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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: July ::
Use of Word 'actor
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1435  Thursday, 15 July 2004

[1]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Jul 2004 10:43:41 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1428 Use of Word 'actor'

[2]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 Jul 2004 00:38:42 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1428 Use of Word 'actor'

[3]     From:   Mac Jackson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 Jul 2004 21:33:30 +1200
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1428 Use of Word 'actor'


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Jul 2004 10:43:41 -0500
Subject: 15.1428 Use of Word 'actor'
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1428 Use of Word 'actor'

As someone pointed out to me off-list, Martin Steward was most likely
taking me to task for referring to the period when drama was outlawed in
*England* when I really should have said *Britain*.  If so (or even if
not so), mea culpa.  Technically speaking, it's true that plays were
outlawed in England from 1642 to 1660, but they were also outlawed in
all of Great Britain, so it's better to use the more inclusive term.  I
really am aware of the distinction, and I usually observe it when it's
relevant, but in this instance I was careless about it.

And thanks to Robin Hamilton for the further information and citations
on player/actor.  I may have been too strong in saying that the use of
"actor" in that period would be an anachronism, but I was referring
mainly to ordinary spoken language, as represented in such places as
parish registers and civic records (as opposed to plays, poems, and
other literary documents).  I'm aware that Shakespeare used "actor"
about as much as "player", but he was writing poetry (mostly).  Robin's
suggestion that the playing companies themselves supported a distinction
between professional "actors" and amateur "players" is an interesting
one, and is supported by the fact that most of the printed cast lists
from the 17th century refer to "actors" rather than "players".
Nevertheless, to the general population they were almost always "players".

Dave Kathman

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[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 Jul 2004 00:38:42 +0100
Subject: 15.1428 Use of Word 'actor'
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1428 Use of Word 'actor'

Another possible (unofficial) distinction:

Actors in tragedies, players in comedies.

Robin Hamilton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mac Jackson <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 Jul 2004 21:33:30 +1200
Subject: 15.1428 Use of Word 'actor'
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1428 Use of Word 'actor'

Key in "actor" to the Chadwyck-Healey "Literature Online" database and
you will find several OED antedatings and many examples of the word used
in the 1580s. The earliest sixteenth-century example seems to be in
William Painter's The Palace of Pleasure (1566-7).

Mac Jackson

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