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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Distinctions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0245  Tuesday, 29 January 2002

[1]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Jan 2002 17:15:44 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0219 Re: Distinctions

[2]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Jan 2002 21:37:27 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0219 Re: Distinctions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Jan 2002 17:15:44 -0500
Subject: 13.0219 Re: Distinctions
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0219 Re: Distinctions

> Richard Madox's reference to a trip to the theatre
> to see "a scurvie play set out al by one virgin" might refer to a male
> or female actor, unless his statement that the actor "proved a fyemarten
> without voice, so that we stayed not the matter" is read as indicating
> which. Anybody know what a "fyemarten" is? (OED doesn't seem to have it
> under any spelling I can find.)


OED gives fir marten (or pine marten) for the species M. martes.
Fiemarten seems vaguely possible as a neologism for a chattering pollcat
that goes around (on stage?) fying everybody (see OED's fyer), but it
looks to me like the OED's freemartin (dial. from Yorks. southward):
spayed heifer, with the compositor perhaps misreading r as y. However, I
don't think this gets you any closer to the actor's gender.

Clifford

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Jan 2002 21:37:27 -0600
Subject: 13.0219 Re: Distinctions
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0219 Re: Distinctions

Gabriel Egan wrote,

>And that, I think, is all the evidence that women acted on the
>professional stage. (There's stuff about non-professional work, and
>visiting troupes from the continent, but Don's question was about my
>assertion that no-one in Shakespeare's company would have thought of
>casting a woman, so these aren't relevant.) Against the above is the
>mountain of evidence that boys routinely played the female parts. As
>discussed previously on this list, David Kathman has enough evidence to
>show that adult men didn't play female parts.

I hope to have this evidence in print in the near future, along with
quite a bit more evidence discovered since I posted on the subject here,
and quite possibly even more evidence now being discovered (or soon to
be discovered) in the London archives.  This evidence shows that, in
every case where we can confidently determine the age of the actor who
played a female role on the professional pre-Restoration London stage,
that age is between roughly 13 and 19.  In numerous cases where we can't
determine such an actor's age exactly, we know that he was apprenticed
to a sharer in the company; for example, when Richard Sharpe played the
lead in *The Duchess of Malfi* for the King's Men, he was apprenticed to
John Heminges (technically as a Grocer, though his training appears to
have been entirely in the theater).  In no case is it possible to find
an example of an adult actor playing a significant female role.  (There
are only two very doubtful exceptions, involving roles of zero and five
lines respectively.)  In case anybody is really interested, I'm just now
finishing up a paper for an SAA seminar which includes a fraction of
this research; the paper is on freemen in the Elizabethan theater, a
very interesting (and misunderstood) topic in its own right.

Dave Kathman

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