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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: May ::
Re: Eunuchs Onstage
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1010  Wednesday, 10 May 2000.

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 09 May 2000 13:28:27 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0982 Eunuchs Onstage

[2]     From:   William Sutton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 9 May 2000 16:13:53 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0994 Re: Eunuchs Onstage


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 09 May 2000 13:28:27 -0400
Subject: 11.0982 Eunuchs Onstage
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0982 Eunuchs Onstage

John Velz's speculation that Shakespeare's company may have had a couple
of castrati who played the recurring tall and short female parts is
intriguing.  I have nothing significant to contribute directly to that
point, but it does tie in nicely with a conjecture of my own about TN.

In TN,I.ii.57-58 (Riverside lining), Viola tells the Captain:

            "Thou shalt present me as an eunuch to him;
              It may be worth thy pains; for I can sing"

But Viola is not presented as a eunuch, and she doesn't sing, Feste has
the singing role.

Granville Barker thought that this play went through a number of changes
as it was composed, in particular that Fabian was split off from Feste
when the actor who played Feste could not carry both parts.  I can see
no reason why a single comedian could not take on both the Feste and
Fabian parts, unless the actor playing Fabian could not sing.  If it was
originally intended that the actor playing Viola would do the singing,
but that actor (perhaps a castrato) left the company or otherwise became
unavailable or (if an uncastrated boy) his voice changed, it would have
been needful to add a singer.  Under this conjecture, it is Feste, not
Fabian, who was added.

This conjecture fits in with the confusion between Fabian and Feste in
II.iii.174.  There also seems to be an echo of  Viola as the singer in
II.iv.2 (Unless "Cesario" is an error for "Curio") and the next few
lines look as if they might have been added to justify Feste's
re-entrance (he was on stage at the end of sc.iii).

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Sutton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 9 May 2000 16:13:53 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 11.0994 Re: Eunuchs Onstage
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0994 Re: Eunuchs Onstage

Why oh why would boys voices break at an earlier or later age? Is there
some kind of biological evidence to support this point of view?

Curiously yours,
William S.
 

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