A novel set in an Alternate Universe
where the Spanish Armada conquered England. Ten years later, Shakespeare is writing plays under the Spanish occupiers, but is simultaneously contracted by both them and the English resistance to write plays to either commemorate the dying King Philip or inspire rebellion against him. In the end he chooses the latter, and his play Boudicca sparks a revolution. Published under the slogan "To be free, or not to be free?"
This novel provides examples of:
- Alternate History: The Spanish Armada succeeded. Temporarily.
- Dashing Hispanic: Lope, and he is well aware of it. His reputation precedes him wherever he goes.
- Enemy Mine: Shakespeare spends a lot of the novel unclear on who is REALLY working for whom, and who he can really trust.
- Friendly Enemy: de Vega ingratiates himself to the players. He and Shakespeare are also Worthy Opponents.
- Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Not only in the quoted plays, but as much spoken dialogue is sneakily cribbed quotes from other plays and poems, so people regularly talk to each other in Iambic Pentameter. Shakespeare, Burbage, and Marlowe regularly hang lampshades on this.
- Some Truth in Television here; one reason for the success of iambic pentameter in its day was that it resembled the rhythms of ordinary speech.
- Historical-Domain Character: Shakespeare, his players, Lope De La Vega (who was the Spanish Shakespeare of his day), Nicholas Skeres, Christopher Marlowe. The majority of the major characters are this.
- Hot Witch: Cicelly Sellis.
- Hurricane of Puns: The needling between Kemp, Burbage, Shakespeare, and Marlowe descends into this rapidly.
- There are a ton of great ones, but a special mention goes to the following:
"Your quibbles fly like arrows at St. Sebastian." Shakespeare mimed being struck.
"Arrows by any other name would smell as sweet," Kemp retorted. Shakespeare flinched. However fond of puns he was himself, he'd never looked to see Romeo and Juliet so brutalized.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At one point, Shakespeare ponders what might have happened if [some other historic event, I can't find the quote right now] hadn't happened—but DOESN'T consider a world where the Armada never succeeded.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Shakespeare admits that, if given a choice, he probably would chose to follow the Roman Catholic traditions of Spain as opposed to the Protestant teachings of England, but he refuses to let these traditions be forced onto the country at gunpoint. Thusly, he helps launch the rebellion that topples the government of Queen Isabella and frees the imprisoned Queen Elizabeth, even if that means he will need to become a Protestant again, because at least then it would be England's choice in the matter.
- Occupiers out of Our Country: Used frequently in the Turtledove works. Here it is the English resisting the Spanish.
- The Quisling: Loaded with 'em.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Lieutenant de Vega is constantly threatening his lazy servant with reassignment to Scotland until he gets some better blackmail.
- Rousing Speech: Shakespeare's entire alternate play, but particularly its final lines:
"No epilogue here, unless you make it;
If you want your freedom, go and take it."
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Burbage and Kemp
- Volleying Insults: round and round and round again between Shakespeare, Burbage, and Kemp
- William Shakespeare: Our protagonist.