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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: March ::
Re: Boys to Women
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0385.  Wednesday, 26 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Phyllis Rackin <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Mar 1997 09:41:04 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women

[2]     From:   Grant Moss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Mar 1997 10:24:27 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women

[3]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Mar 1997 16:52:54 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women

[4]     From:   Melissa Aaron <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Mar 1997 15:39:17 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women

[5]     From:   AdrianKiernander <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Mar 1997 10:37:41 +1100 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Phyllis Rackin <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Mar 1997 09:41:04 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women

Two good places to start would be Stephen Orgel's book *Impersonations:
the performance of gender in Shakespeare's England* (Cambridge UP, 1996)
and James Stokes' article "Women and Mimesis in Medieval and Renaissance
Somerset (and Beyond)," *Comparative Drama* 27:176-96.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Grant Moss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Mar 1997 10:24:27 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women

Re Karen Coley's inquiry about the use of boys to play female roles, I
would strongly recommend Lisa Jardine's _Still Harping on Daughters_,
which deals with a number of the issues that Ms. Coley raised.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Mar 1997 16:52:54 GMT
Subject: 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women

An obvious place to look is Stephen Orgel's recent book, Impersonations:
The performance of gender in Shakespeare's England (Cambridge, 1996),
where reference will be found to the substantial literature on the
topic.

David Lindley
University of Leeds

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa Aaron <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Mar 1997 15:39:17 -0600
Subject: 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women

There is a record of a French company with actresses playing at the
Blackfriars in the late 1620's or early 1630's.  The actresses were very
much disliked.  Queen Henrietta Maria loved to act privately, and was
very much criticized for it-one of her plays was *The Shepherd's
Paradise," 1632.  Earlier  Queen Anne was told she ought not to appear
in a masque every year-not even a play-because negative opinion was so
strong.  See William Prynne, Histriomastix-look in the index under
"Women Actors, Notorious Whores."

I can't see why economic imperative would have much to do with it.  On
the continent, acting was often as not a family business.  And there's
no law or document of control that I know of, except assuming that what
applies to the church ("women shall not speak in church" ) applies to
the theater.  I'd say it was social custom.

Melissa Aaron
University of Wisconsin-Madison

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:   Adrian Kiernander <
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Date:   Wednesday, 26 Mar 1997 10:37:41 +1100 (EST)
Subject: 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0383  Q: Boys to Women

To Karen Coley

I think that Stephen Orgel's recently-published _Impersonations_ should
answer, or at least address, most of your questions. "Why did the
English stage take boys for women" is one of the key questions in this
book.

If I remember correctly (and I may be oversimplifying) he makes the
point that England was the only country which made such a big thing of
boy actors (though Spain experimented with it, only to come to the
conclusion that boys were even less morally acceptable than women on
stage), and that there was in fact no law on the subject-just theatrical
practice. And of course women did occasionally appear on English
stages-there were Italian actresses in touring companies, and women
performed in amateur situations such as performances at court.

As for the Italian castrati, this was a specific response (I believe) to
conditions in the Vatican, where women were not permitted on stage so
the operatic soprano and alto roles had to be sung by castrati. But of
course their popularity took them much further than the stages of the
Vatican.


Adrian Kiernander
 

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