Tragedy strikes Westfield’s Men when the theater where they ply their art is partially destroyed by fire.
A drunken theatergoer from York dies when his attempt to light his pipe starts a conflagration in the Queen’s Head. But the company (The Malevolent Comedy, 2005, etc.) is saved by their patron, Lord Westfield. A recently inherited fortune has allowed him to seek a wife, and his agent Rolfe Harling has found one in Denmark. Westfield takes the players along to impress his bride, for whom a play is hastily revised and renamed The Princess of Denmark. Bookholder Nick Bracewell, who arranges passage for the company, includes his love, Anne Hendrick, who plans to visit Holland while the players go on to Denmark. Actor Owen Elias almost misses the boat when he is severely beaten the night before, possibly because he helped Nick catch one of the men plastering anti-foreign handbills all over town. Adventures continue during the journey when the ship is attacked by pirates. Skipping all stops, the players limp into Elsinore. They’re feted for several performances, but then Rolfe Harling is murdered, Owen is attacked again and Anne discovers that Westfield’s bride is not the beauty her miniature portrayed. It falls to Nick to discover the killer, foil the plot to ensnare Lord Westfield and return the company to the Queen’s Head.
Another of Marston’s accomplished and amusing looks at Elizabethan life and death.