The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.07396 Thursday, 14 March 2002
Date: Wednesday, 13 Mar 2002 14:47:57 -0000
Subject: 13.0724 Re: Inconsistencies
Comment: Re: SHK 13.0724 Re: Inconsistencies
Don Bloom writes:
> I wouldn't dispute the possibility, but he needs to remember that making
> faking beards appear authentic requires that they be stuck on with
> something, and that detaching them from clean-shaven cheek and chin is a
> lot easier than from bearded ones.
> 1) Do any of those on the list who know more about this matter, that is,
> tech theatre at the professional level, know of some easy way I could
> have handled this?
> 2) Can any of those who know about tech theatre in Shakespeare's time
> tell us if such a secret was known in his time?
One obvious answer is that the beard in question was held on with loops
over the ears or a string around the back of the head, like the
traditional "Father Christmas" beards seen every December. This would
be a lot simpler than gluing a beard on, and would not interfere with a
short genuine beard underneath. I have worn a "Father Christmas" beard
attached with a string behind the head over my real beard with no
A couple of other points support this possibility. In Twelfth Night
Feste very quickly puts on a fake beard to play Sir Topas, the curate,
and removes it within a line or two at the end of the scene. This would
surely have been all but impossible with a glued-on beard, but a beard
connected to the head by clips behind the ears or a string behind the
head could be put on and removed easily enough to fit this staging. In
addition a likely picture of Robert Armin (on the cover of his play "Two
Maids of Moreclack"), who is generally thought to have played Feste and
similar Fool roles in Shakespeare's plays, shows him as a man with a
short beard, and similar pictures of other Shakespearean clowns show
them with short natural beards. It seems quite likely, therefore, that
Armin as Feste would have had to put on a large (and comical) "clerical"
beard on over his own short beard.
On the other hand, glancing at the few illustrations that are likely to
represent stage performances I see a number of actors with bare and
shaved faces. One of Tamora's sons in the picture of "Titus Andronicus"
has a bare face, as does the blacked-up man (Aaron? an executioner?) in
the same picture, and Horatio (shown hanging dead on the first page
illustration of "The Spanish Tragedie") is also barefaced. Perhaps,
then, it was only young men who were expected to be barefaced, but this
at least opens the possibility that adult actors playing male roles were
willing to shave, and that Kent might have removed his false beard to
show a shaved face as part of his disguise.
Whether the face under the false beard had a shorter beard or no hair at
all, it does seem quite likely (given Shakespeare's obvious familiarity
with false beards for stage roles) that Kent removed a long false beard
in order to turn himself into Caius, whether or not this is the meaning
of "raz'd" in the text.
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