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My Lord Lackbeard


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My Lord Lackbeard enfranchisement and expressions of beardlessness in Shakespeare's canon from 1594 to 1601
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Junkins, C. R
University of South Florida
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Dissertations, Academic -- English -- Masters -- USF   ( lcsh )
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ABSTRACT: William Shakespeare employs a series of male characters specifically described as beardless in those plays performed from 1594 to 1601. Will Fisher argues that such characters reveal early modern conceptions of masculinity; the beard was used in conjunction with other forms of material such as dress and weaponry to construct gender. Mark Albert Johnston notes that beards performed as currencies of exchange, denoting not just masculinity but economic power as well. Rather than signifying a lack or deficiency, the hairless chin is an active participant in a deeply complex tangle of competing political, economic and religious ideologies. Shakespeare's commentary on beardlessness occurs during an economic crisis in the late 1590's that significantly affected apprentices, when apprentice literature proved popular. The temporary prominence could also suggest a transition by Richard Burbage from playing young beardless characters to more mature heroes. This period also witnesses a shift in audiences as competing theaters open.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by CR Junkins.
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My Lord Lackbeard :
b enfranchisement and expressions of beardlessness in Shakespeare's canon from 1594 to 1601
h [electronic resource] /
by CR Junkins.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 54 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
3 520
ABSTRACT: William Shakespeare employs a series of male characters specifically described as beardless in those plays performed from 1594 to 1601. Will Fisher argues that such characters reveal early modern conceptions of masculinity; the beard was used in conjunction with other forms of material such as dress and weaponry to construct gender. Mark Albert Johnston notes that beards performed as currencies of exchange, denoting not just masculinity but economic power as well. Rather than signifying a lack or deficiency, the hairless chin is an active participant in a deeply complex tangle of competing political, economic and religious ideologies. Shakespeare's commentary on beardlessness occurs during an economic crisis in the late 1590's that significantly affected apprentices, when apprentice literature proved popular. The temporary prominence could also suggest a transition by Richard Burbage from playing young beardless characters to more mature heroes. This period also witnesses a shift in audiences as competing theaters open.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Advisor: Lagretta Lenker, Ph.D.
Dissertations, Academic
x English
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856


My Lord Lackbeard: Enfranchisement and Expressions of Beardlessness in Shakespeare’s Canon from 1594 to 1601 by CR Junkins A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Lagretta Lenker, Ph.D. Sara Deats, Ph.D. Marilyn Myerson, Ph.D. Date of Approval: October 23, 2007 Keywords: apprentice, drama, masc ulinity, performance, Renaissance Copyright 2007, CR Junkins


i Table of Contents Abstract 2 My Lord Lackbeard: Enfranchisement and Expressions of Beardlessness in Shakespeare’s Canon from 1594 to 1601 3 References Cited 45 Bibliography 48


ii My Lord Lackbeard: Enfranchisement and Expressions of Beardlessness in Shakespeare’s Canon from 1594 to 1601 CR Junkins ABSTRACT William Shakespeare employs a series of male characters specifically described as beardless in those plays performed from 1594 to 1601. Will Fisher argues that such characters reveal early modern conceptions of masculinity; the beard was used in conjunction with other forms of material such as dress and weaponry to construct gender. Mark Albert Johnston notes that beards perf ormed as currencies of exchange, denoting not just masculinity but economic power as well. Rather than signifying a lack or deficiency, the hairless chin is an active participant in a deeply complex tangle of competing political, economic and religious ideologies. Shakespeare’s commentary on beardlessness occurs during an economic cris is in the late 1590’s that significantly affected apprentices, when apprentice li terature proved popular. The temporary prominence could also suggest a transition by Richard Burbage from playing young beardless characters to more mature heroes This period also witnesses a shift in audiences as competing theaters open.


3 My Lord Lackbeard: Enfranchisement and Expressions of Beardlessness in Shakespeare’s Canon from 1594 to 1601 “He that hath a beard is more th an a youth,” states Beatrice in William Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing “and he that hath no beard is less than a man” ( Ado 2.1, 32-4)1. She asks what she should do with su ch a beardless man: “Dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting-gentlewoman?” ( Ado 2.1, 31-2). The scene is witty, assuredly, but it also provides a remarkable insight into ideas of early-modern English masculinity. On stage stands a b eardless man, dressed in women’s apparel, playing the role of Hero’s noble cousin and waiting-gentlewoman, of which the audience was no doubt aware. And yet, the two beardl ess men dressed as Beatrice and Hero are not alone, for out in the audience are certa inly beardless men t oo, apprentices, young men struggling for recognition of their masculinity as well as for their own enfranchisement into the English economy. Did Beatrice’s words sting? Or did those beardless young men in the Globe Theatre look to the third b eardless male character, Claudio, Benedick’s “My Lord Lackbeard” ( Ado 5.1, 189), for their validation? Indeed they did, and their attention fe ll on other beardless male heroes who appear in Shakespeare’s works that sp an from the mid-1590s to early 1600s. Shakespeare comments on beards in all but three of his plays, but his commentary on beardlessness and his characters who flaunt their beardless chins appear first in 1 All citations from Shakespeare come from David Bevington’s fifth edition of The Complete Works of Shakespeare as well as suggested dating for initial performances.


4 Midsummer Night’s Dream as early as 1594. This trend fades some time around 1598 to 1601 with As You Like It Admittedly, a study of Shakespeare’s commentary on beardless male characters seems trivial at first glance, but these detail s reveal a “perfect storm” of historical, cultural and economic forces along with persona l, biographical influences on a cycle of popular early-modern English dramas. Beat rice’s comment demonstrates a conscious understanding of beards as an essential crit erion for masculinity, a nd recent scholarship by Will Fisher in “The Renaissance Beard” (2001) and Materializing Gender (2006) has examined this cultural phenomenon in detail. Fisher, however, focuses on the use of beards: I intend to examine beardlessness. Ra ther than signifying a lack or deficiency, the hairless chin is an active participant in a deeply complex tangle of competing political, economic and religious ideologi es. The span of such comments in Shakespeare’s canon likewise point s to historical events that spur them and then fade. Shakespeare’s commentary on beardlessness occu rs during an economic crisis in the late 1590s that significantly affected apprentices the very same beardless component of Shakespeare’s audience mentioned earlier. Al so, these beardless themes occur during a period when literature devoted to encouraging apprentices proved popular. Lastly, the temporary prominence of this theme in Shakes peare’s work when compared to the work of other dramatists at the time perhaps indicate s a two-fold force at work. First, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men witness the transition of th eir principal male actor, Richard Burbage, from playing young beardless characters to mo re mature heroes. Second, a simultaneous shift in audience occurs at this time, as the beardl ess apprentice component of


