The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1089 Wednesday, 24 May 2000.
From: Gabriel Egan <
Date: Tuesday, 23 May 2000 21:10:40 +0100
Subject: 11.1053 Re: Eunuchs Onstage
Comment: Re: SHK 11.1053 Re: Eunuchs Onstage
[Long posting on biographical minutiae follows]
David Kathman's posting on the evidence against adults playing women's
parts is wonderfully detailed and deserves minute attention. The issues
were whether "R. Pallant" down for Cariola in the cast list of The
Duchess of Malfi was the man of at least 30 years, and whether the Nick
down for Barnavelt's wife in Sir John van Olden Barnavelt was Nicholas
Tooley who was nearing 40. Kathman writes:
>1) The quarto of The Duchess of Malfi was published in 1623, and it
>contains the first cast list known for a printed play in English. The
>company is the King's Men. Some of the roles have two actors listed,
>indicating the original production and a revival. The original
>production must have been between 1612 (when some of Webster's sources
>were published) and December 1614 (when William Ostler, listed as
>playing Antonio in the first production, died). The revival must have
>been after March 1619 (when Richard Burbage, the first production's
>Ferdinand, died, and John Taylor, the second production's Ferdinand,
>joined the company) but before 1623, the date of the quarto's
>2) "R. Pallant" is listed in the cast list alongside a bracket
>encompassing the roles of The Doctor, Cariola, and Court Officers.
>Pallant obviously could not have played multiple court officers at once,
>and he could not have played any of the court officers and Cariola,
>since they appear in the same scene together. Modern editors have
>changed the brackets so that they encompass only The Doctor and Cariola,
>but given the sloppiness involved, we can't be sure that Pallant played
>both of these roles, or if he did, that he played both of them at once.
Yes, it's very hard to see why one actor would be down for "Court
Officers" (plural): they appear together and are indistinguishable,
which eliminates the explanation that he doubled them and the
explanation that he played different ones in the original performances
and revival performances. So, the bracket does belong beside "The
Doctor" and "Cariola". These parts can be doubled or perhaps he played
one in the original performance and one in the revival. The first
suggestion, doubling, struck Bentley as a bit odd ("surely the King's
company could have spared hired men better fitted for the Doctor's part
than the boy who played Cariola" JCS 2:519) and the latter is quite a
step down for an actor if the move is Cariola (original run) -> Doctor
(revival), but a plausible step up if Doctor -> Cariola.
>3) There was an actor named Robert Pallant who was a member of Strange's
>Men in the early 1590s, Worcester's Men in 1602, Queen Anne's Men from
>1603 to 1613, Lady Elizabeth's in 1614, Prince Charles' in 1616, and
>Queen Anne's again in 1619 (when he marched in her funeral procession in
>May). He is not known to have ever been associated with the King's
>Men. This man was a longtime resident of St. Saviour Southwark, where
>he had a son Robert (baptized 28 September 1605) and several other
>children, and where he was buried on 4 September 1619.
G E Bentley (the source of this burial information) wrote that "it seems
likely" the burial of "Robert Pallant a man in the church" on 4
September 1619 was the player. I suppose he meant it might just be the
nearly-14-year old son Robert whose younger brothers' burials were
recorded in 1611 and 1614. Even if it was the father who died, Pallant
Senior could have appeared in the original performances of Malfi and in
a revival between 13 March 1619, Burbage's death, and 4 September 1619,
his own burial.
>4) On 27 December 1624, "Roberte Pallant" was eleventh in a list of 21
>men "all imployed by the Kinges Maiesties servantes in theire quality of
>Playinge as Musitions and other necessary attendantes". This obviously
>could not be the actor who had died five years earler, but I think we
>may confidently take it to be his son, who would have been 19 years old
>at the time.
Yes, definitely not the elder Pallant if he's the one who died in 1619.
But Bentley wasn't certain about that. I didn't find in your database,
David, anything to clinch the matter. Is there something else? (Mark
Eccles, N&Q 237 p299 seems to have turned Bentley's "likely" into a
certainty, but he doesn't cite anything to show why.)
>5) Given the documented connection with the King's Men, I think we may
>also be fairly confident in taking the "R. Pallant" of the Duchess of
>Malfi cast list to be the younger Pallant. He would have been 7 to 9
>years old during the first production, and 14 to 18 years old during the
>revival. He would have been rather young during the first production,
So, leaving aside the doubling possibility, either:
i) he was a 7-9 year old actor playing a Doctor and then a 14-18 actor
playing Cariola ("PESCARA Doctor, he did not feare you throughly /
DOCTOR True, I was somewhat to forward")
ii) or the he was a 7-9 year old Cariola and then a 14-18 Doctor. This
is more plausible I suppose.
>but I think it's not unreasonable to believe that for some of the minor
>parts where only one name is listed, this name refers only to the more
>recent revival, perhaps because the compiler wasn't sure who had
>originally played the minor roles a decade before. An age of 14 to 18
>would have been right in line with the other evidence we have for the
>actors who played female roles (see below).
I'm not sure how you mean this to bear on the original/revival problem.
You think Pallant Junior played only in the revival, in which he doubled
Cariola and Doctor?
The young Pallant in Malfi is a possibility but his age (too young)
argues against it for me, just as his father's (too old) does for you.
>>and the manuscript of Sir John van Olden Barnavelt names
>>Nicholas Tooley, who was probably nearing 40, for Barnavelt's wife.
>Actually, the manuscript refers only to "Nick", and this is much more
>likely to be either Nicholas Burt or Nicholas Underhill, both of whom
>acted for the King's Men in the 1620s and 1630s.
Nicholas Burt was playing Hal in 1H4 after the Restoration and Othello
in 1669, which as Kathman's database suggests (date of birth given as
1621), makes him too late for Barnavelt's wife in 1619. Actually David,
I can't see where you got 1621 from: it's not in Nungezer, JCS, or
Oliver 1972, the three items in your database for Burt.
Nicholas Underhill is more promising but again Kathman's database has
him flourishing 1603-34 which (even given an early start to his career
at, say, 8) puts him around 25 in 1619. If he's the same as "vnderell"
given, in his own right, wages by Henslowe on 11 Oct 1602 he'd have been
maybe 10 years older still (assuming that children were remunerated via
>it could also have been some other "Nick". There is no reason to
>believe that it was Nicholas Tooley, who was 37 years old at the time.
A reason is that Tooley was a King's man neither too young nor too old,
unless one assumes that adults couldn't play women. He's a better
candidate than Burt (yet unborn) and equally good as Underhill (also a
fully grown man).
I don't mean to suggest that men certainly played women, and I shall be
correcting the publication containing the assertion used in my original
posting to reflect the uncertainty. To those who don't know it I
recommend David Kathman's "Bibliographical Index to the Elizabethan
Theater" as a remarkable resource to which I repeatedly find myself
David wrote "I've been meaning to write all this up for publication" and
I for one look forward immensely to reading it when he does.