Shakespeare's Spy

( 3 )


Things are disappearing mysteriously from Will Shakespeare's acting company, and it looks like an inside job. Everyone's eyes are on Widge, the orphan boy turned actor, and former thief. Widge knows better than anyone that Shakespeare's plays must be protected at all costs. In order to prove his innocence and clear his name, Widge must learn a new role: spy. But can he dig through the suspects and skulduggery and catch the true culprit?

The winter of 1602 brings ...

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Things are disappearing mysteriously from Will Shakespeare's acting company, and it looks like an inside job. Everyone's eyes are on Widge, the orphan boy turned actor, and former thief. Widge knows better than anyone that Shakespeare's plays must be protected at all costs. In order to prove his innocence and clear his name, Widge must learn a new role: spy. But can he dig through the suspects and skulduggery and catch the true culprit?

The winter of 1602 brings many changes for Widge, a young apprentice at London's Globe Theatre, as he becomes infatuated with Shakespeare's daughter Judith, attempts to write a play, learns more about his past, endangers himself to help a friend, acquires a new identity, and finds a new purpose in life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the third book in the Shakespeare Stealer series, Shakespeare's Spy by Gary Blackwood, the past seems inescapable for young theater apprentice Widge. Having been a suspect in the series' debut book when Widge was sent to steal the script for Hamlet, he again falls under suspicion with a string of thefts involving Mr. Shakespeare's scripts. The only way to clear his name is for Widge to spy on the rival company and find the real thief. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Based on speculation that Shakespeare's Timon of Athens is the rough draft of an abandoned play, this novel is a convincing commixture of historical fact and fiction that proves as entertaining as its series predecessors, which began with The Shakespeare Stealer (Dutton, 1998/VOYA August 1998). In the winter of 1602-03, as Queen Elizabeth's health fails, competition escalates among London's theater companies, and life becomes increasingly complicated for Widge, an apprentice in Shakespeare's troupe. As in many of the Bard's own plays, subplots abound, and readers are treated to a suspenseful drama: Who is spying on Shakespeare's company? Will Widge finish Timon of Athens and win the affections of Shakespeare's daughter? Will Julia return from France? Which of La Voisin's predictions will come true? The skilled synthesis of historical details, believable characters, and exciting plot lines creates a story that is satisfying both as historical fiction and mystery. Readers will relate to Widge, who matures as he experiences first love and confronts adolescent uncertainty. Archaic terms used to simulate Elizabethan dialogue might prove challenging for some, but few readers will be unduly plagued by unfamiliar vocabulary. Instead most will close this book hoping for a timely sequel to discover if Widge becomes a renowned actor or playwright. Series devotees will also enjoy Susan Cooper's King of Shadows (McElderry/S & S, 1999/VOYA December 1999) and J. B. Cheaney's The Playmaker (Random House, 2000) and The True Prince (Knopf, 2002), while budding Shakespearean scholars will find Lynne Kositsky's A Question of Will (Roussan, 2000/VOYA October 2001) an intriguing deliberation of Oxfordiantheory. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2003, Dutton, 281p., Ages 11 to 14.
—Sherry Korthals
Children's Literature
Widge is an apprentice with Shakespeare's company. His exciting story of love, intrigue, survival and death vividly portrays events in a theatrical company during uncertain times. As Queen Elizabeth I lies on her deathbed, all theaters are shut down. Will they reopen under the new king, James I? After all, he comes from Scotland where there are no theaters. When the uncertainty leads to intrigue, Widge becomes a spy to see who is undermining Shakespeare's company. Widge, who was highly praised for playing Ophelia, has more talents than acting. He is skilled in writing a form of shorthand that allows him to take down dialogue for plays as Mr. Shakespeare dictates it. When Widge confesses his wish to be a playwright, Mr. Shakespeare gives him a partial manuscript that he has cast off. Widge struggles to finish it and it ends up being published, under Mr. Shakespeare's name. Mr. Blackwood deftly weaves accurate historical background and details throughout his intriguing tale. He includes just enough background to effectively set the scene, but not so much as to bore any reader. An author's note at the end defines the fact and fiction in the book. This is the third book in the "Shakespeare Stealer" series. The previous books have won numerous awards and surely this one will, as well. For those who are eager to read more about apprentices in Shakespeare's company, J. B. Cheaney also has an excellent series about the boys who played the female roles. 2003, Dutton's Children's Books, Ages 9 to Adult.
— Janet Crane Barley
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-In this newest addition to the series, the apprentice Widge becomes a spy to determine who is stealing scripts of Shakespeare's latest play from the Lord Chamberlain's Men. After a loud argument, he pretends that the playwright has dismissed him and attains an acting position with the Admiral's Men. His talent for "swift writing" enables him to crack an encoded note that identifies the culprit. While describing Widge's frenetic activities, Blackwood shows the political and religious instability that prevailed due to Queen Elizabeth's failing health. The monarch is a prime supporter of Shakespeare's dramas, and the company members wonder what their fate will be after her death. Meanwhile, they attempt to rid their plays of any reference to Papists so no one will report them to the already insecure authorities. Widge and his friends love adventure; they venture into treacherous, forbidden streets to seek a mysterious and frightening fortune-teller and they taunt one another to cross the frozen river. Readers will identify with Widge's increasing self-understanding and integrity gained from his experiences. Blackwood's well-integrated plot and intriguing subplots ensure a fast-paced tale of Elizabethan England that fans of the earlier novels will love; the author incorporates historical details from the broad political scene to the minute social scene to give authority and excitement to the story.-Susan Cooley, formerly at Tower Hill School, Wilmington, DE Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Street-waif-turned-actor Widge stumbles into adolescence as he makes a third entrance onto the vividly rendered stage of Elizabethan London's "backstreets and snickleways." As the Queen's failing health brings worries that the Puritans will at last be able to close down all the theaters, Widge acquires both a risky new acquaintance who turns out to be a fugitive Jesuit, and a bad case of the wobbles from the sudden arrival of Shakespeare's flirtatious daughter Judith from Stratford. Worse yet, expensive costumes are disappearing from the troupe's stores, and news comes that his stage-struck friend Julia is in desperate straits in Paris. On the other hand, Widge is given a partial script that Shakespeare has given up on, about the changing fortunes of one Timon, and finds himself on the verge of discovering a vocation. Peppered like its predecessors with hilarious wordplay and real stagecraft, with historical incidents woven into a complex but expertly controlled plot, this new act will draw enthusiastic ovations from fans, theatergoers, or otherwise. (Fiction. 11-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142403112
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 4/21/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 273,503
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.68 (h) x 0.78 (d)

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 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2006

    Historical fiction fans- this is a must

    A theif steals scripts and costumes from The Lord Chamberlain's Men. A young boy falls hoplessly in love. This boy must prove himself innosent, for he is the prime suspect. Widge, an apprentice to the players, learns how to deal with growing up in this tale of suspicion and love. He overcomes the taunts of fellow apprentices as his voice cracks, the shareholder's suspicions that he is a theif, and the pain of young love. Towards the beginning of our tale, Widge and his friends visit a fortune teller with a knack for being correct in unexpected ways. The fortunes seem to come true quite often towards the end of the book. Though the fortune teller seems a little out of context for a book about Shakespeare, I loved it. This book is great for any person who likes historical fiction, and it teaches a lot about Shakespeare and the period of time he lived in.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2009

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    Posted January 13, 2011

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