5 Shakespeare’s audience turns to other theater s while the Lord Chamberlain’s Men seek closer ties with the Elizabethan court. For the post-modern mind, the act of grow ing a beard or shavi ng a chin seems to exert little impact on determin ing an individual’s gender. Gender is determined by biological traits or genetic mark ers; or so it seems. Recent critical work in gender theory in various disciplines such as literature, hi story and cultural studies has challenged this notion, suggesting that gender is more often “performative” rather than essential, as described by Judith Butler in Gender Troubles For Butler, the act of identifying gender has greater importance than th e essential category itself, based on the argument that no ontological essence can be determined with any certainty without a thorough understanding of the epistemology involved – how one identifies determines what one identifies. The act of determining gender is therefore influenced by the physical or corporeal signs, along with “acts, gestures enactments” that are expressed “on the surface of the body” (173). Butler goes one step further by denying the existence of any ontological essence. Such essences are “fab rications” that have “no ontological status apart from the various acts which constitute its reality” (173). Gender then, in Butler’s terms, becomes a “corporeal style, an ‘act,” as it were, which is both intentional and performative, where ‘performative’ suggest s a dramatic contingent construction of meaning” (177). Such a performance occurs repeatedly, as the signs and acts must be expressed every time one indi vidual interacts with another2. 2 I have noted the recent developments in essentialist arguments related to gender theory. For example, Deborah Tannen’s You Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (2001) and You’re Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation (2006), in which she explore different communication strategies used by men and women, have proved popular in freshmen writing classes. I would also point out the infamous Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (2004) by John Gray.


6 Butler’s argument that gender is a visual performance integrat ed into a continual dialogue with others suggests that the very not ion of gender operates in a constant state of instability and flux, open to continual interpretation and redefinition. Such a state makes reading historical notions of gender even mo re fraught with uncertainty, as post-modern critics attempt to read visual performan ces without a thorough understanding of the “signs” that past periods used3. Therefore, in analyzing the use of beards and beardlessness in regards to ma sculinity, two clear warnings emerge. First, key terms such as “masculinity,” “male,” and “gender” opera te differently in the early modern and postmodern periods, perhaps radically so. Sec ond, the act of reading the “corporeal style” used by early modern individua ls to perform gender requir es a thorough unde rstanding of the corporeal elements, beards versus beardlessness, among others. As a corollary, While these texts have kept essentialist arguments in circulation, I am finding essentialist arguments increasingly grounded in genetics, especially those observations of differences in behavior based on hormones. (Gender theory is not the only discipline being affected: history and economics have also seen forays into genetic theory. Gregory Clark’s controversial A Farewell to Alms (2007), for example, broaches the idea that England’s Industrial Revolution might have been fueled by traits passed down from generation to generation by genetics rather than parental training. In turn, such an argument cautiously suggests some essential di fferences between English citizens and othe r Europeans.) My focus in this essay is, of course, on the growth of facial hair, a physiological process dictated by hormones which is in turn managed by an individual’s genes. Some men are predisposed to beard growth while others are relegated to a lifetime of smooth cheeks. However, I would call the reader’s attention to the warning implicit in Thomas Laqueuer’s Making Sex : in the past, political and religious ideologies dictated how empirical observations were interpreted. Our current fasc ination with genetics may prove no different. 3 Fisher warns against the use of the term “sign” in labeling material objects used in constructing gender during the early modern period. He notes that such a term “implies that the beard ‘signaled’ a gendered essence that actually resided elsewhere” (99). Such a distinction may seem trivial, but his definition is strategic in that, in structuralist thought, it denies the existence of a “signifier,” which underscores his (and Butler’s) theory that gender is constructed by material means. While I appreciate this distinction, I cannot help but to recall Butler’s underlying argument in Gender Trouble and Bodies that Matter that understanding the epistemological act of determining gender is the key to understanding how gender is constructed due to the uncertainty inherent in atte mpting to identify any essential element that grounds gender. Her paradigm for gender construction is not just performative but discursive. What one sees in the use of beards (and other material objects used to “express” gender) is a form of communication, a language of symbols and actions. Secondly, Derrida’s notion of difference points to the inherent lack of an essential essence in any definition; meaning is instead expre ssed by differences between terms as opposed to an essential quality. Therefore, I feel justified in using the term “sign” in referring to the role of beards and beardlessness in “communicating” gender while at the sa me time dismissing the notion that it refers to a particular essence.


7 because such a performance is so heavily repeated, the possibility exists that the discursive use of beards a nd beardlessness could have operated in a very unstable fashion, changing from year to year, day to day, and even from person to person. Current interpretations of early modern conceptions of the body and gender rely on the prevalence of two theories, that of th e role of humors (bile phlegm, choler and blood and their corollaries, hot cold, moist and dry) and on early modern anatomists’ fascination with the physical similarity or homology of male and female genitalia, as identified by Thomas Laqueur in Making Sex (1990). The body, as Laqueur points out, is interpreted using the “one-sex model.”4 Medieval and early modern scientists and physicians (based on earlier work by Galen) visually interpreted human genitalia as remarkably similar, save that the penis was expressed outwardly and the vagina inwardly. Testes correspond to ovaries, the scrotum to the womb. The inward versus outward expression was explained by the heat normally associated with males forcing the penis outward, while women, being cold, “lacked” the h eat necessary to “perfect” their bodies. Therefore, gender existed on a single conti nuum, in which “sexual differences were matters of degree rather than kind” (125) In addition, Laqueur comments, “the body with its one elastic sex was far freer to expr ess theatrical gender and the anxieties thereby produced” (125)5. 4 This acceptance of the Galenic one-sex model is by no means universal among scholars of early modern thought. Perhaps the best counter-argument has been put forth by Janet Aldeman in her essay, “Making Defect Perfection: Shakespeare and the One-Sex Mode l.” By examining only those medical texts written and printed in England, Aldeman concludes that the Galenic one-sex model did not have a hegemonic hold over conceptions of gender. In fact, at least in En gland, the early modern pe riod offers instead an environment in which varying models of gender are in play. 5 I find Laqueur’s use of the word choice, “theatrical,” somewhat ironic considering the earlier emphasis on Butler’s use of the word “performativ e,” especially in the context of re search on beards in early modern stage conventions.


