Our guide to the life of the Bard is an actor by the name of Robert Reynolds, known also as Pickleherring. Pickleherring asserts that as a boy he was not only an original member of Shakespeare's acting troupe but played the greatest female roles, from Cleopatra through Portia. In an attic above a brothel in Restoration London - a half century after Shakespeare has departed the stage - Pickleherring, now an ancient man, sits down to write the full story of his former friend, mentor, and master. One by one, chapter by chapter, Pickleherring teases out all the theories that have been embroidered around Shakespeare over the centuries: Did he really write his own plays? Who was the Dark Lady of the sonnets? Did Shakespeare die a Catholic? What did he do during the so-called lost years, before he went to London to write plays? What were the last words Shakespeare uttered on his deathbed? Was Shakespeare ever in love? Pickleherring turns speculation and fact into stories, each bringing us inexorably closer to Shakespeare the man - complex, contradictory, breathing, vibrant.