Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 270. Friday, 23 October 1992.
From: JOHN F. SULLIVAN <
Date: Friday, Oct. 23, 1992, 17:30:24 EST
Subject: Q: Lady Montague's Death
Comment: SHK 3.0249 Q: Lady Montague's Death
The recent discussion of Lady Montague has reminded me
of a point that my teacher, the late G. B. Harrison, once
made to me. I had noted that Shakespeare had frequently failed
to equip his characters with mothers, though often enough they
had fathers. I was thinking of characters such as Katharina
and Bianca in the *Shrew*, Hermia in the *Dream*, Portia and
Jessica in the *Merchant*, Prince Hal in the Henry IV plays, Hero
in *Much Ado*, Rosalind and Celia in *As You Like It*, Ophelia in
*Hamlet*, Desdemona in *Othello*, and Goneril, Regan, Cordelia,
and Edgar in *Lear*.
(Ferdinand and Miranda in *The Tempest* do not have mothers,
but this is an understandable consequence of their plot situation.)
Professor Harrison answered that he suspected that Elizabethan
actors were uneasy playing middle-aged women. Young girls, of
course, were played by boys, but older women had to be played by the men.
It seems likely that female impersonators would have been used, and
there would have been relatively few of them in the company. Later
for such roles as Gertrude, Lady Macbeth, or Volumnia, perhaps a
very skilful performer was available.
This, as much as doubling, may account for the disappearance
of Lady Montague from the closing scene of *Romeo and Juliet*.
John F. Sullivan