8 Will Fisher, as pointed out earlier, attemp ts to define the role of beards as a constructor (or more accurately for his argum ent, a “materializer”) of masculinity; for this reason, his work will remain a key text for much of this essay. Therefore, the critical assumptions that Fisher makes must be thoroughly examined and defined. In regards to the one-sex m odel, Fisher warns that Laque ur’s reading of gender as malleable is “misleading” (23). He notes, “It does not follow from his [Laqueur’s] more general observations about the potential malleab ility of the male and female bodies to say that gender identity was ‘theat rical’ or that it could be put on or taken off with ‘ease’ like costumes in a theater” (23). In his cr iticism, Fisher echoes Butler’s warnings in Bodies that Matter Butler states, “I never did think that gender was like clothe s, or that clothes make the woman” (231). For Butler, the reas on is again determined by the lack of any essential, internal characteristic in the indi vidual because there is no interior “one” who dresses, but vice-versa: “the practice by which gendering occurs, the embodying of norms, is a compulsory practice, a forcible production” (230). Fi sher’s criticism is perhaps unfair as Laqueur is careful to point out that “gender choice was by no means so open to individual discretion, and one was not free to change in midstream” (124). Yet Laqueur’s “one-sex model” suggests an anxi ety present in the pe riod, that individuals, particularly men, experienced a drive to declar e their masculine status and that due to the patriarchal nature of power in the period, th is drive took on a cultural force rather than simply individual.6 “Decisions about dress are actively compelled,” Fisher notes (23). 6 The anxiety of gender identity in a one-sex model is a compelling argument for the importance of growing a beard, but if beards were so instrumental, wouldn’t that custom oper ate where the one-sex model functioned at its height? Laqueur cites anatomical works from across Europe – England, Italy, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, just to name a few. Richard Corson’s Fashions in Hair reveals examples of


9 Such decisions become less about the lack of or presence of agency than the need to make an “ideological” and ofte n “unconscious act” (23). Fisher differs from Butler regarding th e importance of clothing. While Butler sees clothing to be a “dispensable artifact,” Fisher finds it “constitutive” (23). Here Fisher identifies a division in gender theory on the process of “modification.” Fisher compares the paradigm put forth by Donna J. Haraway, that cultural forces modify an individual’s essential gender ( one begins as male and then changes), versus that of Butler’s, that cultural forces bring one’ s gender into being using materialization, “matter.” While Butler does not view clothing as important, as noted above, Fisher sees it as an essential method for “materializing” gender. Thr ough the use of handkerchiefs, codpieces and beards, “the gendered body is quite literally reformed or reconstituted” (24). Beard growth alone did not define earl y-modern masculinity. Rather, beards worked as a single component of a larger colle ction of materials and actions, such as “the voice, swords, armor and daggers” (88). Fish er cleverly uses the metaphor of “weights on a scale” to describe how various material items can shift an individual back and forth from “male” to “female” (7, 9, 111). As I men tioned earlier, this essay seeks to examine beardlessness as an ideological act, rather th an beard growth. The distinction is subtle, due to the inability of some participants to grow facial hair because of youth or physical reasons other than age. Even the term, bear d-less-ness emphasizes th e lack or negativity (less) of a state of being (ness) However, the distinction is cr ucial. Fisher’s project, and perhaps even Butler’s, is to ground gender cons truction in physical materialization: my various styles of beards and beardlessness moving in and out of fashion throughout Europe during the early-modern period.


10 analysis suggests that the negative state ope rates with similar eff ect. The absence of material constructs gender, which, in turn, s uggests that the action of materializing or the drive to materialize gender rather than the material itself is the key. That said, the overwhelming majority of work in this fiel d has focused on beards, and I am obliged to examine beards in order to glimps e the nature of beard-less-ness. Fisher capably explores the ideological forces clustered around beards, and while I do not wish to re-examine those forces, I do wish to briefly restat e his findings. An essential component of the beard’s ideology involves the early modern conception of nature, or perhaps more appropriately, Nature. While science begins to emerge in this period, religion still possesses considerable if not hegemoni c force. Religious truth precedes physical reality, and, in essence, creat es it. Fisher’s analysis of early modern anatomical and physiognomy text s reveals that the religious patriarchal ideology dictated how physical form was interpreted. For exam ple, “women were ‘born to subjection’”; therefore, “they have no beards” (105). Earl y modern writers began with the social order as described by theology, defined “Nature” as the perfect order begun at Creation, and any object or action that did not fit into that scheme became deviation. This distinction is crucial because, as Fisher points out, early modern texts about beards are significantly proscriptive in nature rather than descriptive. Beard growth is less a physical indication of ma nhood than a cultural indication. Men are encouraged to grow facial hair in order to express thei r cultural and religious place. Specifically Protestant texts openly encour age beard growth, and Protesta nt clergy grew beards to differentiate themselves from clean-shave n Catholics “as an indication of their marriageability and reproductive capacity” (100). Fisher cites visual images such as the


11 title page to John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563) which shows bearded Protestants burning at the stake and wavi ng palms and blowing trumpets in heaven, opposite cleanshaven and tonsured Catholics celebrating ma ss, and, more importantly, suffering in hellfires along with demons (101)7. He also cites a similar woodcut depicting Archbishop Thomas Cranmer pulled by his beard from his pulpit by a beardless monk (100). Religious ideology operated in tandem with pa triarchy and militarism. Because facial hair was seen as an “outgrowth of the produc tion of semen” (107), early modern writers associated it with the abi lity to father children, and, in fact, many of Shakespeare’s comments related to beards stem from this interpretation.8 Fisher cites the constant use of “martial language and metaphors” in describing beards in su ch texts as Jacques’ seven ages of man speech in As You Like It Helkiah Crooke’s Microcosmographia (1615), Nicholas Udall’s Thersites (1537) and the pamphlet Haec Vir (1620). Fisher does not cover one ideological force at work, and that is an economic one. Mark Albert Johnston, in his 2005 essay “Playi ng with the Beard,” argues that the beard acted “as a means of specifically economic (gender) differentiati on” (82). Johnston arrives at this conclusion through Stephen Orge l’s research on the nature of adult male desire for both women and boys during the period. In Impersonations Orgel sees women and boys as operating in the same economic category regarding early modern England’s patriarchal society; “the dis tinction,” he notes, between me n and the category of women and boys lies “between fathers or guardians and children, not between the sexes” (13). As such, women and boys become objects of desire, desire rooted in their role as a “medium of exchange” (103). For Johnston, then, the beard becomes “a marker of both 7 Ironically, the demons appear to ha ve beards due to their beastly faces. 8 Fisher cites as his example Troilus’ white hair inside his beard (Troilus and Cressida, 1.2.146-51).


