Westfield's men are in dire straights, and their playwright appears to be suffering from a lack of creative inspiration. Thankfully, the company is offered a new play, The Malevolent Comedy, which they believe will drag them out of their rut and put on a spectacle enough to rival Banbury's Men, preventing them from stealing their audiences. However, during the play's opening performance, one of the cast members is struck down after being poisoned, making it his first and last appearance on stage. Suspicion is rife and Nicolas Bracewell, the trusty book keeper, refuses to let the crime go unpunished. Given the nature of the murder, subsequent plots to sabotage Westfield's Men during their performances and the theft of the only copy of The Malevolent Comedy, all signs appear to point to the company's rivals on the other side of the river.