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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: Squeaking Cleopatras
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1833  Monday, 23 July 2001

[1]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Jul 2001 12:54:36 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.1816 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras

[2]     From:   Janie Cheaney <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Jul 2001 14:56:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1809 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Jul 2001 12:54:36 -0400
Subject: Re: Squeaking Cleopatras
Comment:        SHK 12.1816 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras

And of course, 'Snow White' is the plausible version of 'Cymbeline'.

T. Hawkes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Janie Cheaney <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Jul 2001 14:56:10 -0500
Subject: 12.1809 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1809 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras

> [1]     From:   Stuart Manger

> I imagine that Shakespeare's 'boys' had few if any hang-ups at all, such
> that very little preliminary was required. I wonder if there is any
> literature that reveals / documents for us how 'boys' in Shakespeare's
> day were wither selected or trained. Was it all by imitation? Standing
> in the wings, as it were, and observing the masters at work? Surely
> not?  You do not have the time to muck about with training in so
> rampantly commercial an outfit as the Lord Chamberlain's men, would you?
> You would surely use a 'boy' because you had observed / or he had been
> recommended / or he had been sold to you as having something already to
> build on? No training - learn the lines and get on and ride your luck? I
> wonder.

I wonder about this myself, since I write fiction about boy players.
Historical allusions to their training (or anything else about them) are
maddeningly scarce.  Only three apprentices are listed as part of the
Lord Chamberlain's Company in 1599: Samuel Gilburn, Ned [no last name,
might have been Edmund Shakespeare], and Jack Wilson.  In the next
couple of years, Ned and Sam grew out of female roles, and a Samuel
Grosse joined the company.  Common wisdom seems to be that many of these
boys, like Nathan Field, were recruited from the children's companies.
But I doubt that all of them were.  If "Ned," for instance, was the
playwright's brother, simple nepotism may have earned him his place,
though he surely had some talent as well.  I like to think that,
especially after the year of the "theater wars," adult actors regarded
the boys of the children's companies as such smart-alecky twits they'd
prefer to grow their own talent.

Although I have often read [never in a primary source] that each boy was
assigned to a player of the company, who served as tutor,  I can't
fathom how the adult actors had much time for this.  Surely most of the
boys' instruction had to be by observation.  There were probably stock
conventions for playing certain types of roles: ingenue, country dame,
bitch, madwoman, etc.  Easy enough to learn, perhaps, though perfected
only by arduous practice.  Given the hectic schedule of all the London
theater companies, a few bad performances while a boy was learning his
craft could be excused.

But what about kissing on stage?  Where Elizabethan boys so blase they
could do THAT?  I can see Doll Tearsheet delivering flattering busses to
Falstaff behind a fan, but how would Juliet, in full view of a
wisecracking Elizabethan audience, come by the knowledge that Romeo
kisses by the book?

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