12 economic differentiation” of men from boys, but also one of “similitude” of men as fellow patriarchs (80). Johnston marginalizes the religious, militari stic and patriarchal ideologies present in the use of beards to denote masculinity; the economic force is key, as the beard operates “only inasmuch as that masculinity is understood as economically constituted” (82). Johnston makes a very surprising claim: “apprentices were dissuaded from sporting beards by charges levied against th eir Masters” (92), taken from Sidney Young’s Annals of the Barber Surgeons of London (1890). For Johnston, this regulation indicates that the transition from beardlessness to b eard-wearing had little to do with physiological changes brought on by puberty but instead with the transition from apprentice to master. More importantly, the regulation of beard growth demonstrates that beardlessness operated as a “sign” and as a “marker” in and of itself in the cons truction of masculinity, as opposed to a lack of masculinity. To ha ve no beard indicated not an individual’s age but his place within the early modern English economy dominated by notions of patriarchy, and, if Johnston’s r eading is correct, a “sign” imposed upon apprentices by the patriarchy. The transition of the beardless young male to bearded master is clearly one fraught with anxiety. For the youth, the transition represents moving out of the vulnerable, dependent child position and into the role of independent member of the patriarchy with its incumbent rights and priv ileges. Such anxieties for the youth would be understandable, but Orgel argues that patriarc hs, indeed the patriarc hy itself, existed in a constant state of instability and threat. “Authority exists only when it is exerted,” Orgel writes, “and it must be exerted over someone” (123). Patriarchal pow er relationships did


13 not exist as vertically as the Great Chain of Being that it soug ht to mimic: “the patriarchy of fathers impinged on that of husbands, both were at odds with the patriarchy of the crown, and even the crown could be charged with usurping the prerogatives of God the Father” (124). This system of alternating fa ther-figures results in every male individual “feminized in relation to someone” (124). And yet, the system relied on at least one male child, usually the eldest, taking on the father’s role, and even that was not entirely certain. The key then to understanding the role s of beards and beardlessness in constructing gender in the early modern peri od lies in understanding this transition from youth to adulthood. For the post-modern mind, the transition is based on age. Voting rights are awarded in the United States at the ag e of 18; military service begins at that age as well. Individuals may purchase alcohol at 21. The right to marry without parental consent begins at 18 for most states, with Mi ssissippi at the lowest – 17 for males, 15 for females – and Nebraska at the highest – 199. For the early modern period, this transition was not so exact. In Adolescence and Youth in Early Modern England (1994), Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos states that the transiti on “could continue well after a child reached the age of discretion, his twen tieth birthday, the legal age of 21, and even beyond” (32). Rather than age, two signifi cant events signaled the transi tion from youth to adulthood. The first is marriage, which Ben-Amos descri bes as the “single most important” (208). The second involves the shift from an apprenti ceship state to that of an independent member of the economy. The transition fo llows this pattern: “the acquisition of negotiating skills; the evoluti on of material preoccupations and concerns for betterment; and the assumption of responsibilities fo r other people, both young and old” (208). 9 Puerto Rico’s age for marriage without parent al consent, interestingly, begins at 21.


14 This tension and anxiety are apparent in th e cycle of Shakespeare’s plays that deal with beardless young men searching for marriag e and the enfranchisement into patriarchy and independence that marriage represents. One may argue that Shakespeare addresses this anxiety due to the number of apprentices in his audience becau se the presence of apprentices in the audience has been well esta blished by previous scholars; for example, Andrew Gurr catalogues references to apprenti ces in the audience in his second appendix in Playgoing in Shakespeare’s London including William Fleetwood (215), Henry Chettle (216), Thomas Nashe (217) and J ohn Fletcher (236). Gurr’s appendix also includes references to youths in the a udience: Anthony Munday (214), Stephen Gosson (215), Edmund Spenser (218) John Fletcher ( 235, 236) and T. Gainsford (239). Charles Whitney documents references in guild reco rds in his essay, “Usually in the Werking Daies,” and Steve Rappaport does also with court minutes in his 1989 World Within Worlds Not only were apprentices a significant portion of the audience, but the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, like all acting troupes in the period, are deeply implicated in the apprenticeship system. With no guild of th eir own, actors relied on membership in other guilds in order to call on the privileges of being a freeman in the city. David Kathman has catalogued the various gu ilds in which actors and play wrights claimed membership, notably Edward Alleyn (Innholders), R obert Armin (Goldsmith), Ben Jonson (Bricklayer), Thomas Kenda ll (Haberdasher), Anthony Mu nday (Draper), Richard Tarlton (Haberdasher and Vinter), Francis Walpole (Merchant Taylor), and John Webster (Merchant Taylor), among others. Kathman also suspects that Richard Burbage called on his father’s membership in the Joiners (21). The apprenticeship system worked for actors


15 because, as Kathman notes, “freeman were under no obligation to pr actice the trades of their companies, and a substantial minority made their living in other ways” (3). Secondly, members of a guild were allowed to train their apprentices in whatever skills they practiced at the time, rather than the sk ills generally associated with the guild. As Kathman points out, one could be “apprenticed and freed as a Goldsmith, for example, without his ever having handl ed a piece of gold” (3). As for apprentices, most were bound to the Drapers, Goldsmiths or Grocers, either to a freeman member of the acting tr oupe or, as Kathman states, “a third party who agreed to let his apprentice be trained as an actor” (4). These apprentices, as is commonly argued, performed female roles. Kathman observes that “many apprentices went on to become sharers or hired men” (4), but Orgel disagrees. He notes that of the boy apprentices who played female roles, only seven are recorded as having graduated to adult actors (69).10 More fascinating for Orgel are the ideological implications surrounding the grafted use of the guild system onto the acting troupes. To be gin with, the si milarities in power relationships between the master a nd apprentice and the hus band and wife have already been identified by Sue-Ellen Case Because records ex ist for only seven apprentices who played female roles becoming principal actors, Orgel suggests that this indicates “two different classes of actors, ” specifically “men and boys, masters and indentured servants” (69). Secondly, this us e of the guild system, or perhaps even the abuse helps to explain the sometimes acrimoni ous relationship between the guilds and 10 The performers in the boy companies did not participate in the apprentice model. Kathman reports that boy companies used contracts lasting three years, “below the seven-year minimum required by the 1562 statute” (16). Orgel records that boy performers could actually be impressed into service (66).


