The Shakespeare Stealer [NOOK Book]


Widge is an orphan with a rare talent for shorthand. His fearsome master has just one demand: steal Shakespeare's play "Hamlet"--or else. Widge has no choice but to follow orders, so he works his way into the heart of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's players perform. As full of twists and turns as a London alleyway, this entertaining novel is rich in period details, ...
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The Shakespeare Stealer

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Widge is an orphan with a rare talent for shorthand. His fearsome master has just one demand: steal Shakespeare's play "Hamlet"--or else. Widge has no choice but to follow orders, so he works his way into the heart of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's players perform. As full of twists and turns as a London alleyway, this entertaining novel is rich in period details, colorful characters, villainy, and drama.

"A fast-moving historical novel that introduces an important era with casual familiarity." --School Library Journal, starred review

A young orphan boy is ordered by his master to infiltrate Shakespeare's acting troupe in order to steal the script of "Hamlet," but he discovers instead the meaning of friendship and loyalty.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A myriad of anachronisms mar this predictable tale of a Yorkshire orphan. Widge, the 14-year-old narrator, is sent by a rival theater manager to steal the as-yet-unpublished Hamlet in 1601 London and ends up an apprenticing actor instead. Blackwood (Wild Timothy), a playwright and amateur actor himself, clearly knows Shakespeare, but is a bit cloudy on some details of the Elizabethan era. Widge mentions square city blocks, describes his dinner kept warm on the back of the stove and notes that a man wounded in a duel had recovered in a hospitalthis in an age of unplanned cities, meals cooked over open fires and hospitals that were for terminally ill paupers. Blackwood excels, however, in the lively depictions of Elizabethan stagecraft and street life. Lonely outcast Widge is a sympathetic character, but his frequent shifts in voice from Yorkshire dialect to 20th-century American slang may be disconcerting to readers, and the villainy of Widge's nemesis seems all too familiar. Ages 9-12. (May)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This tale of a 14-year-old Yorkshire orphan sent by a rival theater manager to steal the as-yet-unpublished Hamlet in 1601 London "excels in the lively depictions of Elizabethan stagecraft and street life," wrote PW. Ages 10-14. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
The orphan Widge has the fate of being apprenticed to strange masters. His first is a pseudo-doctor and minister obsessed by inventing a system of shorthand. Shorthand skills get Widge sold to the director of a provincial theatrical troupe determined to steal Shakespeare's latest unpublished plays from the Globe. But when Widge almost gets caught performing this nefarious deed, he finds himself adopted into the theatre family. Torn between stage fright, stage love, and an ever-lurking villain, the boy must learn about morality and true friendship for the first time in his life. Blackwood knows his theatre history and recreates Elizabethan London lovingly and well.
VOYA - Beth Karpas
Widge is an orphan living in Elizabethan England. At the age of eight he was adopted by a minister who taught Widge a complicated system of shorthand and then used the boy to steal sermons from surrounding congregations. One day the frightening Falconer, working for his own master, comes to Widge and purchases his services. Falconer's master explains that Widge is to accompany Falconer to London to see The Tragedy of Hamlet and copy down the play. Once in London, Widge gets caught up in the magic of the play itself and through a number of mishaps joins Shakespeare's troupe, eventually revealing the attempted theft. Widge and the other players in Shakespeare's troupe quickly draw the reader into the streets of sixteenth-century London. All the characters are well developed and behave logically. A side story about an actor who is actually an actress is a bit of a surprise because the clues were well hidden earlier in the book, but they are there. From a modern perspective, the blatant anti-Semitism shown by and toward the character of Falconer is a problem. While it is perfectly plausible for the time period, and even a clue to the book's conclusion, the sentiment is still somewhat troubling in its lack of balance. To view this sentiment in its historical context, and to understand the quotes from Shakespeare's plays sprinkled throughout the text, the book is best read in conjunction with a unit on Shakespeare and the times in which he lived. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
