The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1104 Saturday, 27 May 2000.
From: David Kathman <
Date: Friday, 26 May 2000 22:36:37 -0600
Subject: 11.1089 Re: Eunuchs Onstage
Comment: Re: SHK 11.1089 Re: Eunuchs Onstage
Thanks to Gabriel Egan for his thoughtfully skeptical comments on my
discussion of boy actors, specifically on Robert Pallant and Nicholas
Tooley. While I suspect we will continue to disagree about some
matters, I believe we can reach some common ground.
Gabriel Egan wrote:
>[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.
Thanks. I really am going to write it all up once I get some other
things out of the way, and I already have a likely venue for publication
lined up. Your comments below will make it a better paper, because
they've forced me to think more closely about certain issues and
formulate my arguments better.
>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".
It's also possible that it belongs beside only one of these. If it was
mistakenly extended to the Officers, might it not have also been
extended by mistake to one of the other roles?
>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.
It's also possible that he played only one of the roles, presumably in
the revival. We have no guarantee that *all* of the roles are properly
given for both productions. Perhaps the person compiling the list knew
that Pallant had played one (or both) of these roles in the more recent
revival, but did not know who played it/them in the original production,
so he put down only Pallant's name.
>>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.
Hmmm. Where does he say this? Is it in his 1928 TLS article? In *The
Jacobean and Caroline Stage* (v.2, p.519) Bentley writes that Robert
Pallant "was buried in this parish [St. Saviour Southwark] in 1619,"
without any equivocation.
>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.
I think the specification "a man" makes it unlikely that the 14-year-old
was the one being buried. Robert Pallant the actor lived in St.
Saviour's Southwark for many years; his last appearance in an acting
context was on 13 May 1619, when he was granted black cloth with other
Queen Anne's Men to wear in her funeral procession; "Robert Pallant a
man" was buried in St. Saviour's Southwark on 4 September 1619. After
that we do have the *Duchess of Malfi* cast list (1623), which is what's
under discussion, and the 1624 King's Men record, which seems quite out
of place for an actor of such experience and distinction as the elder
>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.
I suppose it's possible, but my main concern is with plausibility, and
this doesn't seem all that plausible. Even if one believes that the
elder Pallant is referred to in the Duchess of Malfi cast list, it's not
entirely clear what roles he played, as I noted above.
>>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.)
Eccles was more certain in many of his identifications than Bentley was,
and sometimes he was more certain than I am. (I've recently come across
a case where one of Eccles' tentative identifications turns out to have
been almost certainly wrong, though to his credit he used the phrase
"may have been".) But Bentley, as I read him, was reasonably certain of
the identification by the time he wrote volume 2 of *The Jacobean and
Caroline Stage* in 1941. I agree with that assessment, though more
definitive evidence could make the case even stronger. Your skepticism
on this point is duly noted.
>>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.
Or, as I suggested above, perhaps the younger Pallant played only in the
revival. Or perhaps he played only Cariola in both productions, and the
extension of the bracket to the Doctor in the quarto is a mistake. Both
of these seem to be quite reasonable possibilities.
>>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?
No, not necessarily. I think it's *possible* that he played only in the
revival, but if that was the case there is a further set of
possibilities: he may have doubled Cariola and the Doctor, or he may
have only played one or the other.
>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.
I agree that the young Pallant would have been too young to play the
Doctor in the original 1613 production, but that's only one of many
possible scenarios I've outlined. I think that the overall evidence
makes it quite likely that the younger Pallant is the one referred to in
the quarto cast list, and if that was the case there are several
eminently reasonable scenarios as to which part(s) he played.
>>>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.
Actually, that date should probably have a question mark after it,
though I think it's probably right. I got it from the Mormon
genealogical database at www.familysearch.com, which shows a Nicholas
Burt being baptized in 1621. Late in the 17th century, James Wright's
*Historia Histrionica* said that Burt had been a boy under John Shank at
the Blackfriars (which must have been before early 1636, when Shank
died), and that he had then been a boy under Beeston at the Cockpit
(along with Mohun and Shatterell), where he would play the principal
women's roles. This must have been around 1637 or so. I found the
baptism of Robert Shatterell, the famous Restoration actor, on 10
November 1616 in St. Botolph Aldgate, and that of his brother Edward,
who was also an actor after the Restoration, on 3 November 1620 at St.
Andrew Holborn. Wright does not say which Shatterell was a boy under
Beeston with Burt, but Edward seems more likely given the dates. (You
can accuse me of circular reasoning if you want, but I'm going by all
the evidence taken together.) If the Nicholas Burt born in 1621 is the
actor, this would fit in pretty well with what Wright says and with the
ages of the Shatterells.
>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
Actually, those dates are pretty misleading, and I should change that.
There was a Nicholas Underhill who was a royal musician in 1603, and
since this *may* have been the same as the actor who first appears for
sure in 1624, I included that date in his dates of flourishing. But
given the time span, it seems hazardous to make the identification with
any degree of certainty. You're right that *if* Nicholas Underhill the
actor is the same man referred to in 1602 and/or 1603, he obviously
wasn't a boy in 1619.
>>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).
All right, but the possibility of some completely different "Nick" is a
very real one, one might even say a probable one. I'm not saying that
we can definitely say that Nicholas Tooley didn't play a woman in 1619,
just that I see no reason to think that he was this "Nick", especially
given all the other positive evidence that women's roles were played by
>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.
Thanks very much, both for your kind comments immediately above, and for
your thoughtful skepticism. I hope I've explained my position more
clearly, and I also hope that any differences of opinion which remain
will be amicable ones.