Fools and Mortals

A Novel
Narrated by: Thomas Judd
Length: 10 hrs and 28 mins
4.4 out of 5 stars (433 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best-selling author Bernard Cornwell makes a dramatic departure with this enthralling, action-packed stand-alone novel that tells the story of the first production of A Midsummer Night's Dream - as related by William Shakespeare's estranged younger brother.

Lord, what fools these mortals be....

In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft, and a silver tongue. As William's star rises, Richard's onetime gratitude is souring, and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty.

So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangled in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal that threatens not only his career and potential fortune but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the part of a lifetime....

Showcasing the superb storytelling skill that has won Bernard Cornwell international renown, Fools and Mortals is a richly portrayed tour de force that brings to life a vivid world of intricate stagecraft, fierce competition, and consuming ambition.

©2018 Bernard Cornwell (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

What listeners say about Fools and Mortals

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Engaging

Bernard Cornwell is one of my favorite historical novelists. This book is a bit different from his usual topics of British history. In this book Cornwell tells the story of Richard Shakespeare. Richard works on his career on the London stage but it is his brother, William, whose career takes off. One of William’s manuscripts disappears and Richard is the key suspect.

The book is well written and researched. Cornwell has Richard telling his own story. Cornwell does a great job describing the Elizabethan Era. I felt as if I was right in the middle of the story observing it all. I was hesitant in purchasing the book because of the topic, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The book is ten and a half hours. Thomas Judd does a good job narrating the book. Judd is an actor and audiobook narrator. Judd has an easy voice to listen too. This is my first experience listening to Judd narrate.

12 people found this helpful

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TRULY astounding narration!

As always, Bernard Cornwell writes a fine story, although this time without his trademark battle scenes. What makes pop, though, was some of the best narration I have heard in over 4,000 audiobooks!

16 people found this helpful

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Shakespeare, London, and a lot of fun

This is one case where I am glad that I listened to the book on audio rather than reading it in print. A lot of the reviewers complained about descriptions of the stage performances and underdeveloped characters, but neither was an issue with the audiobook, thanks, in great part, to the reader, Thomas Judd. I was probably also at an advantage because I have never read any of Cornwell's other novals, which focus on lots of battlefield and shipboard action. Another advantage: I'm a Shakespearean, so I got a lot of the inside jokes and have a lot of knowledge about what the workings of the court, the theatre, and the London street were like at the time. I felt that Cornwell did an accurate job of portraying them all, and I enjoyed his portrayal of characters who are well-known to me. Here, again, the reader helped; his voice for Will Kemp was hilarious and spot on. So what's it all about? Will Shakespeare's younger brother Richard flees Startford after thinking he has killed the carpenter to whom he was (unhappily) apprenticed. He's a handsome lad, taller than his brother, and he's soon put to work acting women's parts. He moves from the younger women to the older as his voice changes, but he longs to play a real man's part. As Richard (and Cornwell) take us through the backstage workings, rivalries, quarrels, petty thievery and more, we're party to plans for a performance of a new play, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' as the wedding entertainment for a granddaughter of Lord Hunsdun, one of the queen's favorites. And there's a new play in the works, written for the queen: 'Romeo and Juliet.' Offstage, we see Richard falling in love with Sylvia, maid to daughter of the theatre's patron. And when some treasured play scripts disappear, Richard vows to find and return them, but he asks for a particular reward: a good man's part written just for him. There was enough action for me in Richard's run-ins with Puritans and rivals while searching for the manuscript (but then I'm not one much interested in the warfare typical of other Cornwell novels). I'd recommend this enjoyable read to anyone interested in Elizabethan London and the theatre world.

6 people found this helpful

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What if your elder brother was a genius?

I'm a Bernard Cornwell fan, but this was slightly different than his sagas and chronicles. It's a stand alone novel told from the point of view of Richard Shakespeare, Will's younger brother who has come to London to act. This has not gone over well with his older brother as Richard is the better looking of the two--though many believe Will has a way with words. Also, interesting to me, was how the novel focuses on the writing of Midsummer's Night Dream and Romeo and Juliet, the two plays that mark the transition from "sturdy Elizabethan playwright, one among many" to "the immortal bard". And to this day no one knows why or how the genius of Shakespeare was made to blossom at that time. Only that it did, which makes Fools and Mortals even more interesting. Bravo!

2 people found this helpful

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Not a typical Bernard Cornwall novel

Bernard Cornwall is one of the finest historical novelist of our day. I have every one of his novels. This is not a novel like the others. It is a story of William Shakespeare acting company and the main character is Williams younger brother, Richard. Richard is forced to play women in his brothers plays and longs to play male leads. At this time Shakespeare is writing Romeo and Juliet and is about to perform A Midsummer Nights Dream for a wealthy patron. Without copywriter laws, plays can be stolen and performed with the loss for the playwrite. Mr. Cornwell is a great writer when it comes to historical accuracy and characters dialogue.
I am a large Shakespeare fan but did not like this novel . Not much happens, the characters become predictable, and there is way too much discussion and lines from a Midsummer Nights Dream. I’m sorry to say I can not recommend this novel. Though, if you have not read all Mr. Cornwell’s other novels those are outstanding.

6 people found this helpful

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Great read!!

This book took me back to my childhood!! A look back at the best plat writer ever as his brother tells it. The book seems so real and I could see this life for an actor/player in the 1500’s now this is a different side to Bernard Cornwell but I loved it... but I’ve read every Cornwell book and I love them too...

1 person found this helpful

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Creative blend of Shakespeare and history makes a great story

Normally Bernard Cornwell tells the reader in a postscript exactly where and how he adjusted facts and modified history to help his story along. However, in the Audible version, this section was not read so I don’t have a reference for what actually happened back in the day. No matter, the story was fantastic! The use of Shakespearean poetry throughout the story and the details of London life and Shakespeare’s family inject a unique degree of sophistication into Mr. Cornwell’s latest masterful story. Incredibly entertaining especially for those who love classical literature.

1 person found this helpful

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A New Series? A Great Story

I always look forward to Cornwell's novels, particularly the "Last Kingdom" series, so I was a bit apprehensive about "Fools and Mortals" set in Elizabethan England. The novels begins somewhat slowly as the characters are developed. However, once the plot comes into its stride the story takes off and I found it hard to stop listening. A really fun story, great narration.

1 person found this helpful

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Very Interesting

Major characters were probably not historically accurate, but the explanation of life in these times was really interesting.

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exceptional reader

Thomas Judd is an accomplished reader who really makes the story come alive! Loved it.