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The Folger Spotlight

Words, Words, Words: ‘License to Quill’ by Jacopo della Quercia

Folger Public Programs celebrates bonfire night with our virtual book club, Words, Words, Words. On Thursday, November 5, we will be welcoming friends from all around the world to discuss Jacopo della Quercia’s License to Quill. To get ready for the conversation, we’ve compiled some introductory information on this James Bond-inspired Shakespeare thriller.

What is License to Quill about?

'License to Quill' cover artShakespeare as you’ve never seen him before…a secret agent. Caught up in a world of corruption, secrets, staged deaths, and playwriting, Will must use but not abuse his license to quill.

License to Quill is a page-turning James Bond-esque spy thriller starring William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe during history’s real life Gunpowder Plot. The story follows the fascinating golden age of English espionage, the tumultuous cold war gripping post-Reformation Europe, the cloak-and-dagger politics of Shakespeare’s England, and lastly, the mysterious origins of the Bard’s most haunting play: Macbeth.



Critical Reception

“Full of puns . . . this historical thriller is also an homage to Ian Fleming’s James Bond–ian world. . . Add bull-baiting, human sacrifice, gruesome executions, and an epic London street battle, and what results is an erudite tour de force.”—Kirkus Reviews

“This is a wonderful, uproarious novel, with so much history that it makes your head spin with the cleverness of the dialog and plot . . . a book no lover of Elizabethan/Jacobean history can afford to miss. Recommended most highly.” —Historical Novel Society

About the author: Jacopo della Quercia

Jacopo della Quercia
Author Jacopo della Quercia

“Jacopo della Quercia” (real name Giacomo Calabria) is an award-winning educator, essayist, and novelist. His work includes the New York Times best-seller You Might Be A Zombie and Other Bad News, its follow-up The De-Textbook, the detective-noir collection Hardboiled Horror, and academic texts such as the #1 Amazon best-seller Game of Thrones versus History. His novels include The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy and License to Quill.

As an educator, Jacopo has taught classes on various aspects of history, literature, and the arts since 2006. He has lectured on Machiavellian political psychology at NYU, on William Shakespeare at the Mark Twain House & Museum, on Abraham Lincoln at the New York State Museum, and on narrative medicine at Albany Medical College. He is currently leading several reading and discussion programs in and around the Capital Region as a scholar for Humanities New York.

Loyalty Black Line Logo

Meet our Bookshop Partner: Loyalty Bookstores

For our November session, we are excited to partner with Loyalty Bookstore, a Black, Queer owned independent bookstore in the Petworth neighborhood of DC and Silver Spring, MD that specializes in diverse books.

In order to maintain the safety of staff and neighborhood, Loyalty is closed to the public for browsing until further notice. Place your order online or by emailing Contactless pickup is available Weds-Sat at both locations from 1-5pm only. Click here for further information on current policies and operations.

To learn more, visit


Shakespeare bust with glassesLimited places are still available for our November 5 discussion! Register here, and tune in next week for additional Folger resources to enrich the conversation.