Widge's quest to steal Hamlet is not a simple one. The indentured orphan, who can write a secret code as fast as a man can speak, must attend a performance and write down the complete play so that his master's troupe of actors can perform the new play. If he succeeds, he will be rewarded handsomely, but failure would bring the threat of death. His master's servant, Falconer, who accompanies Widge to London, has already killed one man for merely calling him a name; surely he would not hesitate to kill a lowly apprentice.
Widge watches the play and writes the dialogue in the code, but when a pick-pocket lifts his secret scribblings, Widge decides he must steal the play book from the Globe Theatre. Caught inside, he pretends that he wants to be an actor and is taken in by the troupe. Widge has never belonged to a group before. His opinion has never been asked and never mattered. Now he is treated as a real person, not as an indentured servant, and he likes it.
Should he betray his new friends and his new life as one of Shakespeare's actors, let fear dictate his life, and steal a copy of Hamlet? Or can he escape the long reach of his master and become his own person? Unused to making decisions, Widge vacillates but finally makes a choice that changes his life.