16 the acting troupes. The guilds commonly complained that plays tempted their apprentices away from their work, and Ch arles Whitney has capably catalogued the various antiplaygoing ordinances pronoun ced by London guilds in his 1999 article, “Usually in the Werking Daies.” Orgel argues that these complaints are also charged by two issues. First, the troupes acted as “unl icensed guilds, and even antiguilds” (67). Second, the troupes usurped “one of the most visible perquisites of the craftsmen’s companies” – the privilege of pe rforming the mystery plays (67). This ambivalent relationship between the acting troupes and the guild system helps to explain Shakespeare’s commentary on beardlessness in Midsummer Night’s Dream During the production of the play with in a play, the rude mechanicals face a crisis in their performance of “Pyramus and Thisbe”: how to use their beard props. Quince selects Bottom to play Pyramus, while Fl ute is cast as Thisbe. “Nay, faith,” Flute objects, “let not me play a wo man. I have a beard coming” ( MND 1.2, 41-2). When Bottom offers to perform the role, Quince tells him, “You can play no part but Pyramus, for Pyramus is a sweet-faced man” ( MND 1.2, 77-8). Now excited, Bottom asks “What beard were I best to play it in?”—whereby he launches into an inventory of available props: “I will discharge it in either your straw-colore d beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-c rown-color beard, your perfect yellow” ( MND 1.2, 81-2, 84-87). While the text does not specify Bo ttom’s beardlessness, there are many indications that he is. Bottom states that he can hide his face behind a mask to play Thisbe. Fisher notes that such a mask w ould have resembled the “chinclout” worn by Follywit in Thomas Middleton’s A Mad World My Masters or the “eggshell vizards”


17 listed in the Revels Office i nventories (93). Were Bottom beardless, the audience could clearly see the ineptitude of the rude mechanicals as play-m akers, with the bearded man playing the woman and the bear dless man offering to hide his face (for no reason, if he has no beard) but then dressing himself with a false beard to play the man. However, Bottom can indeed be bearded in the play, with his impulse to wear a second beard similarly as ludicrous but perhaps not as obvious To this I suggest Quince’s jest that “Some of your French crowns have no hair at all, and then you will play barefaced” ( MND 1.2, 88-9), which is a reference to the baldness due to syphilis (or the “French disease”), would indicate that because Bottom currently has no facial hair, he is already suited to play the part of a syphilitic, a si ght-gag the early modern audience would have found delightful. Lastly, in his scene with Titania’s fairy servants, Bottom remarks, “I must to a barber’s, monsieur, for methinks I am marvelous hairy about the face” ( MND 4.1, 23-4). Had Bottom begun the play with a beard, feeling hair upon his face would not seem altogether marvelous. Fisher adds two other critiques which reinforce the textual clues to Bottom’s beardlessness. Having Bottom begin the play beardless reinforces his transformation: “his cross-species metamorphosis would ha ve been compounded by his gender change from boy to man” (92). Bottom’s name also recalls the English tr adition of comparing the cheeks of the face to the buttocks, a crude joke made infamous by Chaucer’s “Miller’s Tale.” Fisher not es as an example a sixteen th-century woodcut “of a young man bending over, exposing his buttocks to the viewer, with a caption that reads: ‘to drink with me, be not afferde, for here ye see growth never a berde’” (92).


18 The criticism here is evidently pointed to the guilds and their inability to accurately perform theater, and, interestingly enough, Shakespeare’s strategy involves the rude mechanicals inability to perform gender. That the rude mechanicals, guild members themselves, cannot reproduce their very same status of adult males, freemen, patriarchs, is openly ridiculed. This lack of skill is ma de even more evident by the rude mechanicals actual performance, in which Tom Snout the Ti nker declares first his actual name and then his intention to play the part of a wall ( MND 5.1, 155). Bottom the Weaver as Pyramus openly thanks the “courteous wall” for creating a chink by spreading his fingers apart ( MND 5.1, 177). In order not to frighten the la dies, Snug alerts th e audience that he is not a lion but instead a Joiner ( MND 5.1, 221). As Hippolyta de clares, “This is the silliest thing that ever I heard” ( MND 5.1, 209). Indeed, and Shakespeare’s withering satire is devastating. But does Shakespeare’s harsh critique a pply to the apprentices as well? Many would point to Hamlet’s renowned distas te for the groundlings, but Shakespeare’s portrayal of apprentices is t ypically kind. For example, in 2 Henry VI (1589-1592), Shakespeare has Peter Thumb, an apprentice armo rer, fight against th e charge of treason, as accused by his master. In a trial by co mbat, Peter prevails, and the King draws him close with the words, “Come, fe llow, follow us for thy reward” ( 2 Henry VI 2.3, 105). In fact, Mark Thornton Burnett notes that unfla ttering portrayals of apprentices are rare before 1600. “Most often,” Burnett writes, “the impassioned and easily inflamed apprentice is treated either humorously or exhilaratingly” (31). Andrew Gurr likewise notes that theaters actively advertised to apprentices using “ha nd-written playbills” ( Stage 11).


19 Despite their rowdy reputation, appren tices had sufficient education and sophistication to appreciate well-written a nd well-performed plays. According to David Cressy, only 18% of apprentices could not si gn their name (129). Burnett points to the production of an entire literary subculture for apprentices, including “jest-books, ballads, didactic tracts, satirical pamphlets and plays” (27). Burnett also notes that apprentices in “more prestigious companies” could have easily afforded the admission into the theaters, and he supposes that those apprentices to “smaller companies lower down the scale . stole money to meet the admission charges or slipped into the thea ters without paying” (28). Ben-Amos also records a difference in lifestyles for apprentices in “mercantile and distributive trades”: she writes, “They dresse d differently and more luxuriously and spent more money . on clothing, hats, stockings or gloves which distinguished them as merchants, and sometimes even as courtiers and gentlemen” (197). However, the lifestyle of the apprentice wa s not a secure one, especially in the 1590s. The years 1594 to 1597 experienced poor harvests (Rowse 399), and incessant wars in the later years of Elizabeth’s rei gn ruined England’s finances (380). Rents increased, as did immigration of Dutch and Fr ench Protestant refug ees (228). The period also demonstrated a rise in xenophobia, as se en in the pamphlets such as the notorious Dutch churchyard libel that brought down Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe. During this time, apprentices were sorely presse d. Burnett reports th at at least half of apprentices “failed to serve for seven years” (37). For Burnett, this timing is essential; he identifies the rise of a genr e of literature written for appr entices encouraging them to persevere through their service and to identify with nationalistic goals. Most apprentice literature from the late 1590’s sought to enco urage “the civic virtues of hard work and


