Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Note: A Mystery of Errors

Hawke, Simon. A Mystery of Errors. Forge: New York, 2000.

I have a few minutes between classes and meetings, and I thought I'd use them to mention a Shakespeare-related book I read over the break.

If you're familiar with A Comedy of Errors, you'll start to think that you're piecing together parts of the plot of this novel—which is part mystery, part comedy, and part historical fiction. But you may not actually be doing so in the right way! But I won't provide any spoilers on that front for those who want to read the book for themselves.

The plot involves a young Will Shakespeare, on his way to London to become an actor—or, perhaps a playwright, if that's what they need and if that's how he can best connect to the theatre. Will isn't our main character, however, and I think that's a very wise choice. Instead, we mainly follow another London-bound traveller named (improbably enough) Symington Smythe.

The interaction between Smythe and Shakespeare is probably the best part of the book. It's not corny or affected. It doesn't have an axe to grind about any biographical details of Shakespeare's life. It doesn't pretend to specific historical accuracy—though it does a good job with the general history of the period. It doesn't present Shakespeare as an untouchable genius. Instead, it paints a compelling portrait of a man who wants to act and his journey to do so.

The book's dust jacked says that A Mystery of Errors is "the first book in the Shakespeare & Smythe series." Unfortunately, it looks like we're still waiting for the second book.

Update:  There are two other books in the series, but they're only available from the UK version of Amazon.  The titles are The Merchant of Vengeance and The Slaying of the Shrew.  Stay tuned as I try to track these titles down.

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Ed said...

The Amazon site lists three other titles in the series!

kj said...

My goodness! Thank you, Ed! You're absolutely right. But they're only available on the UK version of Amazon--I had only checked the US site. I'll update the post for everyone's benefit, but thank you for your astute comment.


Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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