Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Fools and Mortals

A dramatic new departure for international bestselling author Bernard Cornwell, FOOLS AND MORTALS takes us into the heart of the Elizabethan era, long one of his favourite periods of British history.Fools and Mortals follows the young Richard Shakespeare, an actor struggling to make his way in a company dominated by his estranged older brother, William. As the growth of th...

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Fools and Mortals Reviews

  • Richard

    8/10

    If you’d have said I would have enjoyed a book about the trials and tribulations of actors in the 16th century and the complexities of writing, producing and performing a play then I would have quite easily said you were full of something. However, I requested this book more because of who wrote it than what it was about and went in without being overly excited about it caught me from the off and was a surprise hit with me!

    I was waiting for some sort of major turning point; like Shakespeare

    8/10

    If you’d have said I would have enjoyed a book about the trials and tribulations of actors in the 16th century and the complexities of writing, producing and performing a play then I would have quite easily said you were full of something. However, I requested this book more because of who wrote it than what it was about and went in without being overly excited about it caught me from the off and was a surprise hit with me!

    I was waiting for some sort of major turning point; like Shakespeare actually being a sentient being from another planet or a serial killing rogue eliminating actors from the play. But nothing like this happened. Nothing major happened at all really. Sounds a little dull but the way Cornwell weaves the tale and makes the 16th century come alive made the book flow on by without me ever noticing. I actually wanted to know how the production of A Midsummers Night Dream would turn out and what troubles there would be along the way. Whether the actors would get through the situation and pull it off or whether Shakespeare was just a flash in the pan (well I guess I knew the answer to that).

    There is some heavy backstory to this without massive info dumps. It just flows along nicely adding information to the tale and fleshing it out. Without it the story would fall flat. The main characters are fleshed out nicely without it being overdone but some of the minor characters aren’t developed too much.

    There is a little bit of a slower section in the back third after some exciting stealth action and the ending wasn’t explosive but more a nice end to the tale (which is probably perfect for this story). It may not be an era that Cornwell has looked into much previously but the research he’s done here is clear to see and makes this one to pick up. Highly recommended.

  • Emily May

    Hmm, perhaps this was a bad choice for my first foray into the world of Bernard Cornwell. I've seen his books around for years, and after my recent binge-read (and love) of Ken Follett's epic

    trilogy, I was longing for some more historical fiction.

    Glancing around reviews, I see that this is outside of the author's usual comfort zone, making me think I should maybe try

    or

    instead. I cannot

    Hmm, perhaps this was a bad choice for my first foray into the world of Bernard Cornwell. I've seen his books around for years, and after my recent binge-read (and love) of Ken Follett's epic

    trilogy, I was longing for some more historical fiction.

    Glancing around reviews, I see that this is outside of the author's usual comfort zone, making me think I should maybe try

    or

    instead. I cannot say for sure whether I was just really uninterested in the subject matter of

    - theatre - or whether Cornwell didn't do it very well. All I know is that the characters didn't excite me, the story didn't grab me, and I finished this relatively short book feeling relieved I'd managed to push through.

    introduces us to Richard Shakespeare, brother of the famous William Shakespeare and an aspiring actor in Elizabethan England, who constantly finds himself in his brother's shadow, picking up the female roles in plays, and rarely being given a chance to shine. Unfortunately, I felt no connection or

    for him. He was bland and forgettable, and worse - the main conflicts are not exciting or dramatic enough.

    Considering the darkness, the religious conflicts and brutal tortures of the era, Cornwell's story of theatre was very "light".

    with “Show us your tits, ladies,” being pretty much the worst of it. Much of the story is a

    , which made it seem far longer than it actually was. I was bored.

    I have definitely been spoiled by the delicious drama of Ken Follett. I was hoping for some more of that here, but sadly no. Still, I will try the author's other work.

