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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: March ::
Q: Boys to Women
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0383.  Tuesday, 25 March 1997.

From:           Karen Coley <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Mar 1997 12:33:53 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Boys to Women

This is my first posting on SHAKSPER, and in the last two and a half
years that I have been monitoring off and on, I have never seen a
discussion of why boys are used for women on the English Renaissance
stage.

People speculate that there was a moral, perhaps Puritan, objection to
women actors. Yet in Jonson's satire of the Puritan preacher Busy in
*Bartholomew Fair*, Busy criticizes the theater for its transvestite
cross-dressing.

I know from Walter Cohen's *Drama of a Nation* that the Council of
Castile, the Spanish equivalent to Elizabeth's Privy Council, disputed
the issue of actresses.  I hear tell that the Renaissance Italian stage
had actresses (they also had castrattos).

But is there any source which can tell me if boys playing women on the
English stage was codified law, dramatic custom, economic imperative,
and/or social expectation. If this has already been exhaustively covered
in the conference, can someone refer me to the record number where I can
find the conversation?

Karen Coley
Loyola University of Chicago
 

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