Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: Squeaking Cleopatras
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1855  Wednesday, 25 July 2001

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 15:15:33 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras

[2]     From:   Janie Cheaney <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 11:29:46 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 15:15:33 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras

Stuart Manger asked:

> I think the real problem here may be that we are trying to approach this
> from a very specifically 2001 angle, and how OUR own 12-15 yr olds might
> feel in such performances, and we tend to imagine all manner of hassles
> that simply would never have occurred to them then. How it is possible
> to write modern fiction that successfully conjures that 'innocent' age /
> acting lads beats me. How do you start? How can you retain credibility
> when modern audiences are always bringing huge stacks of post-Freudian
> baggage to the business of reading?
>
> But then again, was Marlowe telling it like it was for all the 'quality'
> when he remarked on the pleasures of boys and tobacco? The worm in the
> bud.

For the scandalous behavior of the Blackfriars boys, consult Thomas
Middleton's pamphlet, "Father Hubbard's Tales, or, The Ant and the
Nightingale." He tells of the boys "able to ravish a man." I could tell
more if I had my sources here with me. You may also find a case of a
father complaining about the Blackfriars boys kidnapping his son for
nefarious purposes. This is cited in Leinwand's article, "Redeeming
Beggary/Buggery in Michaelmas Term."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Janie Cheaney <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 11:29:46 -0500
Subject: 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras

> From:           Stuart Manger <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >

> Question to Janie Cheaney:
> WHEN do 'boys' get a chance for 'arduous practice'? As you say, the
> schedule was frenetic, so.....? Did they learn their skills exclusively
> in the children's companies? OK, I can see that is possible, BUT surely
> not ALL of them came from such companies? Were some like the
> disgustingly psychopathic little mall-rat Webster from 'Shakespeare in
> Love' who learns by sneaky voyeurism?

That's a whole bunch of questions.

Since acting companies with permanent stages were relatively new at the
end of 16C, I'm guessing that the patterns might not have been so well
established.  Perhaps (a big perhaps, I know) in the beginning there
were various ways that boys came into the company--some from the
children's companies, others by special arrangement with the parents or
guardian, and a few with no previous experience but yet certain
qualities that the members of the Company found intriguing.  Children
learn by rote very quickly, and the ages corresponding to our elementary
school grades were considered the optimum time for stuffing them with
facts, poetry, grammar, scripture, etc.  I can see boys of 9-12 learning
the lines and the conventional gestures easily, but stage deportment and
command could only come with practice--as courtiers, messengers, tavern
drawers, and soldiers.  Imitation of the adult players, as in any
apprenticeship, would be regarded as essential.  The boys might have
been taken on a two- or three-month trial, and dismissed if they didn't
show some promise.

>Did the scene perhaps grow out of a session before a
>show when the 'boy' Viola did not know any sword-fighting passes - or
>many - and suddenly, everyone there sees the comic potential?

Interesting thought--however, I've read (again, only in secondary
sources--the curse of the library-book researcher) that the boys WERE
trained in swordplay and dancing, because they would need both in their
capacity as extras.  But again, it's hard to see where they found the
time.

> What baffles me are the intimate love scenes. The man writes such
> ardently, sensuously urgent and sophisticated material for lovers, and
> such sexually tense scenes, that you really do wonder exactly how they
> did it?

Convention, again?  Common wisdom is that the scenes were WRITTEN so
explicitly just because they couldn't be ACTED explicitly.  I imagine
that there were accepted poses and mannerisms for love scenes, as for
battle scenes, and the audience willingly suspended their disbelief for
both.

>How it is possible
>to write modern fiction that successfully conjures that 'innocent' age /
>acting lads beats me. How do you start? How can you retain credibility
>when modern audiences are always bringing huge stacks of post-Freudian
>baggage to the business of reading?

I'm not sure it's successfully been done yet.  Most of the novels on
this subject (a slew of 'em in the last few years) are written for the
juvenile/young adult audience--who may know more than what's good for
them, but haven't yet acquired all that baggage.  The psychological
conflicts raised by boys playing girls aren't directly addressed by Gary
Blackwood, who wanted to tell a gutsy adventure story in "The
Shakespeare Stealer." Susan Cooper slights them also in "King of
Shadows," which through the means of time-travel attempts to treat a
modern kid's angst with a dose of Shakespeare.  My own book, "The
Playmaker" (Knopf, 2000) attempts to grapple with how a boy might
actually go about trying to play a woman, but the protagonist has other
problems that take precedence.

> But then again, was Marlowe telling it like it was for all the 'quality'
> when he remarked on the pleasures of boys and tobacco? The worm in the
> bud.

Yes, one wonders.  However, I'm not going there.

> From:           David Kathman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >

> Hmmm... I'm not sure where you found these apprentices "listed", but the
> information you got is not quite accurate.

Many thanks for clarification.  My information came from a book by
Bernard Beckerman ("Shakespeare at the Globe, 1599-1609"), but since I
don't have the book in front of me I can't check his documentation.  The
copyright date is 1962; I suspect the scholarship has advanced since
then.

There are other details I wish I'd known before writing my first book,
but I didn't have the advantage of this list at the time.

JBCheaney

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Webpage <http://ws.bowiestate.edu>
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.