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Shakespeare's Scribe by Gary Blackwood

Shakespeare's Scribe (2000)

by Gary Blackwood

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  1. 10
    The Playmaker by J. B. Cheaney (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: In The Playmaker, Richard Malory joins Shakespeare's company out of mixed motives - particularly to sort out what happened to his father, but finds himself drawn in more and more to the world of acting.

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An orphan boy travelling with Shakespeare and his acting troupe encounters a man who claims to be his father. A quick and enjoyable read. The historical setting unfolds naturally and the hero is an engaging character. ( )
  Bonnie_Ferrante | Apr 14, 2014 |
Widge is a fifteen-year-old orphan boy who has become an apprentice actor in William Shakespeare’s troupe, known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. It is the summer of 1602, and the bubonic plague is rearing its ugly head. Theaters in London are closed down, so Widge goes on the road with the rest of the company, except for his best friend Alexander (Sander) Cooke, who stays behind. When they get to York, Widge visits the orphanage where he was raised and learns a little more about his mother. He also finds a man named Jamie Redshaw who gives some evidence of possibly being his father and begins travelling with the players.
Will Shakespeare breaks his arm, and Widge, with his ability to write in shorthand which was taught to him by one of his previous masters, Dr. Timothy Bright, can easily take dictation while Shakespeare strives to continue writing plays. However, a number of strange things start to happen, and they all seem to revolve around Jamie Redshaw. Is he really Widge’s father or not? Also, a new apprentice, Salathiel Pavy, seems to be trying to take away many of the roles which Widge has done. Can Widge remain with the troupe, or will he be replaced? And when Widge returns to London, he finds that Sander has disappeared. What has happened to his friend? Shakespeare's Scribe is a sequel to Blackwell’s The Shakespeare Stealer, which introduced Widge as a boy hired to steal a play by Shakespeare by copying it down in shorthand who then ends up joining the company.
I enjoyed The Shakespeare Stealer, so I thought that I would read the sequel. It gives a good view for young people of what life was like in early seventeenth-century England. A few language issues occur, with a couple of instances of the “d” word and some places where the term “Lord” is used as an interjection. The usual excuse for including such things is to make the plot more “realistic,” but for the life of me I really can’t understand some writers’ compulsion to do such things in a children’s book. A number of references to drinking beer, ale, and brandy are found, and there is a somewhat crude joke involving a person’s “bum.” Some parents may also question the age appropriateness of including the fact that Shakespeare’s brother Edmund (Ned) left his previous residence to join the company because he had “gotten a prominent landowner’s daughter with child.” And, of course, it turns out that Widge’s mother was unwed. It is a somewhat mixed bag, but for the most part the story is quite interesting, although I would recommend it primarily for those on the older end of the suggested reading level. There is now a third book in the series, Shakespeare's Spy. ( )
  Homeschoolbookreview | Jun 24, 2012 |
An outbreak of the Black Death forces all the theaters in London closed, so The Lord Chamberlain's Men go on tour of the countryside. As Sander must stay home to care for his master and the orphan boys he takes in, a new apprentice is taken on. Sal Pavy is the star of the children's theater at Blackfriar's and soon makes life miserable for the other apprentices with his airs - and by taking their parts. Widge suffers most as he has yet to discover what he truly wants and who he truly is. In the midst of his identity crisis, a man emerges who claims to be Widge's father, but who may be behind the string of misfortunes affecting the company. Including one that puts Shakespeare's writing arm out of commission while he should be finishing a play for Her Majesty.

Not as good as the first in the series. There's a lot of recap of what happened in the first book and a lot of repetition of the same explanations about Elizabethan life and theater. Widge becomes even more of an unlikely character as he is given mastery over even more skills - he becomes the company's doctor, the scribe for Shakespeare, an excellent swordsman who can hold his own against the fencing master, a wonderful actor, and the boy who solves the mysteries surrounding the company. It was all a bit much given that he doesn't have to work for any of them except for brief mention of the stenography in the first book and some qualms about acting.

Widge's angsting over losing his place in the company got very old very fast given that he proved his worth (though perhaps not as an actor) over and over again. I was also annoyed by the fact that he refused to tell either Sander or Julia that he missed them because he didn't want to make their situations harder for them. As an orphan who wants nothing more than a sense of belonging, I couldn't swallow that he would think that way.

I also didn't like that one of the major plot points wasn't resolved. The mystery surrounding the theft is resolved, but no one ever goes to try and get the money back? They've fallen on hard times! This simply seems ridiculous and is not believable at all.

On the whole, I felt like this book didn't do much for me. The Plague was treated in a cursory fashion - as was the death of one of the major characters. Widge became at once too skilled and too lacking in self-confidence, and so this story lacked the emotional believability of the first. The problems here were too big, too blown out of proportion. I just couldn't buy it. The final scene, which should be emotional payoff for the angsting throughout the book, falls completely flat. And even though Widge is supposed to spend more time with Shakespeare we still don't get to know him. ( )
  Caramellunacy | Feb 13, 2008 |
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For Lucia, who gave poor Widge a home at last
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Acting seems, on the face of it, a simple enough matter.
Before he had finished speaking the last word, his blade darted forward, like a striking snake.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142300667, Paperback)

When an outbreak of the deadly Black Plague closes the Globe Theatre, William Shakespeare's acting troupe sets off on a tour of England. Widge, the orphan-turned-actor, knows that he'll be useful on the trip. Not only does he love the stage, but his knack for a unique shorthand has proven him one of the most valuable apprentices in the troupe. But then a mysterious man appears, claiming to know a secret from Widge's past-a secret that may forever force him from the theatre he loves.

"An exciting, well-written tale that is sure to leave [readers] clamoring for more." (School Library Journal, starred review)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:15 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In plague-ridden 1602 England, a fifteen-year-old orphan boy, who has become an apprentice actor, goes on the road with Shakespeare's troupe, and finds out more about his parents along the way.

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