"Our guide to the life of the Bard is an actor by the name of Robert Reynolds, known also as Pickleherring. Pickleherring asserts that as a boy he was not only an original member of Shakespeare's acting troupe but played the greatest female roles, from Cleopatra through Portia. In an attic above a brothel in Restoration London - a half century after Shakespeare has departed the stage - Pickleherring, now an ancient man, sits down to write the full story of his former friend, mentor, and master."--BOOK JACKET. "One by one, chapter by chapter, Pickleherring teases out all the theories that have been embroidered around Shakespeare over the centuries: Did he really write his own plays? Who was the Dark Lady of the sonnets? Did Shakespeare die a Catholic? What did he do during the so-called lost years, before he went to London to write plays? What were the last words Shakespeare uttered on his deathbed? Was Shakespeare ever in love? Pickleherring turns speculation and fact into stories, each bringing us inexorably closer to Shakespeare the man - complex, contradictory, breathing, vibrant."--BOOK JACKET.
Though chock-full with interesting facts and rumors surrounding Shakespeare's life and works, and not lacking in insight into the plays (tossed in as casual observations from Pickleherring's experience in the acting troupe), in the end the novel is as much a celebration of us all as it is a novel about Shakespeare. The famous author's life and works serve as a wonderful lens and jumping-off point for Pickleherring's evocation of our common divinity, of his revelation of what's divine and sublime in even the most common of human activities.
Wonderful reading for the literary reader or fan of Shakespeare, or for that matter anyone who likes a good story told with wit and energy through a memorably realized narrator.
Nye's early work was promising and slightly experimental but for a few years he dropped off of my radar until I saw a copy of The Late Mr Shakespeare on the grubby shelves of a second hand shop in Xania. It seems he has found a way forward all of his own and that he has written quite a bit since last I read him.
The Late Mr Shakespeare, let me make perfectly clear, is a wonderful read. It is the concept that is experimental/groundbreaking and not the prose nor the style. Nye relates a litany of stories about Shakespeare, his life and times from the viewpoint of an actor from his Globe troop. Our narrator, PickleHerring is writing, after Shakespeare's death to fend off his own. Pickleherring is a gossip and an unreliable source - he treats fact and rumour with an even hand and while doing so he reveals more about himself than he does about his subject.
He is humorous, low and knowledgeable. He writes flowingly and elegantly. He covers major facts of Shakespeares life with gusto and in doing so gives you a better grip on Shakespeare and his work and genius than is to be had from dry and dusty biographies. Is it Pickleherring or Nye we are listening to?
I care not a jot. This is worth anybody's time and requires no effort at all. Read it and enjoy it. Personally I shall be looking for a copy of Mrs Shakepseare!