This fast-paced story revolves around the Globe Theatre in the year 1587. Orphaned at a young age, fourteen-year-old Widge is bought by Dr. Bright. Bright has developed a new unique coded shorthand and needs Widge to learn the technique to be his assistant. One day while Widge is working, a sinister man called Falconer shows up to buy Widge for his master Simon Bass, a theatrical manager. Now instead of transcribing for Dr. Bright, Widge is sent to London so that he can copy down and steal the new play, The Tragedy of Hamlet, which will enable Simon Bass to perform it without paying royalties. Once at the Globe Theatre, Widge makes friends with some of the actors and, for the first time in his life, experiences a sense of family. Widge now has a new problem: How can he fulfill his task of stealing the play for his master and not betray his friends? Word play, humorous dialogue and lots of near misses make this a good choice for all schools and libraries. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 1998, Penguin/Puffin, 216p, 20cm, 97-42987, $5.99. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Jamie Lyn Weaver; YA Libn., Geneva P.L., Geneva, IL, November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7Young Widge is an Elizabethan Oliver Twist with a talent for shorthand. Raised in an orphanage, he is apprenticed to an unprincipled clergyman who trains Widge to use a cryptic writing system that he's invented to pirate sermons from other rectors. Hired by a mysterious traveler, the boy is hauled off to London to attend performances of Hamlet in order to transcribe the script for another theater company. Naturally, all does not go smoothly, and in the course of trying to recover his stolen notebook, Widge goes to work at the Globe, eventually donning a dress and wig to play Ophelia before the queen. The true identity of the mysterious traveler provides a neat twist at the end. As in Wild Timothy (Atheneum, 1987; o.p.) and several of his other books, Blackwood puts a young boy in a sink-or-swim predicament in alien territory where he discovers his own strength. It's a formula with endless appeal. Not only must Widge survive physically, but he must also find his own ethical path having had no role models. When he is befriended by members of the acting company, he blossoms as he struggles with moral dilemmas that would never have dawned on him before. Tentative readers might be put off by Widge's Yorkshire dialect, but the words are explained in context. Wisely, much of the theater lingo is not explained and becomes just one more part of the vivid background through which the action moves. This is a fast-moving historical novel that introduces an important era with casual familiarity.Sally Margolis, Barton Public Library, VT
Horn Book Magazine
No matter that few of its young readers will be Shakespeare buffs; this fast-paced story showcasing life behind the scenes at the Globe Theatre in its heyday artfully sets the stage for future reading and play-going. Widge's master, owner of a rival theater company, sends him to see Hamlet to steal Shakespeare's new play by transcribing it in a kind of shorthand. Caught hiding in a balcony, Widge pretends he's simply stagestruck; his act convinces the company of players, who agree to take him in. He goes along, thinking to steal their copy of the play, but soon finds himself trapped between betraying his new friends and risking his master's wrath. Like Hamlet, Blackwood's story focuses on its pro-tagonist's doubt and deliberation about his interrupted quest. As in Shakespeare, the narrative includes wordplay, humorous dialects that individualize cast members, incidents of mistaken identity, and even some fencing matches-both real and fake. Wry humor, cliffhanger chapter endings, and a plucky protagonist make this a fitting intro-duction to Shakespeare's world. Lacking is an explanation of what's history and what's not, and a note on the plot's inspiration: the stenographic theory once posited to explain the many contemporaneous versions of Shakespeare's plays.
Kirkus Reviews
This latest from Blackwood (Beyond the Door, 1991) is a delightful and heartwarming romp through Elizabethan England. Narrator Widge, 14, resigned to leading the unremarkable life of an orphan, is bought by the self-serving Dr. Bright to learn his new "charactery" (shorthand), and become his secretary. Although Widge applies himself, Dr. Bright is nevertheless willing to sell the boy, for a mere ten pounds, to Simon Bass, a theatrical manager. He sends Widge to London, so that he can copy down the new play, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and enable Bass to perform it without paying royalties. Once within the confines of the Globe Theater, however, Widge discovers a brave new world of friendship, fun, and backstage intrigue. Welcomed into the company as an aspiring apprentice, Widge is soon learning lines, practicing sword-fighting, and avoiding Bass's henchman. The Bard himself makes a cameo appearance, as do other famous members of the company. To his credit, Blackwood limns just how Widge, who has no theatrical aspirations, proves a talented and hard-working member of the troupe. Readers will find much to like in Widge, and plenty to enjoy in this gleeful romp through olde England. (Fiction. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101200032
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 7/1/2000
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 59,938
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • File size: 537 KB

Meet the Author

Gary L. Blackwood sold his first story when he was nineteen, and has been writing and publishing stories, articles, plays, novels, and nonfiction books regularly ever since. His stage plays have won awards and been produced in university and regional theatre.

