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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Nathan Field
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0529  Wednesday, 25 February 2004

[1]     From:   Kris McDermott <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Feb 2004 17:55:18 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0506  Nathan Field

[2]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Feb 2004 22:24:42 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0506 Nathan Field


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kris McDermott <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 Feb 2004 17:55:18 EST
Subject: 15.0506  Nathan Field
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0506  Nathan Field

According to Roberta Brinkley's "Nathan Field, the Actor-Playwright,"
Field may have played with the King's Men in mid-1609, and may have
moved between them and the Children of the
Revels/Blackfriars/Whitefriars until they were officially absorbed by
Henslowe's company in 1613.  He was clearly considered one of the best
actors of the children's company, with his name consistently listed
first on the lists of players, so it's unsurprising that he played with
the Children long after his voice may have changed.  In "Epicoene," his
billing implies he might have played a lead role such as Morose or one
of the wits -- all "adult" roles -- so his age would be no impediment.
The "children" ranged greatly in age, especially at the end of the
companies' tenures; Michael Shapiro ("Children of the Revels") puts the
age range at 10-15 in the period between 1600-10.  So Field would have
been a bit long in the tooth, but Shapiro conjectures that by 1608 or so
the style of the chldren's companies had become much more
"naturalistic," like that of the adult companies.  If so, I suppose
Field's seniority would have been a natural extension of a general
change in tone of the children's companies.  Also, he was 13 when he
first began playing -- a bit older than the norm -- so maybe he just
"played younger" for as long as he could, rather like Baby June in
"Gypsy," and enjoyed an extended stage "childhood."

An interesting side-tidbit: Jonson claimed that Field was his "scollar,"
and that he tutored him in the classics, presumably backstage.  The
plays written by Field clearly show Jonson's influence.  And like
Jonson, Field was a fatherless child (Jonson was a "posthumous" baby,
and Field's minister father died when Nathan was only four months old)
-- this may have explained the affinity between the two.  And perhaps it
was Jonson's influence that got Field cast in "Epicoene" in spite of his
advanced age.

Kris McDermott
Central Michigan University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 Feb 2004 22:24:42 -0600
Subject: 15.0506 Nathan Field
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0506 Nathan Field

Jeffrey Myer wrote:

 >Epicoene is supposed to have been "acted in the year 1609.  By the
 >Children of Her Majesty's Revels."  "Nat. Field" is listed among "The
 >principal Comedians."  Since he was baptized in 1587, that would have
 >made Field 22 years old at the time of the performance, which seems a
 >bit old to be considered a child.  What was the average age of the
 >"child" actors, and was it common to have actors as old as Field would
 >have been?

The boy actors who played female roles in the adult companies were
between 13 and 21 years old, with a median age of around 16 or so.  I
present the extensive evidence for this conclusion, much of it
unpublished, in a paper which is scheduled to appear in print next year,
though I've presented some of that evidence in various posts to SHAKSPER
over the past decade.

The boys in the all-boy companies were a bit younger on average, at
least based on the limited evidence we have.  When Henry Clifton
complained in 1601 about his son Thomas being kidnapped to act for the
Children of the Chapel at Blackfriars, he listed the boys in the
company, one of whom was Nathan Field.  Field was about 14 at the time,
and he was actually the oldest of the three boys in the company whose
dates of baptism we know:

Nathan Field: baptized 17 October 1587
Salomon Pavy: baptized 12 May 1588, St. Dunstan Stepney
John Motteram: baptized 6 July 1589, Addlethorpe, Lincolnshire

The 1609 Queen's Revels company is a bit of a special case, because it
has been specially formed after the plague closure of 1608-9, and
appears to have been a "boy" company in name only.  It was really more
of a "young men's" company.  Field was 22, as you point out, and another
of the "boys", William Barksted, was 19 or 20.  (There was a lawsuit in
1610 turning on whether he was 21 in that year, and thus legally of age
to sign a bond.)  Another of them, Giles Cary, joined Lady Elizabeth's
Men, a nominally adult company, in 1611 along with Barksted.  Field
himself had not continually been a "boy" player from 1601 to 1609; in
August 1604, at the age of 16, he was in Cambridge getting in trouble
with Francis Beaumont.  (See Hilton Kelliher, "Francis Beaumont and
Nathan Field: New Records of their Early Years", *English Manuscript
Studies* 8 (2000), 1-42.)

The only other all-boy company for which we have a reasonably complete
cast list is the 1631-2 King's Revels at Salisbury Court, and the five
boys in that company whose ages we can determine were between 11 and 16
at the time.  This reinforces the anomalous nature of the 1609 Queen's
Revels.

Dave Kathman

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