Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 May 2020
This chapter turns inward, considering how the performance of vice haunted the early modern child, how the positionality of boyhood or girlhood inflected and shaped the act of performance, and the possible reasons for casting children as rule-breakers, sexual deviants, and seducers in a pedagogical context. Plays and masques with antimasque style roles were performed by schoolgirls and boys, including a boy who played an unruly scholar celebrating truancy in song, young ladies who sang as Furies and witches, and schoolgirl dancers who enacted scenes of murder and violence. Children of both genders also practiced the arts of musical seduction: a boy, Wentworth Randall, sang as Dame Siren in Apollo Shroving (1627), before his costume was violently torn from him, revealing a monstrous fish tail; a girl sang to persuade Paris to choose Venus and pleasure in Beauties Triumph (1676), even as she warned of the dangers of doing so. As these entertainments reveal, the performance of vice was dialectical – the pedagogues who crafted the entertainments claimed they displayed immorality only to uncloak its rottenness. Yet, given early modern pedagogical theories, there was also the very real danger that children might become what they performed – imitatio gone terribly wrong.