Academic journal article Theatre Notebook

Shakespeare's Boys: A Cultural History

Academic journal article Theatre Notebook

Shakespeare's Boys: A Cultural History

Article excerpt

Shakespeare's Boys: A Cultural History

Katie Knowles

Palgrave Macmillan, 2014

16.99 [pounds sterling], hb., 268 pp.

ISBN 9781137005366

In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to Shakespeare's examination of childhood. 2007 saw the publication of an edited collection, Shakespeare and Childhood (Kate Chedgzoy, Susanne Greenhalgh and Robert Shaughnessy eds.), and a monograph, Shakespeare and Child's Play: Performing Lost Boys on Stage and Screen (Carol Rutter). Katie Knowles' investigation undertakes broader studies of Shakespeare's plays in order to evaluate "childhood as culturally and historically constructed" (2). Her six chapters are divided into two parts. Part I considers Early Modern Boyhoods and Part II examines Afterlives. The boys are grouped into three categories: royal or noble boys; the boys in Shakespeare's Roman plays; the pageboys.

Part I is characterised by close analysis of linguistic features. The words of selected boys and their interchanges are carefully examined within the wider contexts of each scene, the characterization of their interlocutors and the central concerns of individual plays. These early chapters consist of short, nuanced essays on the chosen boys, building on established critical approaches and examining family values, masculinity and educational paths. By granting space to neglected characters such as Mote in Love's Labours Lost (the longest child's role in any single Shakespearean text) and Falstaff's Boy in three plays (Henry IV Parts One and Two and Henry V), Knowles demonstrates how these boys help their respective plays "test the power of formal schooling against experience" (120). …

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