Literature and Theatre

Flowering adolescence and the gendering of puberty
Victoria Sparey

This chapter explores the age-specific, horticultural terminology used to describe and understand adolescence in early modern culture. The chapter unpacks the language of adolescence as a ‘flowering’ and flourishing age, where experiences were understood in relation to an anticipated ‘ripeness’ and fruitfulness of adulthood. The chapter shows symmetry between male and female adolescence and draws upon evidence from a wide range of early modern texts to challenge assumptions about floral imagery being feminine or emasculating in early modern usage. The chapter explores the representation of Shakespeare’s numerous adolescent male ‘flowers’, not least Romeo as an esteemed rose, and posits that adolescent flowering, and associations with beauty, promise, and fragility were largely age-specific rather than gendered in early modern culture. The chapter identifies the common pairing of adolescent ‘flowering’ with the decline of old age to suggest how both positive and negative formulations of the life cycle made use of this cultural motif. In particular, the chapter shows how a disrupted trajectory of the life cycle could be suggested in ideas about premature rotting, where imagery of contaminated blooms and cankers (understood as caterpillars in a horticultural context) are used. The chapter argues, moreover, that the way in which blooms become corrupted realises gendered formulations. The chapter explores several of Shakespeare’s plays and offers extended analysis of Hermia’s representation in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the lovely youth of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, to suggest how the positioning of the pubescent body and the pubescent subject becomes gendered.

in Shakespeare’s adolescents
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Fertile complexions in Shakespeare’s plays
Victoria Sparey

This chapter examines the representation of pubescent beards and blushes in Shakespeare’s plays. The chapter considers evidence from early modern medical writings that connect sexual maturation with the overspilling of humoral heat and expulsion of moisture to register symmetry and differences in the symptoms ascribed to male and female puberty. Beard growth in adolescent boys is, the chapter explains, set in parallel with the onset of menstruation in girls. The chapter explores nuances regarding humoral alterations in the pubescent boy and reveals complications in assumptions about feminine facial complexions. The chapter unpacks how age disrupts conflations made between beardless boy players and sexually mature women and explores the subtle but significant distinctions early modern culture made between absent beards, growing beards, absent beards and apparent blushes, and pubic beards/hair. The chapter uses a range of Shakespeare’s plays and early modern sources, but the chapter particularly attends to the representation of beards in relation to age and gender in As You Like It, Coriolanus, and Twelfth Night. The chapter explores the staging practices and meanings involved in the adolescent blushes that are included in As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and Measure for Measure.

in Shakespeare’s adolescents
Symmetry, difference, and gender in early modern constructions of adolescence
Victoria Sparey

The conclusion offers an overview of the book’s findings, drawing out where aspects of symmetry and difference have been observed in the representation of female and male puberty in Shakespeare’s plays and early modern culture. The conclusion considers a new ‘sign’ of puberty and evaluates the infrequency of allusions to skin complaints in relation to early modern adolescence. The conclusion assesses how and why certain signs of puberty are privileged in early modern culture and how these seem to insistently relate to reproductive assumptions ascribed to bodies. The conclusion also provides tentative conclusions about the trajectory of Shakespeare’s treatment of adolescence across plays performed from the 1590s to the 1610s. Recycled performance strategies and developments in representations of adolescence are connected to theatrical circumstance (including an ageing and changing theatre company) and changes in wider cultural, political, and medical discourses. The conclusion also uses these findings to highlight trends in the textual and performance afterlives of Shakespeare’s adolescent characters that span into the seventeenth century, where, for example, editorial interventions can be seen to modify the vivacity of Shakespeare’s female adolescents.

in Shakespeare’s adolescents
Examining early modern ideas about puberty
Victoria Sparey

