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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: October ::
Re: SEX and Politics; Who originated the roles?
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0777.  Tuesday, 29 October 1996.

(1)     From:   Norm Holland <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Oct 96 14:17:55 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0771   Re: Politics

(2)     From:   Andy Grewar <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Oct 1996 13:25:13 GMT+120
        Subj:   Re: Who originated the roles?


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norm Holland <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Oct 96 14:17:55 EST
Subject: 7.0771   Re: Politics
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0771   Re: Politics

Isn't the problem with "everything is political" or "everything is sexual" that
the adjectives are being applied in the wrong place? Things aren't in and of
themselves political or sexual.  We take a political or sexual view of them.
Properly stated, the proposition would be, "Everything can be looked at
politically or sexually or vegetarianly or Zoroastrianly or any way you
choose."

                                          --Best, Norm Holland

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy Grewar <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Oct 1996 13:25:13 GMT+120
Subject:        Re: Who originated the roles?

On Monday, 21 Oct, Michael Kremer asked:

> Is there a source which gives documentary evidence about which
> actors originated the primary roles in each of Shakespeare's plays?
> I am particularly interested in who originated the role of
> Falstaff.
>
> The only comment I have been able to find attributes the role to
> Thomas Pope.

This is an area of speculation and uncertainty, and I doubt very much whether
documentary evidence for such things will ever be found.

The only work I know that attempts to answer your question is:

T.W. Baldwin, _The Organization and Personnel of the
     Shakespearean Company_. Princeton: Princeton University
     Press, 1927.

Baldwin worked on the assumption that the actors of the Lord
Chamberlain's/King's Men each had a particular "line" or type of role, one
specializing in the role of the "low comic", another in that of the "gruff
military man", the "braggart" and so on.  Later writers have found his
arguments dubious.  It is this line of reasoning that leads him to assign the
part of Falstaff to Thomas Pope.

There are two recent books which deal with the original Shakespearean company:

T.J. King, _Casting Shakespeare's plays: London actors and
     their roles, 1590-1642_. Cambridge: Cambridge University
     Press, 1992.

David Mann, _The Elizabethan Player: Contemporary stage
     representation_. London/New York: Routledge, 1991.

Both avoid speculation and concentrate on what contemporary evidence there is
for the stagecraft of the time.  There is also Wiles's book on Shakespeare's
clowns, Kemp and Armin:

David Wiles, _Shakespeare's Clown: Actor and Text in the
      Elizabethan Playhouse_. Cambridge: Cambridge University
     Press, 1987.

As far as I can recall, Wiles argues that Falstaff would first have been played
by William Kemp, the company's chief clown.  The role seems to be an amalgam of
two older stock types, one deriving back through the Italian renaissance to
Roman comedy, namely the "braggart soldier", and that of the
"fool/clown/jester".  Goldsmith's work, "Shakespeare's Wise Fools", is the
standard work on the latter.

Andy Grewar
University of Fort Hare
Alice, Eastern Cape
South Africa                    
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