“Will” Shakespeare finds his grand passion at an early age by falling madly in love with the beauty of words, which he reads for hours in his uncle’s library and celebrates through years of inexhaustible writing. At age 18, he must marry Anne Hathaway, who is expecting their first child, thereby ruining his plans to further his education. Making his living as a glover, Will spends every spare moment writing poetry on stolen paper and longing to break free of the drudgery of his daily life.
Some form of respite comes as traveling players arrive in Stratford to stage Goethe’s Faust. When a mishap renders the group’s Mephistopheles unable to go on, Will slips into the role, and into the world of actors and playwrights that would define and drive him for the rest of his life. He seeks his fortune in London at great personal sacrifice, including his marriage and daily contact with his beloved children. Anne waits for him to leave his “dream” world at the theatre, to no avail. He builds his career at a time in London when players and playwrights suffer dangerous scrutiny from Queen Elizabeth and her censors. Shakespeare refuses to bow to her tyranny and baits her at every opportunity through his skillful use of words.
In her second book on the life and times of Shakespeare, Tiffany adds just enough insight to the accepted historical facts to bring her vivid story to life. Any reader with an interest in the Bard’s turbulent life and times will be transported back to walk the plague-ridden streets of London, witness political intrigue, and watch the transformation of a lowly player into the most celebrated playwright in the history of the world. Tiffany’s novel, also, is cause for celebration.