20 obedience” (28), and the completion of one’s apprenticeship became a “moral necessity” (37). Shakespeare’s beardless male heroes fall in to this category of apprentice literature both in theme and in time period (late 1590s ). His marriage dramas become more problematic, and the struggles that the b eardless hero must face become framed in economic situations. Not only must the bear dless youth persevere through the transition from dependent child to independent patr iarch, but he must also acquire economic security as well. This struggle informs Bassani o’s journey to acquire Portia as his wife in Merchant of Venice and the relationship between Ant onio and Bassanio is an idealized version of mentor to apprentice. Antonio is explicitly labeled as a merchant, but like the merchants of the mid1590’s, he is a merchant with troubles. The play opens with his expressions of sadness, which his friends quickly assume is due to financial woes. These questions of economic troubles foreshadow the real crisis in Ac t Three, when word reaches Venice that Antonio’s vessels have foundered. Shakespear e identifies one wreck in particular, local to London, in the Goodwin Sands in the Thames estuary ( MV 3.1, 2-6). Antonio claims that his sadness is not due to economic worri es, but when asked whether he might be in love, Antonio vehemently denies it. Howe ver, Antonio certainly holds affection for Bassanio, a youth whom he subsidizes. Their pa rting in Act 2, Scene 3 is sweetly tender, and Antonio’s only request at losing his pound of flesh to S hylock is that Bassanio be present at his death. Bassanio, though, clearly faces economic problems, as he wastefully spends the money Antonio lends him. He consciously admits that his situation stems from his


21 profligate nature: “I have di sabled mine estate by someth ing showing a more swelling port than my faint means would grant continuance” ( MV 1.1, 123-5). However, he convinces Antonio to continue investing in him, using th e metaphor of firing a second arrow in the general direction of the first in order to find both. Keep investing in me, he begs, so that he can one day “get clear of all the debts I owe” ( MV 1.1, 134). The solution to Bassanio’s problem lies in marriage, an action, as noted earlier, that will ease a youth’s transition from a dependent into fully enfranchised guardian and member of the patriarchy. Bassanio has identified Portia, the heiress of Belmont as his intended, and his praise of her speaks less of her beauty, “she is fair and, fairer than that word,” or character, “of wondrous virtues,” than her wealth and property ( MV 1.1, 161, 162), for she is a “golden fleece,” troubled by “ma ny Jasons come in quest of her” ( MV 1.1, 169, 172). In this opening act, Shakes peare positions Portia as a commodity to be won. Portia is destined by her late father’s will to be given to the applicant who can decipher the puzzle of the three chests. As Port ia bemoans, she is a “worthless self” ( MV 2.9, 18) and can make no choices on her own. This commoditization of women through marriage is developed throughout the play. For exampl e, Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, is also portrayed as property. Lorenzo woos her, but his motives are unclear. He sees her as “fair,” yes, but he seems more concerned a bout the “gold and jewels she is furnished with” ( MV 2.4, 31). In describing their elopement, Lo renzo claims that he “shall take her from her father’s house” ( MV 2.4, 30) and even goes so far as to brag that he and his friends “shall please to pl ay the thieves for wives” ( MV 2.6, 24). When Shylock discovers Lorenzo’s theft, he conflates his daughter with his wea lth, crying out in the


22 streets of Venice, “My daughter! Oh, my du cats! Oh my daughter! Fled with a Christian! Oh, my Christian ducats!” ( MV 2.8, 14-5). This connection between Shylock’s daughter and his wealth is compounded when Shylock hears of Jessica’s profligate spending in Genoa. Shylock laments the “diamond gone” worth two thousand ducats, and wishes that Jessica “were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear!” ( MV 3.1, 79-80, 83-4), exclaiming, “I shall never see my gold again” ( MV 3.1, 103-4). Jessica is equated as jewels in this scene, but so is Shylock’ s late wife. Jessica tr ades a ring for a monkey, and Shylock identifies that ring: “It was my turquoise; I had it of Leah, when I was a bachelor. I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys” ( MV 3.1, 113-5). His misery from learning of the loss of his wife’s ring could be seen as sentimental, or given a more patriarchal interpreta tion, the misery could result from the loss of his property, both ring and daughter. The tur quoise ring foreshadows the ri ng trick played by Portia on Bassanio, but, more importantly, it underscore s the essential quality of marriage for the early modern man, that of entry into the ranks of fully enfranchised patriarchs. To achieve Bassanio’s transition from economically bankrupt dependent to enfranchised male adult patriarch, Antonio and Bassanio must negotiate an unforgiving economic force in the character of Shylock. Shylock’s position within the play is an ambiguous one. His oft-quoted speech befo re Antonio, “If you prick us, do we not bleed,” reveals an intensely human characte r, far removed from Marlowe’s Barabas or the Vice character tradition from which Shyl ock was drawn. Even so, Shakespeare takes many opportunities to reinforce Shylock’s role signifying the harsh economic realities of the late 1590s. During the tr ial, the Duke labels Shyloc k as a “stony adversary, an inhuman wretch uncapable of pity, void a nd empty of from any dram of mercy” ( MV 4.1,


23 3-5). Antonio equates him with a force of na ture, telling Bassanio that he “may as well go stand upon the beach and bid the main flood bate his usual height,” to “use question with the wolf why he hath made the ewe bl eat for the lamb,” to “forbid the mountain pines to wag their high tops and to make no noi se when they are fretten with the gusts of heaven,” rather than “question the Jew” ( MV 4.1, 70-77). Shylock himself chooses not to answer why he would rather have Antonio’ s flesh rather the three thousand ducats, choosing to “say it is my humor” ( MV 4.1, 43). “Which is the merchant here, and which is the Jew?” Portia asks ( MV 4.1, 172). Shakespeare defines two separate economic for ces at work by creating a crisis between Antonio and Shylock. Shylock explicitly id entifies Antonio’s business practices as a point of animosity: “He lends out money gratis and brings down the rate of usance here with us in Venice” ( MV 1.3, 41-2). If Shylock is portrayed as unforgiving, then Antonio is forgiving to a fault, at least to his Chri stian associates. He c ontinues to invest in Bassanio, even when it appears Bassanio can never repay the debt: “My purse, my person, my extremest means lie all unlocked to your occasions” ( MV 1.1, 138-9). Antonio is more than willing to stake hi s very life in his young ward. As economic forces go, he is the opposite extreme from Shylock. During a period of economic downturn, when at least half of apprentices ca nnot fulfill their years of service, staging a conflict between a heroic patron willing to sa crifice all versus an unforgiving force of nature bent of exacting legal obligations to the letter would have won approval from Shakespeare’s audience. Antoni o and Bassanio are more than ju st an idealized version of master and apprentice; Shakespeare uses them as a critique of an economic system that exploits apprentices and then puni shes them for their failures.


