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Literature / Ruled Britannia

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A novel by Harry Turtledove 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.
  • Artistic License – History: Queen Isabella Clara Eugenia, the Spanish-backed ruler of England, is described as swarthy even for a Spaniard. The real Isabella had red hair, green eyes, and pale skin.
  • 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. There's 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.
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  • Historical Domain Character: Shakespeare, his players, Lope De La Vega (who was the Spanish Shakespeare of his day), Nicholas Skeres, Ingram Frizer and Christopher Marlowe. The majority of the major characters are this.
  • 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.
  • Hypno Pendulum: Used by the "cunning woman" Cicely Sellis to end a tavern argument. And a second time on Lope de Vega, to keep him with her and away from the theatre where Shakespeare and his players are raising revolution.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At one point, Shakespeare ponders what might have happened if some other historic event hadn't happened, but never imagines that there could be any world where the Armada never succeeded.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Shakespeare admits that, if given a choice, he probably would choose to follow the Roman Catholic faith of Spain as opposed to the Protestant teachings of England, but he refuses to let that be forced onto the country at gunpoint by the Spaniards. Thus, 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.
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  • Occupiers Out of Our Country: Used frequently in the Turtledove works. Here it is the English resisting the Spanish.
  • Persecution Flip: The English Protestants must go underground after the Spanish invade and hand power over to the Catholics. Many of the occupying forces in England are Irish.
  • Really Fond of Sleeping: Diego, the only servant of the Spanish playwright and soldier Lope, finds every excuse to sleep that he can, and seems to consider it his primary hobby
  • 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."
  • Shakespeare in Fiction: Our protagonist.
  • Volleying Insults: Round and round and round again between Shakespeare, Burbage, and Kemp.