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  • Paromjit

    Bernard Cornwell takes us into the Elizabethan era and the world of the theatre evolving from a transient company of players touring London and other towns to the birth of permanent theatre, with buildings built solely for this purpose. The popularity of plays with audiences puts pressure for new plays on a continuous basis, leading to a demand for writers to satisfy the demands of growing audiences. At the same time, the chill winds of Puritanism drive a desire to destroy the growing bastion of

    Bernard Cornwell takes us into the Elizabethan era and the world of the theatre evolving from a transient company of players touring London and other towns to the birth of permanent theatre, with buildings built solely for this purpose. The popularity of plays with audiences puts pressure for new plays on a continuous basis, leading to a demand for writers to satisfy the demands of growing audiences. At the same time, the chill winds of Puritanism drive a desire to destroy the growing bastion of the theatre and its association with bawdiness, criminal elements, and seen to be a threat to the god fearing and austere section of Protestantism. If the Puritans had their way, players and writers would be purged, and to enforce their views are the Pursuivants, aka the Percies, raiding theatres and pursuing Catholics and those they deem 'criminal' with the power to hang people. However, the aristocracy and royalty are equally determined to support and sponsor this source of popular entertainment.

    Cornwell has clearly done his research of this historical period and his love of theatre shines brightly throughout. He does take some liberties as he blends a mix of fact and fiction as he delivers a thrilling historical take on the drama and details of the process of putting on plays with the Lord Chamberlain Men, for whom William Shakespeare writes and Richard, his brother, is a lowly but ambitious player. The two brothers are estranged, with William unwilling to help Richard. It is 1595 and Richard is a gifted thief, a skill honed by his three years of misery with Sir Godfrey Cullen, a church minister and predator that preys on the boys of St Benet's Choir School, for which William was responsible. Richard has had to suffer the indignity of continually playing women but is determined to play men with meatier roles. We are given a picture of his life of poverty, his lodgings, and relationships with the others in the company. There are the insecurites, rivalries, jealousies, betrayal, romance and intrigue as the players rehearse to perform A Midsummer's Night Dream written by William for the wedding of the daughter of the Lord Chamberlain. There are numerous real figures from the period such as the famous Will Kemp, the comic actor, and almost anything that can go wrong does.

    Cornwall's love of Shakespeare is transparent in the title of this novel and the knowledge of the Shakespeare plays permeating the narrative. There is rich period detail of London and the intense and demanding process of what it takes to put on a play, right down to set design and costume. Little is known of the actual Richard Shakespeare, leaving Cornwell free to breathe life into him as the protagonist, a gifted player struggling to survive, embarking on adventure and romance, and facing grave dangers. You can't help but get engaged with his travails, character and life. Cornwell does a wonderful job in making the Elizabethan world of London, Shakespeare, and theatre come vibrantly alive. A fantastic piece of compelling historical fiction which I highly recommend. Many thanks to HarperCollins for an ARC.

  • A Bald Mage** Steve

    Bald Mage Rating 8.5/10

    I would like to thank HarperCollins UK and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to review this book for free, the release date for the book is 19th October 2017

    (Things base and vile, holding no quantity, Love can transpose to form and dignity: Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind.)

    When I got the opportunity to read Bernard Cornwell’s new book I couldn’t wait to get started as I’m a big fan of his Saxon S

    Bald Mage Rating 8.5/10

    I would like to thank HarperCollins UK and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to review this book for free, the release date for the book is 19th October 2017

    (Things base and vile, holding no quantity, Love can transpose to form and dignity: Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind.)

    When I got the opportunity to read Bernard Cornwell’s new book I couldn’t wait to get started as I’m a big fan of his Saxon Series as well as his Sharpe Series. When I started the novel I must admit thinking that this isn’t what I’m used to, with the book not having any big battles to get excited over, but I can say regardless of this I really enjoyed the book.

