian. He does not like playing lower parts (i.e. women's roles) and often comes in drunk and late. A university student nearly kills him, but Widge saves his life. He accidentally pierces Julia's chest which leads to the discovery of her secret.

Awards and nominations[edit]


The novel's popularity led to two sequels, Shakespeare's Scribe (2000) and Shakespeare's Spy (2003). The three novels were published together as a trilogy in a single, 784-page volume in 2004 .[4]


  1. ^ a b "SLJ Best Books 1998". School Library Journal. Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  2. ^ a b c "1999 Notable Children's Books". American Library Association. Retrieved 2011-06-04. 
  3. ^ a b "1999 ALA Best Books for Young Adults". American Library Association. Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  4. ^ "Bookshelf: Children's Books in Brief". New York Times.