In Elizabethan England, Widge is a 14 year-old orphan who has a talent for “swift writing,” writing things down in shorthand. He was taught this by a priest to steal other priests’ speeches. Widge then works for a man who wants Widge to swift write William Shakespeare’s Hamlet before it is printed.
Widge is given an over-seer named Falconer, who is very bad. Widge, in the middle of copying is so caught up in the play that he forgets to copy things down. His notebook is eventually stolen with his notes. He tries to transcribe it again, impersonating one of the players, but he ends up being accepted by them.
He is accepted into the Lord Chamberlain's Men and they make him feel welcome. Widge has to ponder his loyalty to his master, or his new found friends. He ends up choosing the right course of action.