The Player's Boy
James Sands anticipates a glorious career as apprentice to an Elizabethan theater troupe. He plays Bellario in Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster, and in this role, experiences the fusion of his passion and his art. When Sands's masters die, the young actor loses his home and his job, and must fight to maintain his ideals and his life in an atmosphere of plague, Puritanism, and political unrest under the new Jacobean regime. After one small act of kindness threatens to engulf Sands in violence, his hope of a life in theater spirals into an unexpected horror that contemporary readers will find disturbingly familiar in our own political climate.
“It's a gloomy, but achingly beautiful novel.” — Margaret Donsbach
"A striking and beautifully written narrative…. Bryher is a fine artist with words, extraordinarily skillful in her magical ability to capture the essence of an individual emotion and the quality of a national mood." — The New York Times
"An English novelist and patron of artists such as H.D., Bryher (Winifred Ellerman, 1894-1983) first published this beautifully realized story of a young Elizabethan actor's apprentice in 1953. After the death of James Sands's beloved Master Awsten, one of the Queen's Players who has taught Sands the rudiments of acting, Sands travels from Southwark, London and passes through a succession of employers. At a house in the country, he meets the summering playwright Frances Beaumont, in the process of writing his play, Philaster. James wins the part of Bellario, the girl page disguised as a boy for love of Philaster, who in a curious royal ménage-a-trois sends Bellario to serve his beloved Arethusa; James duly falls in love, unrequitedly, with Beaumont's virginal fiancée, Ursula. History intrudes offstage in the form of Sir Walter Ralegh's execution and the ascent of the Puritans, and James, now a clerk, becomes a kind of poignant anachronism, too delicate for the coarsening new age. Theatrical and romantically lyrical, Bryher's novel is a forgotten gem, channeling the servant boy's first person flawlessly." — Publishers Weekly