Shakespeare’s adolescents

Age, gender and the body in Shakespearean performance and early modern culture

Author:
Victoria Sparey
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This book examines the representation of adolescents in Shakespeare’s works. By applying early modern medical knowledge, the book analyses the age-specific implications of the humoral heat associated with puberty. Employing a lens attuned to age before gender, the book draws out complexities that surround shared characteristics attributed to male and female adolescents. Chapters investigate how both promise and danger, symmetry and difference, were registered in early modern representations of female and male adolescence. By setting Shakespeare’s adolescent characters within theatrical, cultural, and medical contexts, this book illuminates a prolific counternarrative to negative, and more familiar, interpretations of rash and ‘heated’ adolescent behaviour. The workings of pubescent heat, this book asserts, also underpinned what were perceived as necessary and exciting changes that enabled growth. Chapters use a range of Shakespeare’s plays to explore representations of culturally recognised signs of puberty, including emergent beards and blushes, vocal change, and body growth. Shakespeare’s Adolescents also evaluates how the age and gender of fictive characters corresponded to the ‘real’ bodies of actors on stage, which were similarly subject to cultural constructions regarding age and gender. Shakespeare’s Adolescents often challenges assumptions that position the adult as always privileged over the child, both on and off the early modern stage, and recentres adolescence as a vibrant and commendably mutable stage of life in early modern culture. The book examines, moreover, how the environment of early modern theatre seems to have provided a space where talented adolescent players and characters were regularly celebrated and showcased.

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Introduction – misunderstood teens
Introduction – misunderstood teens
Chapter 1: ‘A rose by any other name’
Chapter 1: ‘A rose by any other name’
Chapter 2: Beards and blushes
Chapter 2: Beards and blushes
Chapter 3: Voicing adolescence
Chapter 3: Voicing adolescence
Chapter 4: The maypole and the acorn
Chapter 4: The maypole and the acorn
Conclusion – spot the difference
Conclusion – spot the difference
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