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This chapter examines some of the trends that emerge in roles written for child actors in Shakespeare’s early plays. It considers some similarities in types of roles and asks how we might weigh this evidence in complementing recent research on how child actors develop in the period. In surveying the range of smaller child roles in the early plays it raises interesting possibilities for the nature of in-troup pedagogy and/or training. It further raises questions about the relationship between text and performance, and between one text and another, and between Shakespeare and the various companies that he is associated with and the collaborators that he works alongside. It argues that we can learn something about how child actors develop in the period by re-examining the roles that were written for them in this early period of Shakespeare’s career.
The Introduction first outlines the grounds for the collection’s dating parameters for ‘early Shakespeare’. It then discusses what a category such as ‘early’ or ‘late’ might mean for someone with Shakespeare’s long career, and how such temporally bound categories can condition critical responses. Next, it considers the many variables in play in Shakespeare’s early canon, discussing these with relation to the value ascribed to these works. The chapter then reflects upon how most readers of Shakespeare begin somewhere in the middle of the collected works, with super-canonical works like Twelfth Night and Hamlet, before, if ever, working to the margins of the canon where the early works reside. It concludes with brief summaries of each of the chapters in the collection, noting how contributors shed significant new light upon the formative part of Shakespeare’s career.
Early Shakespeare, 1588–1594 draws together leading scholars of text, performance, and theatre history to offer a rigorous re-appraisal of Shakespeare's early career. The contributors offer rich new critical insights into the theatrical and poetic context in which Shakespeare first wrote and his emergence as an author of note, while challenging traditional readings of his beginnings in the burgeoning theatre industry. Shakespeare's earliest works are treated on their own merit and in their own time without looking forward to Shakespeare's later achievements; contributors situate Shakespeare, in his twenties, in a very specific time, place, and cultural moment. The volume features essays about Shakespeare's early style, characterisation, and dramaturgy, together with analysis of his early co-authors, rivals, and influences (including Lyly, Spenser and Marlowe). This collection provides essential entry points to, and original readings of, the poet-dramatist's earliest extant writings and shines new light on his first activities as a professional author.