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An Antic Disposition: A Medieval Mystery    by Alan Gordon order for
Antic Disposition
by Alan Gordon
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Nina de Angeli

'As I ... shall think meet, to put an antic disposition on.' (Hamlet, Act I Scene V). Antic Disposition is a many-layered novel using as a starting point the original medieval Danish historical events that inspired Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet. Behind the light hearted banter of Yorick, the court jester and protagonist, lies a tragic tale of love, betrayal, and revenge, with a surprising twist on Shakespeare's well-known tragedy.

The book opens when traveling jester Terence of York arrives in Slesvig, stronghold of twelfth century Danish lord Orvendil. York becomes Yorick when the jester is renamed by Orvendil's small son Amleth (Hamlet in Danish). Yorick's sprightly wit, juggling, and clowning conceal a deeper purpose. The jester has been sent by the Fools' Guild to work his way into Orvendil's confidence and try to prevent a possible civil war with rival lords. Readers familiar with Gordon's captivating Jester series will recognize his mythical Fools' Guild as the spy network that places agents in royal courts all over Europe, in hopes of influencing rulers to make peace rather than war. The spies have their hands full when Hamlet's uncle schemes to take over the throne.

Gordon develops Hamlet from childhood as a complex and very human character, along with his ambitious mother and murderous uncle, tragic Ophelia, her brooding, foolish father, and the tragic clown Yorick. He creates highly credible characters in a convincing historical setting, making for an absorbing, stylistically elegant, emotionally satisfying read.

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