Next Episode of Upstart Crow is
Comedy about William Shakespeare as he starts to make a name for himself in London while also trying to be a good husband and father for his family in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Will is just finishing writing A Midsummer Night's Dream, a tale of love potions, enchantment and a wood full of fairies. He is very pleased with how realistic it is as he based it on his own experience. But Burbage and the other actors tell him it lacks a little comedy, like say a character with a funny name or a big visual joke. Meanwhile back in Will's lodgings where on earth is his servant Bottom going to put that donkey head?
Kate has problems of her own, because Lord Egeus, a rather old but very wealthy gentleman, has taken a shine to her, and Robert Greene is determined to be the matchmaker. Along the way we learn a little more about how Will and Anne found love, and how Will managed to get hold of a love potion.
Will Shakespeare has been working on his masterpiece. His friends tell him it is his greatest comedy yet, but Will insists that Hamlet isn't actually meant to be funny. In the meantime, Greene has hit on an ingenious new way to destroy Will's reputation by excluding him from his high-brow literary set, and Marlowe's reputation is in such a bad way that he could really do with being dead for a bit. Only Will's dad John is pleased because now that Will has bought him a coat of arms he is officially a gentleman, even if none of his behaviour is in any way gentlemanly.
Meanwhile, the players need another box office smash and it looks like Hamlet is going to need a bit more thinking about. As luck would have it, Will does have an idea for a new comedy but there is something not quite right about the title for Love's Labour's Licked.
London is full of anti-immigrant rioting. Will (David Mitchell) looks forward to an age when such sentiments are long-gone, but in the meantime he and the players plan to do their bit to help those worse off than themselves with a fund-raising charity gala night. "Inflated Pig's Bladder Day" is a triumph.
As it happens Will's newest play, the Merchant of Venice, is also about an oppressed outsider. But who will play the ground-breaking character of Shylock? Step forward the greatest actor of the age, Wolf Hall (Ben Miller), a man with amazing stage presence and some rather controversial theories about who really wrote Shakespeare's plays…
With the great fug making London too smelly to stay in, Will and his friends have all come to Stratford. Will hopes for some peace and quiet so he can write but with Kate and Marlowe bickering, Hamnet obsessed with playing at soldiers, Dad busy with his new role as Master of the Watch with not-so-able assistance from Sergeant Dogberry, and Sue excited about the upcoming masked ball there is very little peace to be had.
But when Kate stands in for Sue at the masked ball she accidentally sets off a chain of events that leaves Sue humiliated by the other local teenagers, and Will needs to come up with a ruse to turn the tables on the bullies. Meanwhile in all the confusion Hamnet has gone missing. Anne has a pretty good idea where he might be, and sets off to get her boy back.
Will has decided to write a play about the life of Julius Caesar. The only problem is how to deal with his assassination. After all Her Majesty is not likely to approve of any play about doing in the head of state, and Robert Greene is particularly keen to label Will a traitor.
Things are not going well in the theatre either. Burbage is hogging the limelight and the other players have decided to get together and depose him. Should Will back the conspirators? Or is there a way he can use his skill with words to stop the plotters in their tracks?
The day of Will's son Hamnet's confirmation is approaching and Anne has made sure it has been in Will's diary for months. The only problem is this also turns out to be the night of the first ever London Theatre Awards, and what with Will being the greatest writer of all time, and what with all the other theatre companies in London being closed all year because of the plague, Will reckons he may be in with a chance of a prize.
And there is another dilemma - if Will does go the London Theatre Awards who is going to be his plus one? He has heard that his favourite dark lady, Emilia Laier, may be free that evening. But as Will wrestles with the temptation of the London theatre there is a far bigger threat to his family's happiness lurking in the wings.
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