Cue for Treason Summary

Geoffrey Trease

Cue for Treason

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Cue for Treason Summary

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Set in Elizabethan England in the sixteenth century, British author Geoffrey Trease’s historical novel for children, Cue for Treason, follows two children who run away from home together to become boy actors in London. Once in London, they meet William Shakespeare and help him stop a plot that has been crafted to take the life of Queen Elizabeth.

Fourteen-year-old Peter Brownrigg flees town to escape prosecution for a stone he threw at the prestigious Sir Philip Morton. Peter, part of a plot to stop Sir Philip from stealing the village farmland, is caught and has to leave town to escape being brutally punished. Peter goes to Penrith, where he sees a play, but unexpectedly finds Sir Philip in the audience at the theatre. He hides inside a coffin used as a prop on the set and is loaded onto the play company’s wagon and taken on the road by accident.

When the leader of the play company, Mr. Desmond, discovers Peter inside the coffin, he accepts him into the company as a boy actor. Another youngster has recently joined the company – a boy named Kit. Kit is adept at playing girl characters; Peter is jealous when he becomes Kit’s understudy. When Peter lashes out, Kit reveals that he is actually a girl, who is also hiding from Sir Philip. She is trying to avoid a forced marriage to Sir Philip, who only wants her family’s money. She and Peter immediately become friends, joining forces to avoid Sir Philip.

After Mr. Desmond breaks his leg in an accident in the river, nearly revealing Kit’s identity, Peter and Kit go on to London alone, where they hole up in the notorious Shoreditch neighborhood. There, they are found and recruited by William Shakespeare for his play company. When one of Shakespeare’s new plays is stolen, Peter and Kit steal it back, becoming aware through a poorly written sonnet scribbled on the play’s cover that someone is plotting something treasonous. They decipher the code, which leads them back to Sir Philip’s property.

Kit and Peter are joined by Tom, a spy who worries about the safety of the Queen after hearing of the treasonous plot. On Sir Philip’s property, Tom is killed; Peter and Kit learn that John Somers, another actor in their party, plans to kill the Queen in order to reinstate a monarch in England who would be more sympathetic to Spain. This will all happen during the first performance of Henry V.

Peter and Kit report the crime to the magistrate, whom they soon learn is part of the plot as well. They steal his horses and ride to London, where they hope to intercept the Queen before she is shot. Along the way, Sir Philip intercepts Peter and Kit, but using their acting skills, escape his men. Finally, with almost no time to spare, Peter and Kit make it back to London to warn the proper authorities; the guards stop John Somers moments before he acts on his plan to kill the Queen.

The novel ends as Peter reveals that he and Kit are older now, have married, and had two children. They are living on Kit’s inherited estate, which was saved from the greedy clutches of the evil Sir Philip.

Geoffrey Trease was a British author who published 113 novels in his lifetime, many of which were for children. He wrote from 1934 to 1997, inspired by his grandfather, a historian. Cue for Treason, his best-known work for children, was published in 1942. Trease also wrote more than twenty books for adults, including plays and three autobiographies. In 1949, he wrote the book, Tales Out of School, which turned children’s literature into a serious art form worthy of academic and critical study. His last book was Cloak for a Spy. He died in 1998 in Bath, England.