Cover image for The late Mr. Shakespeare
The late Mr. Shakespeare
Nye, Robert.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Arcade Pub., 1999.

Physical Description:
398 pages ; 25 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 7.1 25.0 76505.
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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. 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.

Author Notes

Robert Thomas Nye was born in London, England on March 15, 1939. At the age of 16, he left school and published his first poem, Kingfisher, in the London Magazine. He was a poet who also wrote novels, plays, and stories for children. His collections of poetry include Juvenilia, Juvenilia 2, and The Rain and The Glass, which won the Cholmondeley Award. He became the poetry editor of the newspaper The Scotsman in 1967. From 1971 to 1996, he was the poetry critic of The Times of London.

His children's books include Taliesin, March Has Horse's Ears, and Beowulf: A New Telling. His first novel for adults, Doubtfire, was published in 1967. His other novels for adults included The Life and Death of My Lord Gilles de Rais, Merlin, Faust, The Memoirs of Lord Byron, Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works, and The Late Mr. Shakespeare. His novel, Falstaff, won The Hawthornden Prize and Guardian Prize for Fiction. During the early 1970s, he wrote several plays for BBC radio including A Bloody Stupid Hole. He died from cancer on July 3, 2016 at the age of 77.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

"All the facts about Shakespeare's life could be written on a single sheet of paper," notes Pickleherring, the fictional author of this fictional memoir. That doesn't prevent him from creating a wild, witty, bawdy, gawdy, 400-page tour de force out of the mountain of gossip, hearsay, half-truths, tall tales, and wild speculations that survived the Bard. Pickleherring pretty much presents it all--facts about Shakespeare's marriage, rumors about his mother's dabbling in witchcraft, scandalous whisperings about his predilections for whores and other denizens of the London demimonde--without ever attempting to weigh evidence or separate truth from lies. If anything, he revels in falsehood, puckishly admitting to preferring well-told fibs to dry data. The resulting novel bears more than passing resemblance to the works of eighteenth-century comic masters Laurence Sterne and Jonathan Swift and their twentieth-century descendants John Barth and Donald Barthelme. Ironically, the portrait of Shakespeare Pickleherring paints is more compelling and memorable than those in a hundred well-researched, carefully considered biographies. As Pickleherring notes, "Fiction is the best biography." (Reviewed March 15, 1999)1559704691Jack Helbig

Publisher's Weekly Review

The author of Falstaff, Merlin and The Memoirs of Lord Byron takes on WS himself, producing a lively, bawdy gallimaufry of anecdotes, facts and fictions that inevitably will be compared to Anthony Burgess's Nothing Like the Sun. The conceit is that "Robert Reynolds alias Pickleherring," a comic actor now an octogenarian, met Shakespeare when the playwright was 32 and Pickleherring 13. Now Pickleherring lives in a London attic, above a whorehouse that itself is above a bakery, and sets out to tell the "country history" of WS. He tucks in all the anecdotes that make gossips and scholars swoon, for example the possibility that Queen Elizabeth I was Shakespeare's mother, that the Vicar of Stratford, not a humble butcher and tanner, was Shakespeare's father. Pickleherring casts his own hand heavily over the proceedings, as any lifelong actor is wont to do; the young Pickleherring played women's roles in Shakespeare's plays at the Globe and had a friendly flirtation with WS. A recurring theme is his unscholarly explanations of Shakespeare's artÄfor instance, comparing the playwright's use of flower imagery to John Milton's. Milton's flowers always scanned, the actor relates; he picked his bouquets by syllable. Shakespeare's flowers, by contrast, always had personality and resonance. In addition to the Dark Lady, the Earl of Southampton and other Shakespearean tropes, Pickleherring/Nye refers to the fathers/sons themes and the surfeit of forgiving wives and daughters in the later plays. Surely the more a reader already knows about Shakespeare and about Elizabethan life from the dunghills up, the more pleasure Nye's account will produce, braided as it is from whimsy, compassion and research. But even readers limited to having read Julius Caesar in ninth grade will find this novel gladdening. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

YA-Robert Reynolds, aka "Pickleherring," was a boy actor who first encountered Will Shakespeare when he was 13 and the Bard was 32. Many years have passed. Shakespeare is long dead and Pickleherring, now an octogenarian, decides that the time has come to tell what he knows (or has heard) about one of the world's greatest writers. Explained through language well suited to both the times and his subject, Pickleherring's topics range from what Shakespeare learned at Stratford grammar school to the Dark Lady of the Sonnets, his childhood ailments to the games he played as a youngster to his funeral arrangements. Nye includes a postscript listing the authors whose "lives and works" he has quoted. For young adults with a fondness for words, Shakespeare, or English history, and for anyone who enjoys a laugh-out-loud, somewhat bawdy read-this book will be a treat.-Pamela B. Rearden, Centreville Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

