The Malevolent Comedy
Fans of the theatre are bound to enjoy this series centered on a troupe in Elizabethan England. The plot, revolving around nasty events intended to prevent the performance of a new author’s play, offers a well-researched view of what theatre life was in that Puritan society: no women on stage (which were set outdoors in inn yards), companies “belonging” to rich patrons, stock of plays that were presented over and over, and superstitions. The characters are well-rounded and suited to their times and roles in society. Bracewell makes for an endearing and believable leading man. Marston, a prolific author under various pseudonyms, is an old hand at historical writing, and the ease and precision with which he sets the scene for his story, both physical and social, reflect his skills. Even the spectators become a live entity in the performances. The plot, rife with undercurrents of rivalry and revenge, is original yet accessible. Reading the series in order should add to one’s pleasure, but this book stands very well by itself.