|Cover artist||Steve Stone|
Plot summary Edit
It is set in the year 1597, in an alternate universe where the Spanish Armada is successful. The Kingdom of England has been conquered and converted to Catholicism under the rule of Queen Isabella, daughter of Philip II of Spain. Queen Elizabeth is imprisoned within the Tower of London as her fellow Protestants are burned as heretics by the English Inquisition. Scotland continued to be independent under the Protestant King James VI. Border clashes continued throughout this period.
The story is seen from the point of view of two famous playwrights: English poet William Shakespeare, and Spanish poet Lope de Vega; supporting characters include contemporaries Christopher Marlowe, Richard Burbage, and Will Kemp.The story's point of departure involves the conquest of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588. The action begins nine years later, in a London occupied by Spanish soldiers. The story unfolds over a period of about one year, as playwright William Shakespeare is faced with the dangerous decision of whether to write and perform the play King Philip, a play supporting the Spanish presence, or Boudicca, a play invoking the memory of the ancient Iceni queen Boudicca and her ultimately futile campaign against the Roman occupation of her tribe's ancient homeland. The latter is designed to inspire audiences to oppose the Spaniards and support the restoration of Queen Elizabeth to the English throne. Meanwhile, Shakespeare must hide his double life from his friend, Spanish soldier and playwright Lope de Vega.
Shakespeare ultimately supports Elizabeth. He is later rewarded with knighthood and a number of other favors from his restored queen. De Vega is arrested but later released when Shakespeare obtains parole for him.
The Play's the Thing Edit
The book makes several references to various plays by Shakespeare, both real and fictional. Some existing plays, such as Hamlet, As You Like It, and Love's Labours Lost are given new names (The Prince of Denmark, If You Like It, and Love's Labors Won [although the latter might be All's Well That Ends Well or even A Midsummer Night's Dream instead]), and presumably different content. As the author mentions at the end of the book, he created the play "Boudicca" from elements of Shakespere's other works.