24 Antonio is saved by an unlikely source: Por tia, dressed in men’s apparel. Stephen Orgel and Charles Shapiro have capably examined the theoretical implications of crossdressing in early modern theater. I argue that something more obvious is at work. Shakespeare places on stage a young, beardl ess apprentice to play an actual young beardless apprentice. Yes, the play depi cts a young woman transg ressing early modern gender taboos by mimicking a man and performing as a man within a misogynistic, patriarchal system, but the visual “doubl e-entrendre” should not be dismissed too quickly. The audience surely was not so blind as to overlook a young man dressed as himself. The play even calls attention to the oddity of a youth part icipating as a jurist: “let his lack of years be no impediment to let him lack a reverend estimation, for I never knew so young a body with so old a head” ( MV 4.1, 159-62). Shakespeare exhibits onstage a young, beardless apprentice using his wit and ingenuity to save his master from a remorseless economic and legal bind. Wh ile the differences between Antonio and Shylock serve as a critique of unforgiving ma sters within the apprentice system, Portia’s victory also reveals to apprentices in the audience their role w ithin the system and charges them with their task in saving thei r masters during the economic crisis of the time. The ring trick also performs a role. Th e ring is bestowed on Bassanio, not only as a vow of fidelity to his wife but also as a symbol of the power of their marriage to transition Bassanio from depende nt youth to enfranchised pa triarch. “This house, these servants, and this same myself are yours, my lord’s,” Portia proclaims, adding, “I give them with this ring” ( MV 3.2, 170-2). When Portia in the guise of Balthazar asks for the ring as payment for freeing Antonio, Bassanio in itially balks. Antonio then convinces


25 Bassanio to break his wife’s vow: “My lord Bassanio, let him have the ring. Let his deservings and my love withal be va lued ‘gainst your wi fe’s commandment” ( MV 4.1, 447-9). Clearly, the legal and political vows between men outrank those of men to women. As Bassanio later claims, “I was beset with shame and courtesy. My honor would not let ingratitude” ( MV 5.1, 217-8). The breaking of the vow is, of course, admitted by Bassanio when Portia asks to see the ring. Revealing her role as Balthazar, Portia also informs Bassanio that his place in her marriage bed is forfeit because he bestowed their ring on “another man.” Once again, Antonio steps in to restore the marriage. In order to begin the marriage, Antonio offers up his flesh. Now, he places his “soul upon the forfeit, that your lord will nevermore break faith advisedly” ( MV 5.1, 251-2). Portia gives Antonio the ring, and Antonio transf ers it to Bassanio. The significance of the ring trick re lates not only to Bassanio and Portia but also to Bassanio and Antonio. Antonio confronts the two separate vows: one to uphold the economic bargain by which Bassanio can transition into the state of enfranchised patriarch, the second to uphold the moral and legal integr ity of Bassanio’s marriage and Bassanio’s moral duty to act as a virtuous patriarch for their new family. During a time when the vows between masters and apprentices were obviously failing, The Merchant of Venice whose very title identifies An tonio and not Bassanio, Portia or Shylock as at least the titular hero of the play, illu strates the virtues of upholding vows, even when those vows threaten body and soul11. 11 Such a claim, of course, does not diminish Portia’s role as heroine. For example, Julius Caesar dies at the beginning of Act 3, and yet Shakespeare chose the title, Julius Caesar, rather than Brutus Antonio does, however, seem to fade into the drama as a plot point when instead he should be seen as an extremely pivotal role.


26 The focus of The Merchant of Venice is intensely economic and represents Shakespeare’s foray into apprentice literature. But what of the beardless nature of the apprentice? Is Bassanio’s character determined by the text to be performed beardless? Nerissa describes Bassanio as “a scholar and a soldier” ( MV 1.2, 111). Soldiers, as mentioned earlier, are typically identified w ith beards. On the other hand, Shylock calls Bassanio a “good youth” ( MV 4.1, 141) which implies beardl essness. The text is not explicit, but Bassanio’s role as Antonio’s de pendent, along with his perilous transition into that of husband and patriarch, argues for cefully that Bassanio would have mimicked the beardless apprentice. Similarly, Portia’s portrayal of the young male jurist underscores early modern notions of beardlessness. As quoted earlier, Shakespeare emphasizes Balthazar’s “lack of years” with “so young a body.” Shakespeare’s d ecision to portray Port ia’s Balthazar as a talented youth rather than a patriarch is ex tremely significant. He certainly could have dressed the apprentice actor in a beard prop, but doing so would have dangerously challenged the social order of the time. Port ia dressing as a patriarch would have been too much for the audience to accept. As Da vid Cressy points out in “Gender Trouble and Cross-Dressing in Early Mode rn England,” the very thought of women dressing as men inspired damning pamphlets from Phillip Stubbes and the anonymous author of Hic Mulier Shakespeare is able to circumvent this controversy by having Portia shift from female to young boy, both of which, as Orgel argues, occupied the same sexual category. This shift is technically a “non-shift” and is essential for Shakespeare’s examination of the economic plight of beardless apprentices b ecause it restricts the play’s performance to emphasize the resourceful nature of the “not yet men” coming to the patriarch’s rescue.


27 The Merchant of Venice then, centers on the economic forces that determine manhood with beardlessness in the background. Much Ado About Nothing on the other hand, moves beardlessness to the foreground. He re Shakespeare is quite specific about the portrayal of beards and beardlessness, more so than in any of his other plays. The character of Claudio, whose interest in marry ing Hero motivates much of the plot, is chided by Benedick as “My Lord Lackbeard” (Ado 5.1, 189). He is also referred to as “boy” several times throughout the play, and his martial abilities are of ten contrasted with his youth, as in the opening lines of the pla y, “He hath borne hims elf beyond the promise of his age, doing in the figure of a lamb the feats of a lion” ( Ado 1.1, 13-5). Unlike The Merchant of Venice the transition of youth th rough marriage is not an issue in Much Ado About Nothing Claudio seems to be enfranchised through both his prowess as a warrior and his st atus as a count. Also, Benedi ck revels at the thought of bachelorhood. While Merchant of Venice focuses on the need for a familial quality within the master-apprentice relationship, Much Ado About Nothing evaluates the visual forces that operate in assessing an individual. As mentioned ear lier, based on the research by Fisher and Johnston, the beard acted as a vi sual signifier of a young male’s transition from dependent apprentice to enfranchised pa triarch. Shakespeare que stions, not just the beard’s significance as a visual signifier, but all visual signifier s. In terms closer to an early modern vocabulary, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing explores the gap between the semblance of virtue and the in ternal qualities of vi rtue: or, as Claudio describes it, “the sign and semblance of her honor” ( Ado 4.1, 32). David Bevington suggests that the play on words in the title, of Nothing’s pronunciation in an early modern London accent as noting indicates an emphasis on