Nonfiction subjects he's covered include biography, history, and paranormal phenomena. His juvenile novels, which include WILD TIMOTHY, THE DYING SUN, and THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER, are set in a wide range of times and places, from Elizabethan England to a parallel universe. Several have received special recognition and been translated into other languages.
He and his wife and kids live outside Carthage, MO.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 80 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 80 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 7, 2010

    showed the true meaning of friendship.

    "The stranger stood just inside the doorway, motionless and silent"(9) of Widge's so called "home". He would of course be here to buy Widge. Widge is an orphan who is passed around by different owners, fulfilling their tasks, and working for them. His new masters would be Simon Bass and Falconer; they give Widge one task and only one task that is of course, to steal Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. While Widge was in action trying to secretly write the play down behind the curtains, he got caught. He was forced to make up a lie, or else they would catch him. So Widge said he had come to run away from his master. The actors were very nice and one even let Widge stay with him and his family. Widge even starts to practice becoming and actor, like he has always wanted. In till one day his master returns for him and demands for the script. Widge doesn't have it and his master threatens him and demands the script immediately. Widge becomes very close with the theatre players and is faced with a big decision- should he steal the play and obey his master or stick with his new friends?

    Gary Blackwood, the author of the Shakespeare Stealer has a loud voice in this book. All characters have certain characteristics, which are shown in Blackwood's dialogue. For example when Falconer saves Widge:
    "Thank you" Widge said
    "For what?" Falconer replied
    "For saving me life"
    "I saved your master's investment, that's all."(45)
    This shows truly that Falconer just wants to get down to business, and he doesn't care about anything else. Blackwood's writing truly made me see the traits of all the characters in the book.

    We all wanted Widge to stick with his friends yet there were moments in the book where Widge had almost betrayed them. This is one of the reasons why I think I was so attached to this book. Every step of the way I just felt like yelling to Widge not to steal the play.

    The Shakespeare Stealer had a great story going on overall, yet at times the plot of the story felt like a roller coaster ride. There was lots of action, like the drama between the theatre player's and the times when Falconer had spotted Widge. Then at other moments I felt as though I could have skipped 30 pages of the book and still would have known the whole story. The book could have been written in 50 pages instead of 216. When I first opened this book I wanted to throw it away, it was so boring! As the story moves on it gets a lot more interesting. Though you would probably think by the name of the book the problem would be that this young boy has to go steal a play, but there is much more to the story. Widge encounter's far more problems and in the end he discovers who he really is inside, instead of just a slave.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2010

    It wasn't as good as i thought it would be.

    Widge, an orphan never had a family. He was raised by a man named Dr. Bright and finally one day a man named Falconer "adopted" him. Falconer then asks Widge to steal Shakespears play Hamlet. In my opinion the ending was the best part. Please don't abandon the book because the begining is very slow moving. While i was reading this book i hoped for Widge to do the right thing and not obey Falconer his "master". I really felt bad for him because he never had a family before and during the process of trying to steal the play he pretty much got one, and stealing the play would loose that. Once he got bac to Falconer I knew his life would be much worse. I felt sympathy for this young boy. I actually got somewhat mad whenever Widge thought about stealing the script of the play. I somewhat became attched to him. I know he is just a fictional character, but just the thought of me being in that situation upset me. I could not think about putting myself in his shoes. One decision can change your life and that's what this book brought to readers. Thinking things over more carefully could bring something good into your life. He finally gets the chance to have a normal life and one command could change that if Widge decides to listen. The plot is well thought out and carried out with the twists and turns during the story. All the characters had needy personalities. All of them wanted something, but they couldn't obtain it until the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2010