    Full Review on my Blog: Happy Reading :)

  • Emma

    This feel-good adventure in the Elizabethan era is full of detail and emotion. Slow to build but well worth the investment, it follows Richard Shakespeare, theatre player and resentful sibling to the talented, Will. Not immediately likeable, this is a journey of Richard's growth as much as anything else, and through his experiences, we are offered an intriguing picture of two very different brothers. Yet their shared home is the playhouse, with its own wild characters and rivalries, collectively

    This feel-good adventure in the Elizabethan era is full of detail and emotion. Slow to build but well worth the investment, it follows Richard Shakespeare, theatre player and resentful sibling to the talented, Will. Not immediately likeable, this is a journey of Richard's growth as much as anything else, and through his experiences, we are offered an intriguing picture of two very different brothers. Yet their shared home is the playhouse, with its own wild characters and rivalries, collectively determined to put on a masterful performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, all set against a background of aggressive Puritanism, vile theft, and the looming threat of a new, rival theatre, The Swan.

    The reader is welcomed into this vibrantly creative world, each silver stitch and shit stained street recreated in lavish detail. At one point, Will Shakespeare describes the play as like a clock:

    This is precisely what Cornwell has done here, the untangling just as pleasurable as you might have hoped. It was fun; the author's clear love and enthusiasm for the subject keeps a smile on your face as you read and, once you put the book down, leaves you delighted.

    ARC via Netgalley

  • Roman Clodia

    A feel-good romp of a novel that bears more than a passing resemblance to Shakespeare in Love, albeit without the romance and emotional edge. Cornwell's research is sometimes worn a bit heavily ('Titania! A lovely name,' Father Laurence said, 'your brother took it from Ovid, didn't he?' 'Did he?' 'From the Metamorphoses, of course') but overall he gives a good account of what it must have been like to be a player in the mid 1590s.

    I enjoyed that the focus isn't so much on William but on his youn

    A feel-good romp of a novel that bears more than a passing resemblance to Shakespeare in Love, albeit without the romance and emotional edge. Cornwell's research is sometimes worn a bit heavily ('Titania! A lovely name,' Father Laurence said, 'your brother took it from Ovid, didn't he?' 'Did he?' 'From the Metamorphoses, of course') but overall he gives a good account of what it must have been like to be a player in the mid 1590s.

    I enjoyed that the focus isn't so much on William but on his younger brother Richard and while the main thrust is about a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream for Lord Hunsdon's daughter's marriage, the real story is one of Richard's emotional coming of age and the growth of understanding between the brothers.

    It is, of course, absurd that a 21-year-old man whose voice has broken and who needs to be shaved should be playing women's roles - I'm sure Cornwell knows perfectly well that boys stopped taking on female roles once they reached adolescence, started growing a beard and having their voices deepen, but this anomaly is necessary for the theme of masculine coming of age and brotherly coming together. A fun, light read.

    Thanks to HarperCollins for an ARC via NetGalley.

  • Lucy Banks

    Despite having watched

    on TV, I've never got around to reading any books by Bernard Cornwell, so I was delighted to give this one a go. And very entertaining it was too!

    The protagonist is Richard Shakespeare, the younger (and better looking) brother of William Shakespeare. He's an actor, and is sick and tired of playing lady's roles

    Despite having watched

    on TV, I've never got around to reading any books by Bernard Cornwell, so I was delighted to give this one a go. And very entertaining it was too!

    The protagonist is Richard Shakespeare, the younger (and better looking) brother of William Shakespeare. He's an actor, and is sick and tired of playing lady's roles; especially as he's got his sights on a particular girl called Sylvia...

    However, this isn't just a book about love and acting. It's also a wonderful observation of life at the times; the role of the playhouses in society, the life of an actor, and the competition between acting troupes. Cornwell's writing is pleasantly accessible, with plenty of bawdy moments, swearing, plus some very convincing scenes, which felt impressively authentic. As someone who knows quite a bit about Shakespeare, there were no obvious errors that I noted - though one tiny comment - a female character makes reference to the rhyme 'round and round the mulberry bush' at one point... I'm sure this rhyme came about in the 1800s from a women's prison? Forgive me if I'm wrong (I'm being so nitpicky anyway; this detail in no way detracts from the book!).

    Overall, a brilliantly fun read; I was hooked right through. I'll have to keep my eye out for more of his books now.

