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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: September ::
Q: Pandarus as Castrato
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0669.  Tuesday, 5 September 1995.
 
From:           Charles Adler <
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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
memories.
 
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

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