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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: March ::
Tracing Actors Through the Plays
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 147.  Sunday, 7 March 1993.
 
From:           Roy Flannagan <FLANNAGA@OUACCVMB.BITNET>
Date:           Sunday, 7 March 93, 17:53:59 EST
Subject:        Tracing actors through the plays
 
This is a large question, and may come out of a still-larger ignorance.
Has any scholar speculated very carefully about which of the various
members of acting companies (outside of the very famous, such as Armin,
Kemp, and Burbage) acted various parts?  We have slips in printed texts
that might indicate the presence of various actors like Kemp, and we
have legends, such as that of Shakespeare playing Adam in {As You Like
It} or the ghost of Hamlet's father, but has anyone worked out a tree of
probable associations?  Was the actor who played Jaques a kind of Emmett
Kelly type who always did melancholy, and what of those two matched
pairs of male and "female" romantic leads who did Lysander and Demetrius
and Helena and Hermia, then Benedick and Claudio and Beatrice and Hero?
Who did the perennial Prince or Duke?  Did the shorter boy actor have
less of a dramatic range than the taller?  Did the Benedick male lead
become the dominant one by force of his acting skills?  Did the boy
actor who played Katherina play Beatrice?  Portia?  How many sensitive,
witty, singing clowns did Robert Armin play?  How would the boy actor
who did, say, Katherina, move on to Lady Macbeth or Cleopatra?  I know
the chronology of the plays is uncertain, but certainly associations
among characters such as Bottom and Dogberry, and the actor who
presumably played both of them, can be made.  There is at least a
fascinating web of associations to be made, if someone hasn't done it
(and no, I don't want to do it).
 
Roy Flannagan
 

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