This introduction provides an overview of how Shakespeare’s adolescents have been discussed in scholarly fields to date. The book identifies how emphasis has been placed on humoral heat as a disruptive feature of early modern puberty and argues that the vibrancy of Shakespeare’s adolescent characters complicates this interpretation. The introduction establishes the findings of early modern childhood studies, noting the tendency for such investigations to underscore gender difference. The introduction asserts that such an approach, though often appropriate, can underplay how age creates symmetry in constructions of male and female adolescence. Acknowledging such symmetry, the introduction posits, helps to, in turn, reveal tensions in the processes by which gender difference is ascribed to pubescent bodies. The introduction explains early modern life cycle models and outlines distinct humoral characteristics of adolescence as a life stage. The introduction also provides a summary of the shortcomings of Thomas Laqueur’s influential ‘one-sex’ model. This section suggests where assumptions about humoral sameness and difference between the sexes have restricted an understanding of Shakespeare’s adolescent characters by playing down the role of age in ideas about the body. In particular, the introduction observes tensions in the treatment of boy players in Shakespeare studies and argues for a re-evaluation of adolescent roles and the implications of crossdressing practices. The introduction, therefore, reconnects the boy actor with the humorally hot age he was thought to inhabit and outlines how this book’s chapters use humoral models of age and gender to analyse representations of puberty in Shakespeare’s works.

in Shakespeare’s adolescents
Body growth and disparities in height in Shakespeare’s plays
Victoria Sparey

This chapter reimagines the relationship between the ‘small’ child actor and the ‘large’ adult of early modern theatrical environments. In line with the medical discourses explored throughout this book’s chapters, adolescent actors and characters are understood in terms of growing bodies, where energy and transformation are anticipated and utilised, rather than feared as a disruption in theatrical productions. The chapter examines several plays, including Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair and Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, but provides extended analysis of the collaborative partnership of the actors playing Hermia and Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The chapter argues that the energised interaction of Shakespeare’s girl characters in this play takes advantage of the actors’ disparity in height to contribute to its presentation of a central plot about comparative adolescent transformation. The chapter shows how the arguments between Hermia and Helena pick up on early modern anxieties about inadequate body growth and abundant desire in adolescent bodies, only to resist and challenge such judgements through the dynamic interaction of the girl characters (and boy actors). The chapter also considers how the staging of adolescent heights in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is developed in Shakespeare’s gendering of adolescent groups in As You Like It. Here, the chapter asserts, the comparative staging of height between Celia, Rosalind, and Orlando shows further complexity in being a part of the play’s exploration of degrees of adolescent development.

in Shakespeare’s adolescents
Age, gender and the body in Shakespearean performance and early modern culture
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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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The heated words of puberty
Victoria Sparey

This chapter investigates changes in voice associated with early modern adolescence. The chapter engages with familiar ideas about breaking voices and the implications these disruptions had for boy players impersonating women. However, the chapter centres upon how vocal alterations related more broadly to the humoral effects of puberty. As such, the chapter examines adolescent voices in terms of cognitive developments understood to result from humoral heat rising in the body. Voices of boys and girls, the chapter argues, were subject to similar changes, where energised thought and linguistic dexterity were regarded as commendable adolescent characteristics. Although girlhood loquaciousness was often encouraged, the chapter registers gendered restrictions on voice, and provides readings of The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, and As You Like It to explore varying degrees of negotiated agency achieved by outspoken girl characters. The chapter engages with critical debates about childhood agency in adult worlds and evaluates the contested position of child actors in theatre companies. By considering early modern education practices and medical writings on age, the chapter establishes that adolescent male speakers were considered particularly adept at performing commanding speeches. The chapter indicates, moreover, how the cultural value attached to adolescent minds and voices can be seen in the supportive training structures of early modern theatrical practices, which appear to include scope to encourage adolescent agency. The chapter consequently revisits well-known moments of metatheatre in The Taming of the Shrew and Antony and Cleopatra to trouble readings of elision between boys and women.

in Shakespeare’s adolescents
Dreams, spectral memories, and temporal disjunctions in The Witcher
Lorna Piatti-Farnell

