Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell comes to the blog today with an intriguing story told from the point of view of Richard Shakespeare, William’s younger brother. Please read on for my review of

Fools and Mortals

Not quite sure just what the focus would be for the story when it starts, the primary narrator is Richard Shakespeare, younger and quasi-estranged brother of William, in a troupe of actors called Lord Chamberlain Men. Life isn’t easy for all but the nobles, and while the group has some sort of ‘protection’ from the upheavals caused by the Protestant powerful, the daily grind and dirt of London, the poverty, the dirt and the cold all are presented to provide tangible imagery that feels slightly misty: much as seeing the world through the pollution of the time would bring.

We follow Richard’s story as the troupe (and the city) are trying to adjust to the changing entertainment scene: with a newly built theatre and thus a place to stage their show, the acting troupes that were formerly mobile and worked with perhaps 2 different plays to present, now must adapt to the audience coming to them – and presenting entertainment that will draw a crowd. To that end, and in celebration of the wedding of their patron’s daughter, William has a new play they are learning, and has a play ready for the officials who must review and approve all new work – being sure that it is free of seditious thought. When you add in the interpersonal struggles among the men of the troupe for prime parts, more lines or particular favor from William’s work, and then have his latest work stolen by another troupe to be recopied and submitted as theirs – the introduction of political grabs for power come into play in the form of overzealous protestant followers seeking favor by rooting out seditious and subliminally Catholic works.

Engaging and rich with historic detail, snippets from early text of the two plays in focus and a lovely sense of the struggles from ordinary life, as well as that of a profession that, were it not for Elizabeth’s enjoyment of plays and entertainments of the sort that would be barely existing, and not in the environs around the city of London proper. A detailed epilogue to the story provides clarifications and explanations of text choices, contradictory scholar’s theories and even detailing the choice of versions used – all adding to the feeling that this is a story, while fiction, that could easily have been played out, and probably was in many ways, over many days throughout the early years of British playwrights.

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Title: Fools and Mortals
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Genre: Elizabethan, Historical Fiction, Setting: Britain
Published by: Harper
ISBN: 0062250876
Published on: 9 January, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Pages: 384
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 27 minutes
Rated: four-stars
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See this Title on Goodreads

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’s Night 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.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.


About Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell was born in London in 1944, and 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.

In June 2006, Cornwell was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's 80th Birthday Honours List. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.


4 responses to “Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

  1. This sounds like fun. I must say that I enjoy BC’s writing and this is obviously a departure from his more recent work – no cries of “Shield wall!” in Elizabethan London…

    • Oh I really enjoyed this – it was so different from what I expected – I’ll have to look up more of his to add to my pile of “someday’ reads… it’s now far too large!

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