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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: Schoolmaids
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2534  Friday, 2 November 2001

[1]     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Thursday, 1 Nov 2001 12:32:08 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2528 Schoolmaids?

[2]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Thursday, 01 Nov 2001 12:19:08 -0600
        Subj:   Hermia and Helena at School

[3]     From:   Fran Teague <
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        Date:   Thursday, 1 Nov 2001 14:20:58 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2528 Schoolmaids?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Thursday, 1 Nov 2001 12:32:08 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 12.2528 Schoolmaids?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2528 Schoolmaids?

Good question -- one completely arbitrary answer:  the actors being
schoolboys this could be a playful, metatheatrical moment.  Which is as
much as to say, it depends on whether you think the audience _knew_ the
girls were boys, or whether they were 'fooled' into thinking the boys
were girls.  I go by the former theory.

Which prompts another question related to this:  from the film I saw of
the New Globe's inaugural production of H5, it seems entirely plausible
to me that Shakespeare's company would have made little effort to hide
the fact that their Princess Katherine was a boy player.  [The video
indicates that the courtship scene is hilarious, and precisely because
of Toby Cockerell's protruding Adam's Apple and his loose-fitting neck
ruffs.  Kissing a boy in public?  "Eet ees not zee costom een France"
indeed.]

Do others get the same impression?  That Shakespeare's company may not
have tried to hide the boy's identity as a boy, even when in a skirt?
This goes to the core of interpreting any number of comic scenes, IMHO,
and I'm not sure how many scholars have read them from this perspective,
if any.

Cheers,
Andy White

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Thursday, 01 Nov 2001 12:19:08 -0600
Subject:        Hermia and Helena at School

Todd Pettigrew asks,

> Does anyone know what sort of school
> Shakespeare might have imagined Helena and Hermia attending?

No doubt a Petty School, which both sexes could attend and in which one
learned to read and write English and to do simple sums. Success in
Petty School was a prereq. for admission to the Grammar School, which
only boys could attend. The hornbook referred to in Sh. was a hand-held
wooden paddle-shaped board with alphabets of l.c. and caps and numbers
and so on covered with horn.  It was standard in petty schools.

Yours for co-ed learning,
John

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Fran Teague <
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Date:           Thursday, 1 Nov 2001 14:20:58 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 12.2528 Schoolmaids?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2528 Schoolmaids?

Both boys and girls might attend dame schools, although grammar schools
were attended by boys alone (with an occasional exception, like Bathsua
Reginald, who may have taken part in her father's grammar school to
judge from Sir Simonds D'Ewes Autobiography). In a dame school (usually
run by a woman, hence the name) children were taught their letters.

A number of good scholarly books cover the subject, but one I've enjoyed
is David Cressy, Education in Tudor and Stuart England (N.Y.: St.
Martin's P, 1975) because it includes a fair number of primary documents
with some guiding commentary.

Fran Teague
<http://www.arches.uga.edu/~fteague>

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