  • Maureen

    Hmmm, not sure about this one. Did I like it? Yes, in parts, but then other parts fell flat for me.

    In the latter years of the sixteenth century, the professional theatre as we know it was born. Prior to this time there were plays and actors, but the companies had nowhere to perform other than inns, parish halls and some of the great houses, until permanent playhouses were built in London.

    It's here that we make the aquaintance of Richard Shakespeare, an actor struggling to make a living in the sh

    Hmmm, not sure about this one. Did I like it? Yes, in parts, but then other parts fell flat for me.

    In the latter years of the sixteenth century, the professional theatre as we know it was born. Prior to this time there were plays and actors, but the companies had nowhere to perform other than inns, parish halls and some of the great houses, until permanent playhouses were built in London.

    It's here that we make the aquaintance of Richard Shakespeare, an actor struggling to make a living in the shadow of his older brother William. There's no love lost between the brothers. William seems to take great joy in ridiculing Richard, and as the popularity of theatre increases, so does the rivalry between the brothers as well as the various playhouses, playwrights, and actors. These rivalries lead to some underhand dealings, and they also introduce us to some pretty nasty characters along the way.

    There's no doubt that Bernard Cornwell writes with great skill, and he really brings the Elizabethan era to life. It needs little imagination to walk the streets of 16th century London, such are his literary talents. However, I found it really difficult to invest in any of the characters. The storyline focused on Richard, leaving William very much in the shade, and naturally, because of this, Richard was definitely the most fleshed out, the most interesting of all the characters, but unfortunately it didn't really work for me.

    *Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins for my ARC in exchange for an honest review*

  • Fiona

    A hugely enjoyable, almost entirely fictitious, romp through Shakespearean England narrated by Richard, Will’s brother. The plays are brought to life by Richard’s descriptions of performances and the book is clearly well researched in respect of how early theatre worked. It would be 5 stars except that I found there to be quite a bit of repetition. We’re told several times, for example, how ceruse mixed with crushed pearls makes the skin white and shimmering. That’s probably being a bit picky th

    A hugely enjoyable, almost entirely fictitious, romp through Shakespearean England narrated by Richard, Will’s brother. The plays are brought to life by Richard’s descriptions of performances and the book is clearly well researched in respect of how early theatre worked. It would be 5 stars except that I found there to be quite a bit of repetition. We’re told several times, for example, how ceruse mixed with crushed pearls makes the skin white and shimmering. That’s probably being a bit picky though as I raced through it and found it highly entertaining.

    The Epilogue is another chapter in itself in which Cornwell gives more detailed information about the early theatre and its plays. If you’re interested in this period, I strongly recommend the excellent Futurelearn course from the University of Warwick, Shakespeare and his World.

    Thanks to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for a free review copy.

  • Cynthia

    Cornwell makes the story of how Shakespeare created and first performed his “A Midsummer’s Night Dream. It has a realyou are there feel...the times, how people lived especially actors or players as they were then called.

    The main character is Shakespeare’s younger brother Richard and the relationship between them. Richard is ten years younger than William and fairly new to London and the theater scene and though new he’s already lived a lot both good and bad but most importantly he’s gained some

    Cornwell makes the story of how Shakespeare created and first performed his “A Midsummer’s Night Dream. It has a realyou are there feel...the times, how people lived especially actors or players as they were then called.

    The main character is Shakespeare’s younger brother Richard and the relationship between them. Richard is ten years younger than William and fairly new to London and the theater scene and though new he’s already lived a lot both good and bad but most importantly he’s gained some important acting chops. It was tradition at the time for men and young boys to play the female parts because women in the acting were considered loose women. In fact a lot of the action was about 5he sway Puritan’s were powerful at the time, a time when Protestantism was still young and Queen Elizabeth worried about being dethroned by the Catholic faction.

    Cornwell’s writing flows and the book moves quickly and enjoyably. Despite the large amount of writing Cornwell’s done this won’t be the last book of his I’ll be reading.

    Thank you to the publisher’s for providing an advance reader’s copy.

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