Words, Words, Words: A Tip for the Hangman

by Allison Epstein

Thursday, March 02, 2023, 6:30 pm
Virtual Event on Zoom | 6:30 Eastern Time
Free, Registration required

Registration for this session opens at 4pm (ET) on Tuesday, February 7. Folger Members receive early access.

"What do you read, my lord?"
"Words, words, words."
Hamlet, II.ii.209-10

About the Book Club

Join the Folger as we search the stacks for our favorite novels inspired by Shakespeare, the early modern era, and the holdings of the Folger Collection.

This informal Book Club is free and open to all. Our picks range from historical fiction to adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, encompassing a wide variety of genres—all sourced from a different local, independent bookstore partner each month.

After the presentation, participants will be broken into smaller groups for breakout discussions, moderated by a team of staff and volunteers.

Participation is free but registration is required. Sessions will be conducted through Zoom, so keep an eye on your inbox the day before for an access link, along with recommendations for quick bites and beverages to enjoy while we chat.

Our March Pick

A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein

An Elizabethan espionage thriller in which playwright Christopher Marlowe spies on Mary, Queen of Scots while navigating the perils of politics, theater, romance—and murder.

England, 1585. In Kit Marlowe's last year at Cambridge, he is approached by Queen Elizabeth's spymaster offering an unorthodox career opportunity: going undercover to intercept a Catholic plot to put Mary, Queen of Scots on Elizabeth's throne. Spying on Queen Mary turns out to be more than Kit bargained for, but his salary allows him to mount his first play, and over the following years he becomes the toast of London's raucous theater scene. But when Kit finds himself reluctantly drawn back into the world of espionage and treason, he realizes everything he's worked so hard to attain—including the trust of the man he loves—could vanish in an instant.

Pairing modern language with period detail, Allison Epstein brings Elizabeth's lavish court, Marlowe's colorful theater troupe, and the squalor of sixteenth-century London to vivid, teeming life. At the center of the action is Kit himself—an irrepressible, irreverent force of nature.

Why did we choose this?

The Folger Shakespeare Library's collection explores not only Shakespeare's life and works, but also the plays' historical context, source material, critical and performance histories, and the ways in which they inspire and are adapted by contemporary novelists.

Shakespeare was a member of a thriving theatrical community which included Christopher "Kit" Marlowe. They were thought to have collaborated on the Henry VI trilogy and Shakespeare referenced Marlowe's death in As You Like It. It's long been speculated that Marlowe engaged in espionage for the crown, and Epstein explores this idea while simultaneously exploring the religious conflict that characterized England in the 16th century.

Order Your Book


Purchase Your Copy 

For this session, we are excited to once again partner with Old Town Books, a general interest local bookshop in the heart of historic Old Town Alexandria. They are passionate about building bookish community through virtual book clubs and author events. Learn more at oldtownbooks.com.

Orders can be placed in store or online. Their location on S. Royal Street in Alexandria is open seven days a week from 10AM-7PM.

You can also download the audiobook version of this title from Libro.fm.


We would like to thank the following organizations for their generous support of this program: