Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Question from genevieve - Punishments for female actors

what was the punishment for an elizabethan woman who was found to be acting in a theatre?


kb said...

Does anyone know of any such incidents? I'm not aware of any although it was forbidden.

Mary R said...

This is pure speculation on my part, but I would guess that the punishments would have been similar to the punishments for harlotry. Some examples would have been: fines, time in the stocks or being whipped at the cart's tail.

I wonder, though, if the fine or punishment for hiring a female actor was so great that few theater companies were willing to chance it.

I seem to recall that it remained illegal for women to "tread the boards" until at least 1660 with the restoration of Charles II.

kb said...

I'm joining you in speculation-land. I suspect that when plays were presented in private house, with household companies or reduced traveling companies like the Admiral
s Men that women may have joined in the revels - even if peripherally. I have hard time believing that in these more intimate environments the atmosphere was not a more liberal.

Mary R - I like your guess and the likening it to prostitution.

Mary R said...

kb is quite correct about things being different in private houses or even (and perhaps especially) the court. During the time of Henry VIII, even the highest born ladies would participate in certain revels, representing the muses or the seasons, etc. So, what was the major problem with female actresses? Give us your guesses, because facts are scarce:)