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The Late Mr. Shakespeare

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  213 ratings  ·  33 reviews
From the pen of the writer whom Peter Ackroyd called "one of our best living novelists" comes a work that is rich, strange, and wonderful. Welcomed in Shakespeare's own land as the most original, exciting, and provocative novel about the playwright since Anthony Burgess's classic Nothing Like the Sun, Robert Nye's The Late Mr. Shakespeare is a literary event.

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Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 23rd 2001 by Allison & Busby (first published May 5th 1998)
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3.46  · 
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 ·  213 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Kimberly Lewis
Apr 06, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Emily-rose Guillebeau
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shakespeare, modern
An absolute delight, I adore Robert Nye. This is one of a trilogy of Shakespeare novels he published, the others being Falstaff and Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works.

It's interesting to look, many years later, at the elements of Nye's story that have become part of the standard Shakespeare narrative by 2016 (Lucy Negro? good pull, Mr Nye!) but must have been far more speculative when this was written. Many chapters of this book will be enjoyable to the average reader but only take on resonanc
Jul 19, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeariana
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
Jul 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, novels
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.
Jan 07, 2009 rated it liked it
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May 07, 2019 rated it liked it
This is such a weird, weird book. Difficult to review because I don't know how I feel about it. Some parts are funny, some parts plain revolting. The book looks all conspiracy theories about Shakespeare's life and teases what if they were true. Combined it makes for a very strange read. Might pick up more of the author's work and come back to this again later.
Sep 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
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
Sarah Reason
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Part fact, part fiction, part fable, part fantasy, The Late Mr Shakespeare is a must-read for all who like me worship at the feet of the Bard. Because for those of us who admire the great enigma, there is much truth to be found in this rollercoaster-ride of stories, anecdotes, rumours and just plain lies, beginning with the narrator's childhood meeting with an on-tour Shakespeare to the death of much of what remains of Tudor London in the great conflagration of the Restoration period. This is no ...more
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
What more can I say? I love just about everything Shakespearean, and am always looking for new ways to appreciate the Bard. This was an interesting take on Shakespeare for sure and certainly not for everyone. It is "written" by a older man nicknamed Pickleherring who played many of Shakespeare's heroines when he was a young man. So the premise is that he intimately knew and associated with the writer through his professional life. Robert Nye--through the persona of Pickleherring--invents other d ...more
J. Dolan
Aug 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Both bawdy and beatific, opinionated and objective, The Late would shine a light on not only one of history's most renowned if enigmatic artistic talents but the discipline in which he labored. It is not just a tale of a writer and his writing, however, but the world of the theater that brought (to its fullest effect, and still brings) that writing to life.
It is this, Mr. Nye's approach to his subject, that makes his novel the gem it is. Through the recollections of the aged Pickleherring, a bo
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Stephen Gallup
Sep 03, 2017 is currently reading it
"Who is Shakespeare? ... Where is he to be found? How can we tell the man from the work, and both from the stories about him? Why did the sly fellow leave so little information about himself, so few facts in the way of footprints made in Time?" Such questions are undertaken here, some years after the Bard's death, by an aged actor, who had in youth taken female roles in original productions of, for example, Romeo and Juliet, and who now prefers to call himself only "your servant Pickleherring." ...more
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
LOVE this book. There's a sub-genre out there of Shakespearean influenced works that revolve around the imagined biography - Burgess' 'Nothing Like the Sun' being the paragon. This delightful book comes so close and in many ways enriches the other. It's a rich ribald romp through the memories of an aged actor looking back at his days with the Bard. The memoirs of ol' Pickleherring end up being a delicious and eloquent look at Shakespeare - myth and man. The episodes of the poet's life are relaye ...more
Erik M
Dec 23, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
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
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Cricket Muse
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
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?
Diane Nichols
Jul 04, 2016 rated it did not like it
It is very seldom that I cannot finish a book especially one about Shakespeare.I was intrigued with the concept of this book and encouraged by some great reviews. Sadly I could not get past the first 75 pages and that was hard work but I really wanted to. Give this my best shop The authors attempt at capturing the bawdiness of the bard simply stooped to the depths of crass and crude.
Aug 20, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Mr. Shoemaker
Jan 06, 2012 rated it liked it
A fun book if you're into Shakespeare, history, wordplay, and bawdy stories; who isn't?
Sep 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Jun 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
A delightful, imaginative romp!
Biggest waste of time I've attempted in a long time.
Jun 25, 2007 rated it liked it
Ehh. Same riff as Falstaff but not as compelling. Thoughts on All's Well and boys-as-girls are fascinating, though.
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Robert Nye was 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 boo