Children’s play – the early modern English boy player in the children’s company and the men’s company
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This thesis examines the status and representation of the boy performer in both children’s company plays and men’s company plays by William Shakespeare, John Lyly, Christopher Marlowe, John Marston, and Ben Jonson. Through comparative analysis of these texts, I demonstrate that plays that share genres, plots, and theatregrams can be differentiated by casting, as playwrights use their casts to both reinforce and challenge textual storytelling through the actor’s body. In plays performed entirely by children, we can see that the homogeneity of the casts brings themes of interchangeability, exchangeability, and objectification to the forefront. In plays performed by casts of boys and men, the differences in status, size, and sexual development of players personalizes binary divisions, aligning boys with femininity, servitude, and foreignness (and in a racialized context, Blackness) and men with masculinity, authority, Englishness, and whiteness. When plays move between company types of the early modern era, these different casting configurations then alter the messages of a single text, adapting the performance through the presence of different kinds of actors with different sets of cultural codes. The performer’s body is thus not merely an accompaniment to the text; it is a sign, in and of itself, that alters the text. Ultimately, reading the boy performer in both children’s plays and men’s plays expands our understanding of the different ways “boys” contributed to early modern stagecraft, and how the vestiges of their presence adds a crucial component to the reading of dramatic works.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internationalhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Embargo Date: 2028-07-25
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Restricted until 25th July 2028
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