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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Women on the Early Modern Stage
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0427  Wednesday, 10 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Frances Barasch <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 9 Mar 1999 14:18:38 EST
        Subj:   Fwd: SHK 10.0417 Re: Women on the Early Modern Stage

[2]     From:   John Savage <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 08:13:27 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 10.0407 Female Actors


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frances Barasch <
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Date:           Tuesday, 9 Mar 1999 14:18:38 EST
Subject: 10.0417 Re: Women on the Early Modern Stage
Comment:        Fwd: SHK 10.0417 Re: Women on the Early Modern Stage

>It's not entirely clear whether she was committed to
>Bridewell for the performance at the Fortune, for swearing and
>drunkenness, or for a combination of both; but since the Fortune
>performance leads off the list of charges even though it had happened
>nine months earlier, it's clear that the authorities took a dim view of
>it.  In any case, the immediate reason for this January 27, 1612
>confession was that Mary had been arrested in St. Paul's cathedral on
>Christmas night "with her peticoate tucked vp about her in the fashion
>of a man with a mans cloake on her to the great scandall of diu[er]s
>p[er]sons who vnderstood the same & to the disgrace of all womanhood."
>This was apparently akin to a probation violation, because Mary was sent
>back to Bridewell, and then two weeks later she was forced to do public
>penance at Paul's Cross.  This was described by John Chamberlain in a
>letter of February 12, 1612:

Re: above.  I think one needs to distinguish between common courts and
consistory courts and what one may call "law" with respect to acting on
public stage vs. cross-dressing, swearing, etc.  There is also the
question of foreign women appearing on English stage without
intervention of law (in 1620s, I think).

frances barasch

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Savage <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 08:13:27 -0500
Subject: Female Actors
Comment:        SHK 10.0407 Female Actors

Nely Keinanen writes:

>Shapiro argues, I think correctly, that we need to look beyond cultural
>attitudes towards
>gender for an explanation of the absence of female actors on
>professional stages

I wonder about this.  Putting on plays in Shakespeare's day was very
much an iffy business.  Questions of the plague aside, powerful Puritan
forces regarded such productions as immoral and constantly tried to
close the theatres down.  They felt that women would be dishonored and
degraded if they appeared on stage.  My feeling is that the theatrical
troupes went along with this, no matter how much they would have
preferred having women play women's parts, because the important thing
for them was to stay in business and keep eating.
 

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