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The Late Mr. Shakespeare

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  149 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Not since Anthony Burgess's Nothing Like the Sun has a novel bout Shakespeare been this rich, strange, and wonderful. Our guide to the life of the Bard in Robert Nye's dazzling new novel is an actor known as Pickleherring, who asserts that he was not only an original member of Shakespeare's acting troupe but the creator of the greatest female roles, from Cleopatra through ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published April 23rd 1999 by Arcade Publishing (first published May 5th 1998)
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Kimberly Lewis
I am a great fan of Shakespeare. I read this book strictly on the strength of the enthusiastic reviews on the back cover. It is very different. I'm no prude and I don't mind "bawdy" terminology, especially if it is descriptive of the times (as in Elizabethan England)...but I must say, it goes beyond bawdy in a few parts- especially in the chapter about Shakespeare's mother, where the playful tone of conjecture becomes outright revolting. It is true that the scholarship involved is amazing at tim ...more
Robert Nye's Mrs. Shakespeare sounds great - the Bard as seen by his razor-sharp nearest and dearest - but The Late Mr. Shakespeare reads like scraps from that table. Nye plods through the Stratford Tourist Board highlights of Shakey's life, never giving us any insight into the man or his work or his times (why else are we reading a historical novel about WS?). The void is filled by a clichéd narrator, the kind of jokes that were out of fashion even in 1600 and a couple of keyhole-peeped sex sce ...more
Emily-rose Guillebeau
Feb 19, 2009 Emily-rose Guillebeau rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Joyce lovers, Readers of Burgess
This is one of those books that I have a hard time assessing after I've read it. Undoubtedly, TLMS is brilliantly written. It revels in puns and word-smithery. I acknowledge all of this. It's a great book, clever and well-constructed. But I didn't like reading it for the same reasons I dislike books like Catch-22. Eventually, novels as extended jokes wear me out, and I ultimately find them dull. meh. But I did enjoy the bawdy narrator's literary criticism of Shakespeare's plays. Most of his read ...more
Kristen McDermott
Robert Reynolds, alias Pickleherring, narrates this memoir of his life as a boy actor in Shakespeare's troupe, hoping to dispel the many rumors and lies about his older friend and mentor's life. Robert Nye has based this fictional biography on a variety of legitimate sources, but relies most on a healthy dose of sheer tall-tale-telling and bawdy reconstructions of Elizabethan London. His reconstruction of Shakespeare's childhood and the infamous "lost years" in particular abound with rich detail ...more
This delightfully irreverent book offers the biography of Shakespeare, written many years after the fact by someone who actually knew him, which real-world history has been denied. That dry description aside, the writing, scenes, and situations are lively, witty and unforgettable. Where else can you find an imagined sex scene between a foul-mouthed Queen Elizabeth and the crude John Shakspere in the woods?
Kristen Hair
I was expecting a general romp throught the life of Shakespeare, kind of like King of Shadows. What I recieved was a dirty, sexual romp with some documentary-like analysis of some of the passages of Shakespeare. Nye dwells too much on the conception and childhood of Shakespeare, and not enough on his LIFE. Disappointing.
Nye is a poet and novelist who has written a number of works of historical fiction, including two related to William Shakespeare. This bawdy yet erudite tale proports to be a biography of the playwright by one of the actors in his troupe of players, written some decades after the master’s passing. Robert Reynolds (aka Pickleherring, apparently stage names weren’t what they would become once studios and press agents took charge) is an entertaining story teller whose notion of biography (and histo ...more
I must admit that I'm coming at that book as a bit of a Shakespeare know-nothing. For years, the only Shakespeare I've been able to quote has been "If music be the food of love play on. Give me excess of it that surfeiting my appetite may sicken and so die". And I only remember that because I'm a huge music geek, and I studied "Twelfth Night" in school. It's probably even wrong. Anyway, this was on my radar because I thought Nye's take on "Faust" was rather magnificent, I thought he might grasp ...more
Finding myself at a store (the excellent Mercer Street books), that did not have Nye's 1976 Falstaff (from the Burgess Ninety-Nine Novels list), I settled for this (plainly) similarly-themed book. This might be called historical fiction, but it very freely adapts anything resembling fact, starting with the narrator, an actor known as Pickleherring, who is writing many years after Shakespeare's death from the perspective of an old man who had joined the troupe as a boy. Hence enough years had pas ...more
i think i like novels about shakespeare as much as the plays themselves - which is to say, quite a lot. it's like anglican choral music: i grew up with it, and it's an aesthetic i've come to feel immensely comfortable with. (not that i'd lead you to believe this book bears any resemblance to an anthem by stanford ... )

irreverent, chaotic, just barely hanging together at the seams and full of random, crunchy oddities. certainly not tame, definitely not boring. includes one of my favourite quotes
Apr 17, 2014 Melanie added it
Shelves: nkbc, gave-up
Biggest waste of time I've attempted in a long time.
Erik M
Oh dear Lord. This book looked great, sounded like a ton of fun, but turned into a novel by a poet - and that's not a compliment. The scattershot narrative only caught fire a few times, notwithstanding the events of 1666. I think a better description of this book would avoid characterizing this as a novel, but rather a fictional player's memoir as he tries to write a biography of Shakespeare. Two and a half stars. Into the resale pile.
Cricket Muse
A clever idea gone very wrong with its insistence of bawdy, bordering on pornographic suggestives. What could have been a great book comes off as pretentious. I really hoped it would work, but found myself thumbing through it instead of reading it. The historical conjectures were a mixture of silliness and solid fact. Anyone know of other Shakespeare-flavored fiction that weaves in fact?
I gave this up shortly after I started, mostly because personal schedule allowed no reading time. I sometimes found the book entertaining. The tale is told from an old man's viewpoint, but like talking with my grandpa, sometimes his mind wandered mid-topic and I needed patience to stay with the conversation. So it is with The Late Mr. Shakespeare.
Rick Edwards
This is a fine entertainment -- considerable verisimilitude, but at the same time a stretch for credulity. The narrator, one "Pickleherring," belonged to the Bard's original acting troupe and performed many of the lead female roles. Now, at the end of his life, he takes pen in hand to record what he remembers of the great dramatist.
Nina Mcneill
awesome book - a history of william shakespeare written by an old man who had spent his life as a player with shakespeare's company from a very early age. a wonderful mixture of erudition and outrageous guesswork, in parts funny and bawdy, affording a real sense (it felt) of the times and of shakespeare and his works.
Rereading this after quite a few years--this book takes work. The language spins a web, and you have to be on your game to keep up.
Ehh. Same riff as Falstaff but not as compelling. Thoughts on All's Well and boys-as-girls are fascinating, though.
Mr. Shoemaker
A fun book if you're into Shakespeare, history, wordplay, and bawdy stories; who isn't?
Feb 02, 2008 Kathy rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kathy by:
Not sure what all the fuss was about. I can't imagine who would find this entertaining.
Clever book....enjoyed the comparisons and the irreverence.
Marleena Young
I have lost my innocence after reading this book
A delightful, imaginative romp!
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Robert Nye is an English writer, playwright and poet.

Nye started writing stories for children to entertain his three young sons. Nye published his first adult novel, Doubtfire, in 1967.

Nye's next publication after Doubtfire was a return to children's literature, a freewheeling version of Beowulf which has remained in print in many editions since 1968. In 1970, he published another children's book
More about Robert Nye...
Beowulf: A New Telling Falstaff Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works Merlin Faust

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