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The Shakespeare Stealer

(The Shakespeare Stealer #1)

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  6,202 ratings  ·  533 reviews
Widge is an orphan with a rare talent for shorthand. His fearsome master has just one demand: steal Shakespeare's play "Hamlet"--or else. Widge has no choice but to follow orders, so he works his way into the heart of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's players perform. As full of twists and turns as a London alleyway, this entertaining novel is rich in period details, ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Puffin Books (first published May 1st 1998)
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Meg It is based off the story of Ur-Hamlet though which, I believe, is part of Danish culture. Possibly a romanticizing of a legendary royal?

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I listened to the Audible edition of 'The Shakespeare Stealer' with my oldest daughter on a recent trip. It was the last of the books that she needed to read to complete her school's summer reading list for the year. It was also one that I hadn't read before, so it was new to both of us.

While I usually enjoy reading the classic children's stories, this one just didn't hold much appeal for me. Honestly, it was kind of a tedious listening experience for both of us. We both kept losing interest. Th
Well and honestly, with regard to how Gary L. Blackwood presents a sense of historical time and place in his 1998 middle grade novel The Shakespeare Stealer, this part of my reading experience has most definitely been both a delightfully fun and also much educational historical fiction (and historical mystery) romp, presenting a detailed slice of Elizabethan Renaissance life and of course in particular how plays, how dramas were performed during Elizabethan times and what the daily lives of acto ...more
Allison Tebo
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical-fic
*hides from Mary H* Sorry, girl!
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-audio, series
Excellent coming of age story about a young boy who had only known hardship and serving a master, unconditionally. He only knew to obey, not to question why, until he was sent to record the words in Shakespear's play Hamlet, using his unique short-hand that he had learned from his previous master. If he couldn't do that, he was to steal the playbook. After accidentally setting fire to the thatched roof of the Globe theater, he became involved with the performers and was invited to become an appr ...more
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: series, history-shelf
This is a great book! I really liked how it was so well thought through, and how there were little clues that were hardly noticeable until something happened that put them all together. I can't wait to read the rest of the series! ...more
Oct 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really hated this book in the being but in the end i came to like it. The book involves a lot of sword fighting, weird, HUH? The book really comes to show that everybody is not who you thought they were. Sometimes people hide their identity for goo reasons and sometimes for bad reasons. This book really comes to show that loyalty is important and you need to be careful who you trust, because you never know who is hiding their identity!! I would definitely recommend this book, It is a quick and ...more
Kristen McDermott
This young adult novel follows the adventures of an Elizabethan orphan named Widge, who is sold into service to an unscrupulous theater director. Widge knows the new art of shorthand, and he is ordered to attend a performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Globe Theatre, copy down the text of the play, and return it to his master, who will mount an unauthorized production. But Widge is discovered by the players, who take him in as an apprentice.
Blackwood has done his theater-history homework, an
Nov 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this an engaging romp, but not much more.

I did like the bits that compared the country wight's language to that of the city boys, and the wordplay and jests of the players, but the rest feels pretty forgettable to me. I also wanted the playwright to have a larger role.

Oh, and I did appreciate learning why the plays were not always published, and therefore why we have naysayers doubting Shakespeare's authorship of them.

I do recommend it for interested youngsters and educators.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed
[those concerned about spoilers may want to avoid this review] The Shakespeare Stealer is one of those unfortunate books that has all the ingredients to be outstanding but ends up being not merely disappointing but hurtful. I could write about the ways in which the story does not succeed for me as a reader, despite the Elizabethan setting and my deep devotion to Shakespeare. I could write about how the story fails on some historical grounds and grounds of plausibility. Most obviously, it was per ...more
Nov 02, 2015 rated it liked it
I personally did not like this book. I thought it was really slow and boring and didn't get interesting till the end. To really understand the book you have to know the language. There is a lot of older language that some people might not understand. The book is kind of confusing at some points and really strange at other points. I would recommended this book to anyone that likes Shakespeare or likes kind of mysterious books. This is also a quick and easy book so if you needed an extra historica ...more
Kate Pye
May 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
The book was pretty boring and didn't have any action the influenced the book. The author had the right idea but just couldn't pull it off. Over all it was just super boring and pointless ...more
Carrie ReadingtoKnow
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read aloud with the kids as part of a school reading assignment. I can't say it's one I would have picked up on my own but the kids (aged 6 - 12) enjoyed it very much. They really engaged with the story and were happy with our read aloud time. I'm giving it 4 stars based on their love of the story.

Well written, historically interesting and a unique sort of tale, I guess we'd recommend it! :D
3-3.5 stars. I think some kids would enjoy this, but of my students reading this book, it's probably a hit or a miss. I thought it was an enjoyable little story and I liked reading about the growth of the main character as he learned what was truly "proper" behavior and what was not and what it means to be a family. ...more
Robert Moushon
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it


After an orphan boy named Widge is commanded by his master to write down Shakespeare's Hamlet in a secret handwriting called charactery that only he knows, it's clear that obedience is obligatory. But when he is adopted into Shakespeare's theater troupe and befriends the players, he starts to have second thoughts. He knows that what he has been asked to do is wrong, and in the end, he must decide. Will Widge carry out orders, or remain loyal to the other players?

Attaining the status of Sm
This book was different than my usual literature.

Yes, it is historical fiction. Yes, it has a bit of mystery in it. Yes, both are genres that I avidly read. But these two genres in this particular book was different.

