Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0669. Tuesday, 5 September 1995.
From: Charles Adler <
Date: Monday, 04 Sep 1995 18:36:09 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Pandarus as castrato
Last evening I saw the NYSF T&C; a worthwhile production I think although the
first time I had seen it performed. I was struck with how naturally the
seemingly exaggerated androgyny flowed from the text.
Pandarus was masterfully played by Stephan Spinella as an obvious "queen." Yet
in III.1 he engages in a very explicit menage a trois with Paris and Helen
(complete with geyser like ejaculation), so he is not exclusively homosexual.
At the same time, his unthreatening acceptance as "one of the girls" belies a
"hard" heterosexual facet. This leads to the thesis I wish to propose:
Pandarus is a eunuch.
Within several decades of the writing of T&C, castrati were common on the
English operatic stage. I believe (although I am without specific sources)
that they were eagerly sought as lovers by the aristocracy since, in those
pre-contraceptive days and nights they came and left behind nothing but
I doubt that operatic castrati could have emerged from nowhere and achieved so
ready an acceptance. Also, since castration does not guarantee musical talent,
I suspect opera was a sideline and that a community of eunuchs existed and was
known to the Elizabethan audience as part of the continuum of human sexuality.
(c.f. AWTEW II.3 Laf: "...I would send them to the Turk, to make eunuchs of.")
Does anyone know of references to a late XVI century eunuch community?
Charles D. Adler