    The shakespeare Stealer

    A young, orphaned boy, named Widge, was given a tough and dishonest task, by his master. He had to copy down the lines of "Hamlet". He does, but then a pickpocket steals the copy from Widge. Then, Widge joins the theatre. He's treated so well by the people in the theatre .He then becomes confused, whether he should betray them or follow his master. This book explains themes like belonging, and honesty. I think the book explains belonging as Widge has struggled his entire life trying to fitting in. His mother died when he was born. Now, he is finally in a place where people like and appreciate him. For example, Widge has never been seen as a friend or a member of a family. He was always considered as a piece of property. The book also explains honesty as Widge remains loyal to his friends and Shakespeare. Like, at the end of the book Widge did not steal the play. He remained honest to his new friends.
    The book The Shakespeare Stealer was a good one. It had a great flow. The events went hand in hand, making the book easy to understand. No matter what anyone accomplishes something goes wrong, in my opinion. Gary Blackwood's book was too predictable. For example, on page 65, it said, "My fingers closed on the pencil, but the table book was unquestionably, inexplicably gone." To me, this was just expected. This book is 216 pages long. It was impossible what on the 65th page Widge had already completed the given task, without any difficulty. In all books the characters always run into some difficulty, before getting what they want. So, with 151 pages remaining, it was obvious that the table book containing the lines of the play would be stolen. Also, it is very important that a book has a good ending. If it doesn't it is just a waste to read the book. This book had a predictable ending. Like on page 216 it said, "I had heard these words before and never fully understood their import- words such as honesty and trust, loyalty and friendship. And family. And home." This meant that Widge did not steal the play; he remained loyal to his friends. No offence, but I feel just to teach us a lesson, the author messed up the ending. Lastly, this book was too easy for the eighth grade. I realize and consider the fact that it is on our required list, but it is way too easy. For example, when this book was assigned to us I bought it home to read and complete our homework. My brother, who is currently in the 4th grade, was able to read and understand this book with clarity. In my opinion this should be a 5th or 6th grade book. I realize I found a lot of problems with the book, but the problems did not conflict with the fact that the messages in the book were conveyed well. I would recommend this book to others.
    Every book is written by an author. Every author has a background. The author of this book is Gary Blackwood. Gary Blackwood was born on October 23rd, 1945 in Meadville, Pennsylvania He is an American author that writes books for young adults. He graduated with a B.A. in English from Grove City College in Pennsylvania. Blackwood's first book was The Lion and the Unicorn, self-published in 1983. In 1987 he published "Wild Timothy." In 1998 his novel The Shakespeare Stealer was published, it takes place in the time of Elizabethan London. Blackwood is a popular speaker at schools and children's literature festivals across the US and Canada.
    With all that said, read the book to find out if Widge will cheat Mr. Shakespeare and his friend

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2010

    It was okay

    The Shakespeare Stealer
    By Gary Blackwood
    555 Broadway NY
    Published by Scholastic Inc, 1998
    216 pages

    The Shakespeare Stealer, by Gary Blackwood is novel about an orphan named Widge who joins a theater. Its mostly about his life as an actor, but Widge also has a secret mission he was ordered to complete. It has the overused 'family' theme, but is still enjoyable to read even though we all know that the main character will chose his friends in the end.

    The story takes place in late 1500's, London. Which means they all talk weird. Just like how Shakespeare says things. ( If the title didn't give that away, then I don't know what would ) You also have to remember that England was still ruled by monarchy and all that higher class stuff, because then the book would be slightly confusing.

    Widge, being a lowly orphan, has no power over many things. He even says, "What feeble objection of mine could carry the weight of ten pounds of currency?"(pg 14) This leads to him being forced to steal a play from Shakespeare for his master by using a code to record the lines of the play. And he loses it, because other wise there would be no plot. Which leads to him joining the theatre undercover so he can take it. Widge does get close to taking it once, "All I had to do was tuck it under my arm and turn and walk out of the theatre."(pg 107) but of course he doesn't. "My guilt at the thought of betraying him and the rest of the company came back, stronger than ever."(pg 143) which leads to the ending that we all were expecting,
    "--words such as honesty and trust, loyalty, and friendship. And family. And home."(pg 216)

    In the end, The Shakespeare Stealer uses a cliché plot and we already almost know what will happen because of that. And yet, it still has enough twists to make it interesting. Though I still think that the overall plotline could be changed so we don't know what will happen. Like, if Widge does steal the play, then the readers would actually be surprised. But then the plot would be very confusing and hard to follow. Gary Blackwood would also have to come up with a entirely new plot to make it easier to read.