And I think it was because of the theater aspect.

I don't usually read about the theater. And I didn't know much about Shakespeare, the theater, or the process of being a prentice or an actor back in the 16th century before I read this book. I did know that women weren't allowed to pe
The other John
Despite it's klugy beginning, this one's a pretty good book. The premise is that there's this orphan lad, Widge, who's apprenticed to this odd doctor who had developed a form of shorthand. Widge is the guinea pig in this project and indeed is the only one who knows how to write in this unique script. Another man, one Simon Bass, reads about the good doctor's method and arranges to buy out Widge's apprenticeship. You see, Mr. Bass owns a company of players and he's looking for some good material ...more
Oct 02, 2016 rated it liked it
At first, I thought I had already predicted how this book would go: Widge infiltrates the company, actually learns to love it, is exposed, and has to convince everybody that he's changed. But this book defied that expectation by slightly adjusting that trope, along with adding some other details that I didn't expect, which overall made the book more credible as historical fiction.

I also enjoyed reading and being immersed into Shakespeare-era time and speech.
Oct 15, 2015 rated it liked it
This was a fun romp into juvenile historical fiction. I liked the way the author managed to recreate the sights and sounds of Shakespeare's world. This would be a good book to help introduce young readers to The Bard, as evidenced by the fact that it is a popular choice for a book report for the gifted and talented sixth grade class at my school. ...more
Feb 16, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: for-school
Had to read this in grade 6. Two words: Le creys.
Simon Devisser
May 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
It was all right was not intrigued
Michael Fitzgerald
Very quick read. Decent, engaging story with a good deal of useful information. It would benefit from a historical note indicating which characters were real, etc.
Tiah Varner
May 15, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this forever ago but it was on my to read list as well???? I made this list such a long time ago, I'm having some weird flashbacks. ...more
Stephanie C
A lovely little middle-grade novel. I read it in one sitting. I liked the main character and found the descriptions quite vivid. The pace moved along nicely and it had a satisfying ending.
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Read with Kate. Nice character development and we learned a lot about the theater life of Shakespeare's actors. ...more
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good book, good story, good ending. :)
Nov 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children


After an orphan boy named Widge is commanded by his master to write down Shakespeare's Hamlet in a secret handwriting called charactery that only he knows, it's clear that obedience is obligatory. But when he is adopted into Shakespeare's theater troupe and befriends the players, he starts to have second thoughts. He knows that what he has been asked to do is wrong, and in the end, he must decide. Will Widge carry out orders, or remain loyal to the
Eishon Perry
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story,"The Shakespeare Stealer", by Gary Blackwood, which is 218 pages, tells a story about a young man named Widge and his journey on stealing Shakespeare's most famous play called "Hamlet".

Widge is a poor orphan with the rare ability to write in an unique way, and he has no choice but to follow orders. To do so, he goes to the Globe, a theater in London where Shakespeare performs , to run into actors that treat him as one of their own. He cannot decide whether to listen to his master or to
Sarah Noll
Jul 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in the time of William Shakespeare, Widge goes from being an orphan, to an apprentice (twice over) with some ethically unsound orders from his masters in the process, involving his own experiences behind the scenes and on the stage of The Globe Theatre. I really enjoyed this story, and even found myself supremely shocked at the two big plot twists that occurred, one in the middle of the novel and the other near the end. I think that Blackwood did a great job bringing in what I assume to be d ...more
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He grew up in rural Cochranton, Western Pennsylvania, where he attended school in a one room schoolhouse. He graduated with a B.A. in English from Grove City College in Pennsylvania. While a college student, Blackwood published his first short story, Cliffs of Gold, in Twelve/ Fifteen magazine.

He has sold dozens of stories to children's magazines, and has published thirty-five novels and nonficti

Other books in the series

The Shakespeare Stealer (3 books)
  • Shakespeare's Scribe (Shakespeare Stealer, #2)
  • Shakespeare's Spy (Shakespeare Stealer, #3)

News & Interviews

“I'm in a weird place because the book is about to come out. So I'm basically just walking around like a raw nerve and I'm not sure that I...
31 likes · 6 comments
“This business of friendship was a curious thing, almost as difficult to learn as the busuness of acting. Sometimes you were expected to tell the truth, to express your thoughts and your feelings, and then other times what was wanted was a lie, a bit of disguise.” 15 likes
“Besides, there are other concerns. Suppose this—What did you call him?” “Falconer.” “Suppose this Falconer sells the play to a printer, who publishes it and has it registered. Then the Chamberlain’s Men lose all legal right to perform it ourselves.” “Oh. I didn’t ken.” “We generally delay publication as long as possible. Some companies care little for registrations or rights, and to print the play is the same as saying ‘Here it is, and welcome to it.’ Yet if we don’t publish it ourselves, someone will sell a pirated version. It’s a tricky and an unfair business.” “Aye, I see that now.” I felt more ashamed than ever of the part I’d played in the whole affair. I wanted to believe that we still might retrieve the play book, but knowing Falconer, I did not hold out much hope. Even if we did catch up with him, he was not likely to just apologize and hand it over. By the time we reached St. Paul’s and turned on to Aldersgate Street, I was sweating and trembling as if in the grip of the ague. But with the gate in sight, I managed to push myself yet a little farther. A ragged, legless beggar sat by the gate. Mr. Armin crouched and dropped a” 0 likes
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