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
Set in Elizabethan England
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 young adult novel, written by Gary Blackwood. The novel is a historical fiction novel, and takes place in Elizabethan England. It was an ALA Notable Children's Book in 1999.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

In Elizabethan England, 14-year-old Widge is an orphan who does not know his real name. Widge's previous master taught him charactery, a shorthand language, to steal other preachers' sermons. His current master, Bass, wants to use Widge's talent 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. 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. Trusting his friend Sander, Widge decides to try to avoid Falconer. Once Falconer dies, Widge remains at the Globe to work toward his dream of being a player.


  • Widge: an orphan who does not know his real name. Widge's previous master taught him charactery, a shorthand language, to steal other preachers' sermons. His current master 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 '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 as a messenger, Falconer. At the end, Falconer reveals that he is Bass, as he dies.
  • 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.