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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: May ::
Re: Female Roles
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0497  Monday, 25 May 1998.

[1]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 May 1998 12:07:45 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Female Roles

[2]     From:   David J. Kathman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 21 May 1998 18:43:57 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0480  Re: Female Roles


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 21 May 1998 12:07:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Female Roles

Dear David Evett,

I hope that you have calmed down enough to notice that in my previous
post I put quotation marks around "Oxfordian." Your description of the
type of thinking James Forse engages in is highly misleading and
extremely condescending. Let me answer you point for point. James Forse
never says that the orthodox consensus about the use of boy actors is
absolutely wrong. Instead, he speculates (and freely admits that it is
speculation) that this consensus might need to be modified. Here is
exactly what he says, "It *may* be more logical to assume that from the
beginning of his career, Shakespeare was associated with one, probably
two, actors who were extraordinarily good at female characterizations. .
. *perhaps* scholars [have] subconsciously blinded themselves to the
*possibility* that Shakespeare wrote his great female roles for adult
partners in his company" (p. 77). Please note the words "may",
"perhaps", and "possibility." He then goes on to provide arguments, some
economic and some statistical, that he finds suggestive. (I find them
suggestive, too.) James Forse does not dismiss the existing documentary
evidence. Instead, he rightly points out that there isn't a whole lot of
it. James Forse does not rely primarily on negative evidence. On the
contrary, he provides his own evidence, both statistical and
argumentative, for his position. James Forse does not say that
adolescents could not play major roles successfully, he quotes others
who say or imply that (Bently, Leary, Styan-see note 2 on page 249).

In short, your post is disgraceful, David, and even more disgraceful is
your implication that the kind of thinking that Forse engages in is
somehow "conspiratorial" and therefore "pernicious." In what way is
James Forse's thinking conspiratorial? Who is he in a conspiracy with?
Me? About what?  And in what way is his speculative article somehow a
danger, either directly or indirectly, to the body politic?

You have every right to disagree with Forse's article, but the way you
have gone about it suggests to me a deeply authoritarian streak that
lashes out whenever orthodoxy seems even remotely questioned.

You owe James Forse an apology.

Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David J. Kathman <
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Date:           Thursday, 21 May 1998 18:43:57 +0100
Subject: 9.0480  Re: Female Roles
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0480  Re: Female Roles

This post seems to have disappeared into the ether the first time I
tried to send it, so I'll try again.

Ed Taft wrote:

>If David Kathman wants to think of me as an "Oxfordian," that's fine
>with me. I will simply point out the obvious: he did not deal with the
>evidence that I quote from James Forse. Instead, he purposefully
>misinterprets what I write (twice!). I think that David Kathman thinks
>of anyone who disagrees with him as an "Oxfordian"!

No, I don't think you're an "Oxfordian", and I never said that.  Did you
read my post?  I only said that your open disdain for historical
evidence is similar to the disdain shown by Oxfordians.  I can now say
that your shifting into attack mode when cornered is, alas, also similar
to the tactics used by Oxfordians.  You do Jim Forse's arguments an
injustice by being so obstinate.  As I said, Jim Forse and I were two of
the participants in a stimulating (and entirely civil) discussion of
this very topic, on this very list, nearly four years ago.  I seem to
have accidentally deleted the post where you quoted Forse extensively,
but from what I recall those arguments consisted mainly of assertions
that it would have made better business sense for sharers, rather than
boy (teenage) actors to play women's roles.  I don't know how to "deal
with" this assertion other than to point out that all the documentary
evidence we have indicates that these roles were played by teenage boys,
mostly between the ages of 14 and 18.  Your ideas of what would have
made economic sense to an Elizabethan makes little difference in the
absence of some sort of evidence.  Elizabethan England was in the midst
of a transition from feudalism to capitalism, but it was not all the way
there by any means.  There were all kinds of social taboos and beliefs
that might strike us as odd today.  One of these, apparently, was a
belief that it was wrong for women to act on the public stage.

Dave Kathman

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