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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: August ::
Shakespeare and Aging
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1273  Monday, 1 August 2005

[1]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Jul 2005 09:58:26 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Jul 2005 12:45:20 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging

[3]     From:   Sarah Cohen <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Jul 2005 11:06:31 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging

[4]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Jul 2005 18:55:47 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Jul 2005 09:58:26 -0700
Subject: 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging

 >"And I wouldn't have included Gertrude or Lady M as 'older' so what are
 >we using as an age range/definition for 'older'? 30-90?"

Whilst I heartily agree the Nurse and Paulina should be no older than
30, Gertrude, I would suggest, is at least 46 years old (based on the
estimate that her son is 30). And whilst, yes, today, many of the
'desperate housewives' are hot babes in their mid forties, this would
certainly not have been the case in the Elsinore of the 11th century, or
even the London of the early 17th.

Lady M, Gruoch Macbeth, is a little trickier. Her hubby is in his
mid-forties, this is her second marriage, and she has clearly been a
mother before. It could have all happened when she was 12, but I don't
get that sense; mid to late 30's I would say. Again, Angelina Jolie, 'an
angel that walks upon the ground' if ever there was, is in this age
range, but she's not dealing with the blustery winds of Glamis in the
11th century or the harrowing, child-birth death rates of the court of
jolly old James.

Colin Cox

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Jul 2005 12:45:20 -0500
Subject: 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging

Susan St. John makes a number of points several of which cry out for
response.

Juliet's nurse: good point; the only indication of her being aged (as I
recall) is her tendency to babble on ignoring the point. She can't be
terribly old, though, since her daughter Susan would have been the same
age as Juliet-say 55 at the outside limit-but that would still make her
old enough to be Juliet's grandmother The reason she's cast as old is, I
believe, to provide opportunities for excellent older actresses.

Gertrude has to be solidly middle-aged or she couldn't have a son who's
30. By contrast, I thought the modern trend was to present Lady Macbeth
as comparatively young and sexy.

But what does comparatively mean here? It's all very slippery.

The point about older meaning anything from 30 to 90 is well taken. On
the one hand, we might solicit information on Elizabethan aging (was it
more rapid than that of our own time) and perceptions of aging. And we
might define our own meanings of young, older, middle-aged, old. On the
other hand, we might just leave it alone and not try to get more
precision in an area where it may not make any difference.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sarah Cohen <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Jul 2005 11:06:31 -0700
Subject: 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging

How about Alice in Henry V?

I think the nurse in R + J is often cast as an older woman for a couple
reasons: practicality (where else would you make use of the talented
middle-aged comic actress in your company?), and artistic choice (an
older, matronly nurse provides a contrast with a younger, socialite Lady
Capulet).

There is also some textual support for an older Nurse - Juliet calls her
"old" quite a bit...

...but then again, to a 13-year old, as I vaguely recollect, anyone over
20 seems "old".

I believe that any casting choice regarding the Nurse's age is
artistically defensible - as long as it is plausible that she gave birth
13-14 years prior to the events of the play.

Cheers,
Sarah Cohen
(Former 16-year-old Nurse)

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Jul 2005 18:55:47 -0400
Subject: 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1261 Shakespeare and Aging

 >Why do we tend to see/cast the Nurse in R&J as a grandmotherly type?
 >Why isn't she 28-30, the same as Juliet's mom??  Is there something in
 >the text I have missed?  And the same with Paulina in WT?  She is often
 >cast as an older, matronly type...why??
 >
 >Is it a 20th century aesthetic that equates these maternal, caring,
 >concerned characters with a 'grandmother'?

I /think/ it is a vague sense that they must each be somewhat aged to
rate the license they are evidently permitted. However, even though I
can imagine a young Paulina (though we must accept the notion of -- was
it Tolkien or Lewis? Lewis, I think -- that she is a fairy, if she is to
be young throughout the play), has anyone ever played the Nurse as
young, except out of intentional directorial perversity?

 >And I wouldn't have included Gertrude or Lady M as 'older' so what are
 >we using as an age range/definition for 'older'? 30-90?

Lady M has been cast all over the place, but Gertrude must be old enough
to have a 30-year-old son, and also old enough for that son to think of
her as (whether wrongly or not is immaterial) serenely past the
treacherous straits of passion.

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