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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: May ::
Re: Female Roles
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0440  Friday, 8 May 1998.

[1]     From:   Pervez Rizvi <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 May 1998 16:29:20 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.0434  Re: Female Roles

[2]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 May 1998 12:25:45 -0400
        Subj:   Female Roles

[3]     From:   William Williams <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 May 1998 15:13:44 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0434  Re: Female Roles

[4]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 May 1998 22:45:03 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 9.0434 Re: Female Roles

[5]     From:   Joanne Walen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 May 1998 23:18:30 EDT
        Subj:   Who Was the First Woman?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pervez Rizvi <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 May 1998 16:29:20 +0100
Subject: 9.0434  Re: Female Roles
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.0434  Re: Female Roles

Ed Taft writes:

>But for a very powerful argument that
>sharers played these roles, see James Forse, *Art Imitates Business*,
>(1995? Bowling Green Press), in which Jim points out that they are often
>such important roles that more senior members of Shakespeare's troupe
>might have taken them.

Not having read Forse's book, I don't know what evidence he offers for
his view (can you summarise it for us?). But: there are few roles more
important than Cleopatra and Shakespeare gave her the line "I shall see
some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness in the posture of a whore."
When Hamlet greets the Players on their arrival in Elsinore, he says:
"What, my young lady and mistress! By'r lady, your ladyship is nearer to
heaven than when I saw you last, by the altitude of a chopine. Pray God,
your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold, be not cracked within the
ring."  How else can we read these lines except to infer that Cleopatra
and other leading female characters were played by boys whose voices had
not yet broken?

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 May 1998 12:25:45 -0400
Subject:        Female Roles

At least one of the actors who played female roles must have spoken
Welsh. The obvious candidate is William Hughes.

T. Hawkes

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Williams <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 May 1998 15:13:44 -0500
Subject: 9.0434  Re: Female Roles
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0434  Re: Female Roles

I don't think anyone has mentioned this but it might be worth having a
look at Mark Eccles' series of "biographical dictionary" articles about
known Elizabethan actors.  They appeared over a number of  issues in
1991++? in Notes & Queries.

WPW

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 May 1998 22:45:03 +0100
Subject: Re: Female Roles
Comment:        SHK 9.0434 Re: Female Roles

But in the phrase 'boy actor', what ages are we talking about here? I am
just teaching Duchess of Malfi, and we have been speculating about
exactly the problem of boys playing so erotic, tangled, defiantly
feminine a woman as the Duchess. How old was Richard Sharpe when he
played? How old did they go? Evidence in Hamlet - the little eyasses?
The boy Hamlet had known in the city now much taller and with a wobbly
adolescent voice in the company that comes to Elsinore? The boy actors
that Jonson writes so movingly about?  And where does diet as well as
age come into this? Presumably, we know nothing about the ages of the
sharers? How old did you have to be? Old enough to put up sufficient
money? I can't think some of these fantastic roles were entrusted to
'apprentice actors'? I mean, would Shak / Webster et al write for
'apprentices' some of the most sensational roles in theatrical history?
As a director and teacher, I just go with that.

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joanne Walen <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 May 1998 23:18:30 EDT
Subject:        Who Was the First Woman?

Abigail Quart posed the question of who in Shakespeare's company might
have played the women's roles. Tangential to that, I'm curious if there
is any documentation on who might have been the first female (not young
boy) to play a woman's role in Shakespeare's plays in England?

If this has been discussed on the list before, please point me to the
appropriate SEARCH topic.
 

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