The Shakespeare Stealer

by Gary Blackwood

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What happens in chapters 23 and 24 of The Shakespeare Stealer?

Quick answer:

In chapters 23 and 24, Widge learns the role of Ophelia with Julia's help and performs successfully before the Queen, who compliments him despite her aged appearance. Julia, heartbroken, disappears after taking a position at the theatre entrance. Widge and Sander find Nick with Falconer, prompting Widge to confess his past mission to steal Shakespeare’s play. They return to the theatre, where Widge catches Nick with a play book.

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In Chapter 23, witht the kind help of Julia, Widge works feverishly to learn the lines of the character Ophelia. The Company goes before the queen's master of revels to rehearse, and the rehearsal goes terribly. Widge is horrified, but no one else seems to be worried. The day of the Company's scheduled performance before the Queen herself arrives, and despite Widge's nervousness, he does very well. Widge meets the Queen after the performance, and is shocked to see that, despite the fact that she always appears to be regal and beautiful in pictures, she is very old, and her beauty is a facade. The queen compliments Widge on his performance, and tells him that he has the capability to do well in theatre.

In Chapter 24, Julia, who is heartbroken at no longer being allowed to act, takes a position gathering money at the theatre entrance. After about a week, she simply disappears, and, with Nick missing also, the Company is woefully shorthanded. Sanders and Widge try their best to fill the empty roles, but more actors are still needed. The two boys are sent to look for Nick, and they find him, as expected, drinking at a tavern. When they enter the establishment, Widge sees that Nick is with Falconer, and quickly hides. Widge is forced to reveal to Sander the truth, that he had originally been sent by Falconer to steal Shakespeare's play Hamlet, and while Sander is shocked and initially mistrustful of Widge, Widge convinces him that he has since realized the wrongness of his errand, and has given it up. Widge fears that Falconer is now trying to get Nick to do the job. The two boys go back to the theatre and lie to Mr. Heminges, telling him that they had failed to find Nick. The following afternoon, as Widge is preparing for a performance, he spots Nick coming into the rear door of the theatre. A short time later, Widge sees that someone is in the property room. He silently opens the door, and catches Nick with a play book in his hand.

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