I In which Pickleherring takes his pen to tell of his first meeting with Mr Shakespearep. 1
II In which Pickleherring makes strides in a pair of lugged bootsp. 5
III Pickleherring's Acknowledgementsp. 8
IV About John Shakespeare and the miller's daughterp. 13
V How to spell Shakespeare and what a whittawer isp. 15
VI About the begetting of William Shakespearep. 19
VII All the facts about Mr Shakespearep. 23
VIII Which is mostly about choughs but has no choughs in itp. 25
IX About the birth of Mr WSp. 29
X What if Bretchgirdle was Shakespeare's father?p. 33
XI About this bookp. 38
XII Of WS: his first word, and the ottersp. 43
XIII Was John Shakespeare John Falstaff?p. 47
XIV How Shakespeare's mother played with himp. 51
XV What this book is doingp. 54
XVI Shakespeare breechesp. 56
XVII Pickleherring's room (in which he is writing this book)p. 62
XVIII The Man in the Moon, or Pickleherring in praise of country historyp. 66
XIX Positively the last word about whittawersp. 70
XX What if Queen Elizabeth was Shakespeare's mother?p. 73
XXI The Shakespeare Armsp. 81
XXII Pickleherring's Songp. 85
XXIII About the childhood ailments of William Shakespearep. 88
XXIV About the great plague that was late in Londonp. 90
XXV Bretchgirdle's catp. 94
XXVI Of the games of William Shakespeare when he was youngp. 96
XXVII The midwife Gertrude's talep. 99
XXVIII Of little WS and the cauldron of inspiration and sciencep. 102
XXIX Some tales that William Shakespeare told his motherp. 107
XXX What Shakespeare learned at Stratford Grammar Schoolp. 110
XXXI About Pompey Bum + Pickleherring's Shakespeare Testp. 116
XXXII Did Shakespeare go to school at Polesworth?p. 119
XXXIII Why John Shakespeare liked to be called Jackp. 121
XXXIV What Shakespeare saw when he looked under Clopton Bridgep. 125
XXXV About waterp. 127
XXXVI Of weeds and the original Opheliap. 130
XXXVII The revels at Kenilworth 9th July, 1575p. 136
XXXVIII More about Jenkinsp. 144
XXXIX John Shakespeare when soberp. 147
XL Jack Naps of Greece: his storyp. 151
XLI Jack Naps of Greece: his story concludedp. 160
XLII Flutep. 164
XLIII The speech that Shakespeare made when he killed a calfp. 165
XLIV In which there is a death, and a birth, and an earthquakep. 167
XLV Pickleherring's peep-holep. 172
XLVI About silk stockingsp. 176
XLVII How Shakespeare went to teach in Lancashirep. 179
XLVIII How Shakespeare went to sea with Francis Drakep. 181
XLIX How Shakespeare went to work in a lawyer's officep. 184
L How Shakespeare went to the wars and sailed the seas (again?) and took a long walk in the Forest of Arden and captured a castlep. 187
LI Pickleherring's confessionp. 191
LII In which Anne Hathawayp. 195
LIII Shakespeare's other Annep. 201
LIV Pickleherring's nine musesp. 204
LV In which John Shakespeare plays Shylockp. 209
LVI In which Lucy is lousyp. 212
LVII Shakespeare's Canopy, or Pickleherring in dispraise of winep. 215
LVIII Pickleherring's Poetics (some more about this book)p. 218
LIX What Shakespeare did when first he came to Londonp. 220
LX In which Pickleherring eats an egg in honour of Mr Shakespearep. 225
LXI In which Pickleherring speculates concerning the meaning of eggsp. 227
LXII About Mr Richard Field: another ruminating gentlemanp. 230
LXIII About a great reckoning in a little roomp. 233
LXIV Morep. 238
LXV A look at William Shakespearep. 244
LXVI Pickleherring's list of the world's lost playsp. 246
LXVII Love's Labour's Wonp. 248
LXVIII Was Shakespeare raped?p. 252
LXIX All about Rizleyp. 257
LXX A Private Observationp. 262
LXXI In which Pickleherring presents a lost sonnet by William Shakespearep. 268
LXXII Who was Shakespeare's Friend?p. 270
LXXIII The Dark Lady of the Sonnets 1p. 275
LXXIV The Dark Lady of the Sonnets 2p. 277
LXXV The Dark Lady of the Sonnets 3p. 281
LXXVI The Dark Lady of the Sonnets 4p. 285
LXXVII The Dark Lady of the Sonnets 5p. 289
LXXVIII Of eggs and Richard Burbagep. 297
LXXIX A few more facts and fictions about William Shakespearep. 302
LXXX In which boys will be girlsp. 307
LXXXI In which Mr Shakespeare is mocked by his fellowsp. 312
LXXXII Pickleherring's poemp. 317
LXXXIII In which Mr Shakespeare plays a game at tennisp. 321
LXXXIV What Shakespeare got from Florio + a word about George Peelep. 326
LXXXV Deaths, etc.p. 332
LXXXVI 'Mrs Lines and Mr Barkworth'p. 336
LXXXVII Shakespeare in Scotland and other witchcraftsp. 342
LXXXVIII About Comfort Ballantinep. 348
LXXXIX In which Pickleherring plays Cleopatra at the house in St John Streetp. 351
XC Tom o' Bedlam's Songp. 356
XCI In which William Shakespeare returns to Stratfordp. 361
XCII Bottomsp. 368
XCIII Some sayings of William Shakespearep. 370
XCIV A word about John Spencer Stockfishp. 373
XCV Pickleherring's list of things despaired ofp. 375
XCVI Shakespeare's Will (with notes by Pickleherring)p. 378
XCVII Firep. 382
XCVIII The day Shakespeare died (with his last words, etc.)p. 384
XCIX About the funeral of William Shakespeare and certain events thereafterp. 389
C In which Pickleherring lays down his pen after telling of the curse on Shakespeare's gravep. 396
Postscriptp. 400