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Fools and Mortals
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The estranged younger brother of William Shakespeare observes the first production of A Midsummer Night's Dream while navigating a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal that threatens his acting career, his potential fortune and the lives of his fellow players. By the New York Times best-selling author of the Saxon Tales. 100,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

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 Night's 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.


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Historical fiction wizard Cornwell leaps to late 1500s England to chronicle the first production of Shakespeare's shimmering A Midsummer Night's Dream. But instead of two troubled couples and the parallel king and queen of Athens and of the fairy world, Cornwell focuses on Shakespeare himself and his putatively estranged younger brother Richard, a struggling actor in Shakespeare's company. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

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