Venice, 1586. William Shakespeare is disguised as a steward to the English Ambassador. He and his actor friends, Oldcastle and Hemming, possess a deadly secret: the names of the Catholic spies in England who seek to destroy Queen Elizabeth. Before long the Pope's agents begin to close in on them, so fleeing the city is the players' only option. In Verona, Aemelia, the daughter of a Duke, is struggling to conceal her passionate affair with her cousin Valentine. But darker times lie ahead with the arrival of the sinister Father Thornhill, who is determined to seek out anyone who doesn't conform to the Pope's ruthless agenda . . . Events will converge in the forests around Verona as a multitude of plots are hatched and discovered, players fall in and out of love, and disguises are adopted and then discarded. Will the brash William Shakespeare and his friends escape with their secrets—and their lives?