    Weirdly enough, The Shakespeare Stealer was inspired by when Gary Blackwood found out that somebody had invented a shorthand in the 16th century. Since he loved to write, that idea turned into a story. He also was reminded of Shakespeare, so that contributed as well.

    Finally, I would like to say that this is a book worth reading. Many plot twists occur throughout the story, keeping it exciting and fun, while at the same time, not scaring little children with reality.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2006


    When I first picked this book up I thought it'd be great. But I was so, so wrong. Blackwood had a great idea and could have done so much more with it. The plot is great but was just missing that special something. On the whole, the book is very shallow. The actors at the Globe don't have much of a personality difference. They all seem the same. He repeats over and over again the same things about Widge. The book is boring and leaves you feeling like there was something very important missing when you are done reading it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2001


    This book is definitly for someone who is into Elizabethan times and what it was like back then. It was an exciting book that didn't really have any dull moments in my opinion. It wasn't too long, and the subjects good be grasped by anyone. Adults would probably also enjoy reading this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2014

    This book sucks dont get it

    Dont get this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Grumpy cat review

    I read the book. my favorite two words in the book were
    THE END *-*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    This is a required book in the 6th grade book

    I would wait until 6th grade if u r younger

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2012


    I am starting to read it. Can someone tell , e if it is a goog book 4 a 4th grader? Cause I am

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2012


    Okay, im not going to give a 30 paragraph reviw on this book but, i do think it is a great book but do agree it starts slow and is missing some parts but it is a great book and highly suggest it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2012


    It was awesoe

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2012


    This book is really good

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2012


    Amazing read it in school. Would recomend this to my peers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2011

    Best book ever

    I love this book so much i will rewlad it 3 more times!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Posted October 11, 2011

    Great Book

    The Shakespeare Stealer Scholastic, 1998,216 pages Gary Blackwood ISBN: 0-439-11310-5
    He was sent to steal a play from Shakespeare himself, Hitch a child from an orphanage was adopted taught how to read and write. Soon after that he was sent to copy "Hamlet" a Shakespeare play. When Hitch was adopted his new family took care of him and one day a strange man came and bought Hitch from his family and was soon sent by his new master to go and copy the play with the attendance of a guy named Falconer who is a very strict and tough guy that will soon get himself in some trouble. Hitch will also soon cause problems in the theater, but will be forgiven and be token under the care of Mr. Admin who will also give Hitch a new job as an actor in the Shakespeare theater. Hitch will also make some new friends who will go through some difficulties but Hitch manages it all out. I myself really enjoyed this book and it made me laugh at parts but after all it is an enjoyable book. I would recommend The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood to anyone who enjoys Shakespeare or reading books about orphans. I would also recommend this book to anyone who likes reading about historical fiction.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2011


    Srry this book wasbkinda boring except fir the end but that was sad to soooooooo ya

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2011


    This book will never be rated less than for stars it is fun scary betraying and dont forget amazing

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  • Posted April 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    good book

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  • Posted March 7, 2011

    Must Have!!!

    There is always that one book. That book with suspense. That book with a good story. That book with a lot of real life connections. And that book is The Shakespeare Stealer, by Gary Blackwood.
    The main character in this book is the orphan, Widge. This book takes place in the late Renaissance, around the 1600s. Widge was adopted by a doctor who taught him a special shorthand that allowed him to write as fast as someone is talking. One day a strange hooded man walks in and buys Widge from the doctor. He is brought back to a man named Simon Bass, his new master. He is told to go see The Tragedy of Hamlet, Performed by Shakespeare himself! He is told to copy word for word with his special shorthand writing. He fails the first time so he tries again, and gets caught. He lies, saying that he wants to be an actor and they accept him. He makes many new friends, but Simon Bass and his dangerous servant are still waiting.
    This book's best trait is its never ending suspense.
    Ages 11 and up who love suspense and books that take place in a different time should read The Shakespeare Stealer.

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