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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: October ::
Re: Boy Actors
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0844.  Tuesday, 25 October 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Mitchell J. Brown <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Oct 1994 10:34:00 CDT
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.0840 Re: Shakespeare's Boys
 
(2)     From:   Christopher Fassler <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Oct 1994 18:30:41 -0400
        Subj:   "Boys" as actors
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mitchell J. Brown <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Oct 1994 10:34:00 CDT
Subject: 5.0840 Re: Shakespeare's Boys
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.0840 Re: Shakespeare's Boys
 
I would like to recommend Robertson Davies' book SHAKESPEARE'S BOY ACTORS as
part of this discussion.  I believe it was originally written as Davies' Master
or Doctoral thesis.
 
In the book, he analyzes all the female roles in each play and judges the
feasibility of the role being played by a 'boy'.  His view of whether or not
the role can successfully be played by a boy seems to be based on the emotional
complexity of the role.
 
A one-note character is easily playable by a boy, where the more complex women,
like Cleopatra or Portia, might be played by young men. I may be wrong on this
assessment, but I do recommend the book, and ANYTHING by Davies.
 
    Mitchell Brown
    Chicago
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christopher Fassler <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Oct 1994 18:30:41 -0400
Subject:        "Boys" as actors
 
> I feel comfortable with "boy actors" though I don't passionately
> insist as James Forse suggests.  The term was good enough for
> Willie.  Remember Cleopatra's horror at the thought of
> surrender?  She wouldn't go to Rome to see "Some squeaking
> Cleopatra boy my greatness / I'th' posture of a whore".
> "Squeaking" doesn't sound much like a grown man.
 
Finally, someone (Roger Gross) has quoted my favorite line on the boy actors
issue.  And yet...
 
On the authority, admittedly, of no more than what I have picked up along the
way (usually when reading articles and news stories about the Cairo
conference on population), I would like to suggest that 14-21-year-olds in
early modern England, especially apprentices, were unlikely to have been as
physically mature as males of the same age are in developed countries.  My
understanding is that the (comparatively) nutricious diet enjoyed by most
people today greatly shortens the amount of time it takes us to mature,
physically anyway.
 
In short, such characteristics as squeaky voices and adolescent physiques
were probably much more common among the teenage population of Shakespeare's
time than they are today, and, thus, "boy" actors were more likely to have
been just that even while their minds and habits were maturing/degenerating
into those of confident and accomplished actors.
 
"I go alone,/ Like to a lonely dragon," back to my lair.
 
Yours,
--Christopher Fassler
 

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