While ostensibly presented as fantasy series, The Witcher (Netflix, 2019) displays many elements that intersect heavily with the Gothic framework. Based on The Witcher books written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, as well as its several video game adaptations, the Netflix series capitalises on a number of genre-bending techniques, filled with mutating monsters, dark magic, and horror transformations. The horror hidden within the narrative often enters the scene through the flickering images and fragmented storylines of dreams, signalling the discovery of buried secrets, as seemingly forgotten events from the past re-surface to cast a dark shadow into the present. It is through dreams that the viewers get to glimpse into erratic chronicles and memories, as links between timelines and geography are established through the notion of Gothic haunting. This chapter considers the presence of dreams in The Witcher as Gothic conduits, exploring how through the notion of vision and representation, the narrative timelines of past, present, and future blend, mingle, and merge. Entangled as they are with notions of memory and remembering, dreams mediate and subvert history and make it changeable and unreliable. The dreams of The Witcher provide veiled critiques for real-life cultural conventions, as the use of ‘magic’ functions as a metaphor for addiction and body augmentation. As such, they also operate as agents of the uncanny, challenging the seemingly ‘normal’ nature of the everyday and transforming it into a monstrous reality..

in Gothic dreams and nightmares
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Marx, Engels, and diabolic Enlightenment
Jayson Althofer
and
Brian Musgrove

This chapter considers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s insights into the Gothic dreaming and nightmares that animate bourgeois society, reading the ‘day-for-night’ inversions that reveal capitalism’s systemic uncanniness. It contends that the sleeplessness of reason and visions of a 24/7 rationalisation of work are conditions that produce and reproduce capital’s hegemony – a recurrent, inescapable nightmare. Marx’s account of the working day’s prolongation into night, via the glamorous technology of light, reveals capital as ‘an animated monster’ – shape-shifting into the vampire, were-wolf and other ‘flesh agents’; grafting ‘the civilized horrors of over-work … onto the barbaric horrors of slavery’, and celebrating its psychic and physical ‘orgies’ under the glare of the artificial lighting necessary for mass night-work. The industrialisation of light was vital to realising a terrible dream: ‘The “House of Terror” for paupers, only dreamed of by the capitalist mind in 1770, was brought into being a few years later in the shape of a gigantic “workhouse” for the industrial worker himself. It was called the factory. And this time the ideal was a pale shadow compared with the reality’ – ‘demonic power’ bursting from ‘a mechanical monster whose body fills whole factories’. The chapter examines the Gothic unconscious manifested by factories and other terror-apparatuses that fulfil capital’s wish for feeding on demand, and the living nightmare of commodity fetishism – ‘this religion of everyday life’ surrounded by ‘magic and necromancy’. It relates Marx and Engels’s revelations to artificially lit phantasmagorias depicted by Peacock, Byron, De Quincey, Carlyle, Heine, Gogol, Carlyle, and Dickens. .

in Gothic dreams and nightmares

Ranging across more than two centuries of literature, visual arts, and twentieth- and twenty-first-century visual media – television and video games – Gothic Dreams and Nightmares is an edited collection of twelve original chapters examining the compelling, much-overlooked subject of Gothic dreams and nightmares. Written by an international group of experts, including leading and lesser-known scholars, this interdisciplinary study promotes the reconsideration of the vastly under-theorised role of the subliminal in the Gothic. Beginning with an exploration of the varied intellectual and cultural matrices of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Gothic, and recognising the Gothic’s frequent oneiric inspiration, thematic focus, and atmospherics, a line of inspirational transmission and aesthetic experimentation with the subliminal – usually signposted by the artists themselves – is traced across two centuries. Gothic Dreams and Nightmares examines the range of literary forms and experimental aesthetics through which these phenomena were conceived – from Horace Walpole’s incorporation of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s ‘sublime dreams’ in The Castle of Otranto into the early Gothic novel and Romantic poetry, through the paintings of Henry Fuseli and Francisco Goya and nineteenth-century British and European Gothic novels and short stories, into Surrealism and visual media. Remaining attentive to the cross-fertilisation between medical, philosophical, scientific, and psychological discourses about sleep and sleep disorders (parasomnias), and their cultural representations, these contributions consider Gothic dreams and nightmares in various national, cultural, and socio-historical contexts, engaging with questions of metaphysics, morality, rationality, consciousness, and creativity. This volume’s cross-disciplinary interrogations will have theoretical ramifications for Gothic, literary, and cultural studies more broadly.