1994

Re: "Young" Prospero

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0851. Wednesday, 26 October 1994.
 
From:           James J. Hill, Jr. <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 25 Oct 1994 10:15:10 -0500 (EST)
Subject: *Tmp.* Production
Comment:        SHK 5.0834 *Tmp.* Production
 
[Re: Kimberly Nolan's mention of the Center Stage production of *Tmp.*]
 
Prospero was played by Byron Jennings who earlier had been John Worthing in
*The Importance of Being Earnest*;  his Prospero was "youngish" but old enough
to have a marriageable daughter.  His "youth" gave vigor and danger to his
anger.  Still I remember him as a man--not as a young man: he was not an "old"
man.  Age of Prospero should not be a problem in a production of the play:  the
director has limited choices--e.g. "boy," "man," or "old man."  Choice then
directs tone/movement of the play: "man" seems to be the most reasonable choice
[unless director wants to have Prospero read his books again!  NOT!].
Shakespeare's Prospero does appear to take an early retirement: "...retire me
to my Milan, where/ Every third thought shall be my grave."  Regards. Jim Hill.

Re: Boys and Women's Roles

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0850. Wednesday, 26 October 1994.
 
(1)     From:   James Forse <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Oct 1994 15:17:39 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   *boys* again
 
(2)     From:   Steven Gagen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 26 Oct 1994 10:36:42 +1100
        Subj:   State of Nutrition of Boy Actors
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Forse <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 25 Oct 1994 15:17:39 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        *boys* again
 
Let's take a look at some other evidence: c.1600 the Reading town records note
that a play was delayed because the Queen was shaving.  Davenant's Royal
patent, 1660 states: *That whereas the women's parts in plays have] hitherto
been acted by MEN (emphasis mine) in the habits of women, of which some have
taken offence, we permit and give leave for the time to come, that all women's
parts be acted by women.*  The poetic prologue to a 1660 performance of Othello
states: *But to the point: In this reforming age/ We have intents to civilize
the stage./Our women are defective, and so siz'd/You'd think they were some of
the guard disguis'd:/ For, to speak truth, men act, that are between/Forty and
fifty, wenches of fifteen;/With bone so large and nerve so incompliant,/When
you call Desdemona enter Giant.*  None of these suggest *boys* or even
mature-retarded young men as the norm for portrayal of women.  Shakespeare's
Cleopatra complains *Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness...* Yet in
context this may well be a slam at Samuel Daniel's *Tragedy of Cleopatra*
played by the Queen's Revels Boys.  The company was under some form of
oversight by Daniel, and a revised version of his Cleopatra play was printed in
1607.  I think the remark by Shakespeare's Cleopatra is meant for competitive
contrast rather than a slam at the very actor portraying the role at the Globe.
 Coryat's comment on women on Venetian stages does not, as miscited, read boys,
it reads: *as ever I saw any masculine Actor.*  With the possible exception of
Jonson's reference to Dick Robinson (and we can't pinpoint his age too well),
most of the praise of boy actors portraying women is in the context of boys in
the boys companies' productions.  And those comments can just as well be
interpreted as reflecting the *novelty* of the phenomenon rather than a passing
comment on general practice in the adult companies.  My disagreement with
Bentley's et al. evidence is with its application.  Evidence from plot books
tends to place actors designated *boys* or apprentices in minor roles: devils,
pygmies, female and male children, smallish female engenue roles. One certainly
can project that evidence to suggest that Merry Wives' Anne Page, *Shrew's*
page-boy as Lady, and roles of that ilk were taken by young trainees in the
adult companies, but I see little evidence linking them to the major female
roles, nor clear imperatives that because they did play these minor female
roles that it necessarily follows that they also played the major ones.
Bentley's evidence of young males being apprenticed as actors needs to be
viewed in chronological framework.  Those he cites from 1606 and 1609 as being
apprenticed specifically as actor-trainees are attached to children's
companies.  Most of his evidence specifically linking apprenticeship to acting
in reference to adult companies dates from the last years of the reign of James
I and from the reign of Charles I.  By that time we're into a 2nd, 3rd, 4th
generation of professional theatre in London; the organization is becoming far
more established: company managers, for instance, are being recognized as heads
of theatrical troupes.  Wright's *Historia* basically refers to the same era.
I don't discount those accounts, but I question what I perceive as ascribing
practice of a mature instution to its childhood.  Further, by that era indoor
theatre, which because of its intimacy would give the audience a closer look,
had become the standard.  On the stage of the amphitheatres (even though
audiences were fairly close to the platform), the size of the actor would be
about all that would stand out. As I've argued before, topped with a wig, face
painted white, dressed in farthingales, who could notice whether the actor
portraying a women was a bit long-in-the-tooth? And tenor voices of a softer
lilt are not the exclusive province of adolescents.  I'm sure none of the above
will serve to answer all the objections reinterpreting accepted tradition
brings forth.  But let me suggest that it does matter when we call males aging
most likely from 17 to 24 years of age, *boys.*  The very fact that they are,
to quote Professor Kathman, "older than the prototypical *boy* envisioned by
some 20th century critic" creates a false image of what was happening on the
stage because it perpetuates the image of *the prototypical boy* in the minds
of most, and conjures up visions of Freddy Bartholomew or McCully Curkin
playing Lady Macbeth.  So if you are not willing to entertain the possibility
that partners who specialized in female roles may have portrayed the major
women's parts in Elizabethan drama, still, I would urge you to abandon the term
*boys* in favor of a phrase closer to the actual situation--perhaps *young men*
or *high-school/college age men* or something of that ilk.
 
