The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0244  Thursday, 14 June 2012


From:        John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         June 13, 2012 8:15:21 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER:  Maria


Anna Kamaralli wrote:


>Richard Madeleine [..] has [...] put forward the theory that as boys 

>probably ‘shadowed’ specific senior actors, some comic female roles 

>may have been written for boys apprenticed specifically to clowns.


>Maria’s absence during the uncovering of the gulling of Malvolio could 

>be because the boy’s mentor has been taken off stage at V.1.192 and 

>couldn’t be there to shepherd him.


A few points:


1. Yes, the female roles were almost certainly played by boys apprenticed to the senior players. See Juliet Dusinberre’s classic paper “Boys Becoming Women in Shakespeare’s Plays”. That is the whole point of the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra: Richard Burbage is upstaged by his own apprentice!


2. Yes, inexperienced boys needed mentoring - and that is probably what is behind Touchstone’s “Bear your body more seemly, Audrey” in AYLI (5.4.68-9)—for this see Juliet Dusinberre’s masterly (mistressly?) Arden3 edition. (I wish she had edited TN for Arden rather than Keir Elam - I find his fixation with castration tiresome.)


3. There is a world of difference between Audrey and Maria—the latter is a major role (149 lines rather than 20)—and in any case, Maria does not spend most of her time onstage with Sir Toby.


4. Sir Toby is not a clown’s role (Feste is the clown in TN)—and I think it was played by Shakespeare himself.


John Briggs


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