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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: April ::
Oxford DNB's Bio of Tarlton: Actor and Clown
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0260  Monday, 3 April 2006

From: 		Al Magary <
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Date: 		Saturday, 01 Apr 2006 01:08:34 -0800
Subject: 	Oxford DNB's Bio of Tarlton: Actor and Clown

Peter Thomson's comprehensive short biography, from the Oxford DNB, of 
Richard Tarlton (d. 1588), actor and clown, is accessible online and 
free for a couple of days at http://www.oxforddnb.com/public/lotw/1.html

(You can subscribe, free, to the wonderful email Life of the Day, at 
http://www.oup.com/oxforddnb/info/freeodnb/)

"The only part that can be confidently assigned to him is that of 
Dericke in _The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth_. The role was one 
in which what was done must generally have had greater impact on the 
audience than what was said, but what also characterizes this raw text 
is the parade of opportunities it offers to Tarlton as Dericke to 
indulge his metatheatrical talent as a maker of exits and entrances. On 
the open stages of Elizabethan London it was impossible to enter or 
leave the platform unobtrusively. Actors coming on to open a scene had 
first to locate themselves in order to place the narrative; actors 
leaving had to have a reason to go. Either way, they had a distance to 
cover from or to the stage door. That distance was Tarlton's playground, 
and The Famous Victories furnishes it richly.

"It was in the interest of playwrights to the Queen's Men to provide 
suitable opportunities for the leading clown, but Tarlton's real chance 
to shine came more consistently in the post-play jigs. These jigs, 
though they included music and dancing, were essentially vehicles for 
clowns. A handful of jigs, though none of Tarlton's, survive in 
manuscript. They rely on song and allow for patterned dancing, but they 
were essentially raucous afterpieces: framed as short farces, they 
feature sexual misdemeanour and cross-dressing, and can easily 
accommodate the defamatory mockery characteristic of Elizabethan libels. 
Tarlton was the master clown of the jig...."

Cheers,
Al Magary

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