J. Forse: History: Bowling Green State University
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steven Gagen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 26 Oct 1994 10:36:42 +1100
Subject:        State of Nutrition of Boy Actors
 
Christopher Fassler suggests 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."
 
His "understanding" about "the comparatively nutritious diet enjoyed by most
people today" is incorrect, and a common modern fallacy.
 
While it is true that the diet of mid to late 19th century England *among the
working classes* was undoubtedly inferior to that of today, the diet of the
common people of England in Shakespeare's day was, in general, balanced and
nutritious, even if it did not include many of the fruits and vegetables which
were introduced later from the New World.  Contemporary accounts by foreign
travellers point to the comparatively high standard of living of the common
people in England compared with the rest of Europe, and the quality of their
food.
 
It must be remembered that the England of that time was almost entirely
agrarian, and the population was much lower than today. Even the poorest
peasant would not have gone without adequate meat and drink, given the fact
that he had ubundant means of growing his own food.
 
Steve Gagen
Department of Agriculture,
East Melbourne, Victoria

Re: SAA Seminars

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0848.  Tuesday, 25 October 1994.
 
From:           W. L. Godshalk <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 24 Oct 1994 22:45:02 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0837  Re: SAA Seminars
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0837  Re: SAA Seminars
 
I want to apologize for asking about the SAA Seminars, and especially to Nancy
Hodge. I'm sure that Nancy is very busy, and I am even surer that we SAA
members could come up with a better way of assigning seminars with a longer
lead time. However, I do believe that we usually get our assignments before
the end of October. And for those of us who are nerds and like to prepare the
essays that we submit to the seminars, and who are busy teaching, etc., every
month counts. And I certainly want to apologize to Naomi Liebler who apparently
feels the need to tell the "guys" (males only?) to chill.
 
Yours, Cool Bill

Job Announcement

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0849.  Tuesday, 25 October 1994.
 
From:           Arvid F. Sponberg <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 24 Oct 1994 22:33:28 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Position Available
 
Pending budget approval, a tenure-track assistant professorship starting
Fall 1995. Ph.D. in hand. Broad teaching interests with scholarly concentration
in 16th and 17th century British Literature is essential, as is commitment
to working at a university engaged in issues of Christian higher education in
the Lutheran tradition. Experience in composition, supervising teacher
education, or ESL is desirable. Interviews at the MLA convention in San Diego,
CA Dec 27-30, 1994. Minorities please apply. Send a letter of application and
CV to Arvid F. Sponberg, Chair, Department of English. Valparaiso University,
Valparaiso, IN 46383. We are an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer.

Q: Shakespeare in Eastern Europe

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0847.  Tuesday, 25 October 1994.
 
From:           Michael Field <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 24 Oct 1994 18:11:12 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Russia
 
I will be traveling to Russia, the Ukraine and Czechoslovakia in December and
am interested in any Shakespearian productions and/or companies performing in
those countries, particularly in smaller, avant-garde groups that might be
brought to the U.S for performance. Does anyone have any contacts or
suggestions? I'm intending to visit Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Prauge, but
I'm flexible. If you have travel tips I'd appreciate them as well (I know, I
know -- dress warmly).
 
Please respond in person unless you have information that might be interesting
to the list. Many thanks in advance.
 
Mike Field
Johns Hopkins University
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Search

Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.