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Fools and Mortals: A Novel (Paperback)
On Our Shelves Now
London 1595. Fortunately, Queen Elizabeth enjoys a good play, and her Lord Chamberlain is the patron of the ‘Lord Chamberlain’s Men’ so that William Shakespeare’s Theatre should not be harassed by the Puritan government who would close down all these dens of Satan if they could. The Chamberlain’s daughter is to be married at Christmas and a wedding play would be the perfect entertainment. What might William devise? The historical background is set for this superb fiction focusing on Shakespeare’s younger brother and struggling actor, Richard, and the first performance of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Cornwell’s attention to the language, smells and textures of 16th century London make the dream a vivid reality for the reader. An excellent choice for those who love Shakespeare and historical fiction.
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.
About the Author
BERNARD CORNWELL is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales series, which includes The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, and, most recently, The Empty Throne and Warriors of the Storm, and which serves as the basis for the hit television series The Last Kingdom. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Cornwell is an enthusiastic amateur dramatist. His portrayal of the actors’ rivalries and superstitions is sharp and often funny. His combination of wit, adventure and deft characterization is a triumphant departure from his usual territory.”
— The Times, UK
“Marvelous…. 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.”
— Library Journal, starred review
“Cornwell is superb with mood and setting, whether ugly—London’s ‘reek of sewage and smoke’—or elegant: ‘city churches mangled the air by striking eleven’.... A master craftsman at work: imaginative, intelligent, and just plain fun.”
“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…. Cornwell displays his usual masterful attention to detail…. Sumptuously entertaining.”
“The atmosphere of the times and the world of the theatre are expertly conveyed, based as usual on thorough research. The master of historical fiction demonstrates exactly why he is so successful. Thoroughly enjoyable.”
— Historical Novel Society
“Impressively original…. Like William, Richard Shakespeare, his younger brother, is a historical figure about whom next to nothing is known, and Mr. Cornwell has fitted him out with a superb dramatic trajectory, from street urchin to acclaimed actor…. Cornwell fattens up this story with a splendor of period detail.”
— Wall Street Journal
“As skillful a blend of history and fiction as any novelist can achieve.... Anyone reading ‘Fools and Mortals’ will not see or read Shakespeare the same again.”
— San Antonio Express-News
“Gripping, exciting, and engaging. It is another great read from the masterful author. . . . A Cornwell novel is always full of suspense, and this one is no different. Time after time the suspense is intense. It will have you on the edge of your seat.”
— New York Journal of Books on Warriors of the Storm
“For those who are looking for something akin to ‘Game of Thrones’ on HBO or in George R.R. Martin’s novels on which it is based, you can’t go wrong with Cornwell’s tales of Saxons in the years before Britain became England.”
— Oklahoman on Warriors of the Storm
“’Warriors’ may be the best in the ‘Saxon Tales’ series yet…. Cornwell’s informative stories are told with appealing imagination to reveal the complicated, lengthy history of England’s formation.”
— San Antonio Express on Warriors of the Storm