28 overhearings which “are constant and ar e essential to the process of both misunderstanding … and clarif ication” (219). Actuall y, Shakespeare repeatedly emphasizes the problem of misread ing visual clues rather than mishearing. Masks play a significant role in the texts. During the carn ival masque, characters both disguise their identities and exploit the oppor tunity to communicate openly. The use of masks in Act 2, Scene 1 foreshadows the use of masks dur ing the wedding trick in Act 5, Scene 4. Secondly, characters both question and unquesti onably rely on visual performances. For example, Don Pedro, Claudio and Leonato are ab le to trick Benedick into believing that Beatrice’s disdain is actually a mask for her affections in Act 2, Scene 3. As Don Pedro remarks, “she doth but counterfeit” ( Ado 2.3, 106). Ironically, Benedick accepts the lie because of Leonato’s part in the trick: “I should think this a gull but that the whitebearded fellow speaks it. Knavery cannot, su re, hide himself in such reverence” ( Ado 2.3, 122-4). Thirdly, Don John’s deception i nvolving Borachio’s wooing Margaret as Hero can only work when Don Pedro and Cl audio “see” the scene. Don John’s claim is not enough. Both men must visually witness Bo rachio speech to a woman in Hero’s garb at Hero’s window. Lastly, both Claudio a nd Leonato are convinced of Hero’s guilt because they misread the blush on her cheeks on hearing the claim of her infidelity. Claudio notes, “Behold how like a maid she bl ushes here! Oh, what authority and show of truth can cunning sin cover it self withal! Comes not that blood as modest evidence to witness simple virtue?” ( Ado 4.1, 33-7). Leonato agrees: “Could she here deny the story that is printed in her blood?” ( Ado 4.1, 121-2). Clearly, for Much Ado About Nothing visual clues are horribly susp ect. Claudio himself asks, “Are our eyes our own?” ( Ado 4.1, 71).


29 The role of beards in determining masculin ity is openly questioned in this play, as noted by Beatrice’s comments on marrying a beardless man introduced in the opening paragraphs of this essay. Much Ado About Nothing offers a unique perspective on the power of the beard by having Benedick seemi ngly appear in Act 2, Scene 3 after having removed his beard. According to David Bevington’s gloss of Act 3, Scene 2 of Much Ado About Nothing Benedick “appears onstage beardless in this scene for the first time” (238n). Claudio remarks, “the old ornament of his cheek hath already stuffed tennis balls” ( Ado 3.2, 43-4). Shakespeare goe s to great lengths to foreshadow Benedick’s sudden change through Beatrice’s dialogue in Ac t 2, Scene 1: “Lord, I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face! I had rather lie in the woolen” ( Ado 2.1, 27-8). Benedick has shaved either to impress Beat rice, or, as Don Pedro asserts, to appear younger. Fisher suggests that “the actor who played Benedick would almost certainly have worn a false beard or a smooth mask in order to enact the mid-perfor mance shift” (119). The use of a chin mask is problematic, how ever. Would the Lord Chamberlain’s Men have resorted to such a prop after Shakespe are’s withering critique of this practice in Midsummer Night’s Dream ? Fisher adds that in Much Ado About Nothing “neither he [Benedick] nor any of the other characters call s attention to this fact in quite the same way as Bottom does” (119), but I disagree. While the rude mechanic als explicitly discuss the staging of beard-wearing a nd beardlessness, the actors of Much Ado About Nothing clearly draw the audience’s attention to the transition and its comic meaning. Reginald Reynolds, in his delightful 1949 book Beards suggests that Claudio’s quip about tennis balls relates to fashion commentary popular during the period, that “the


30 long, full beard” had become the “butt of ridi cule at the end of the sixteenth century” (236). While his work is intended for ente rtainment, Reynolds does cite a number of passages in early-modern drama as evidence of his claim. In Coriolanus Menenius declares, “your beards deserve not so honorable a grave as to stuff a botcher’s cushion or to be entombed in an ass’s packsaddle” ( Cor 2.1, 86-8). John Lyly in Midas has Motto offer to Licio, “Not onely the golden beard a nd euerie haire, (though it be not haire,) but a dozen beards, to stuffe two dozen of cushions” ( Midas 5.2, 169-72). In Thomas Dekker’s The Honest Whore, Part II Orlando claims, “if any man woul d ha lent but halfe a ducket on his beard, the haire of it had stuft a paire of breeches by this time” (3.2, 11-3). In his prose work, The Gull’s Hornbook Dekker describes the “Mahamet an cruelty . to stuffe breeches and tennis-balles with that, which, when its once lost, all th e hare-hunters in the world may sweat their hearts out, an d yet hardly catch it again” (238). Though Fisher does not connect Benedick ’s transformation with changes in fashion, he does discuss the ideological framewor k behind particular styl es of beards. He identifies the “spade beard” as representative of the soldier class, and that such a style is intended to “evoke fear” (95). Jacques, in his seven stages of man speech in As You Like It speaks of the “soldier, full of stra nge oaths and bearded like the pard” ( AYL 2.7, 1489), which Bevington glosses as “having bris tling mustaches like the leopard’s” (312n). The beard of a soldier, Fisher notes, is “figur ed as a weapon,” going so far as to describe it as a man’s “last line of ‘defen se’ against effeminization” (107). Rather than having Benedick appear clean-shaven before the play, wearing a false beard that he removes between Act 2, Scene 3 and reappearing 116 lin es later sans beard, or having Benedick cover his beard with a chin mask, I argue that Benedick instead


31 begins the play with a long fa lse beard resembling a soldier’s which he removes to reveal a shorter, trimmed, more-fashionable beard Much Ado About Nothing after all, begins with the heroes returning from war. The tr ansformation from war to domesticity is fitting for the drama and represents Benedick’s first move in surrendering to Beatrice. Benedick criticizes Claudio for making just such a tran sition: “I have known when there was no music with him but the drum and fife, and now had he rather hear the tabor and pipe” ( Ado 2.3, 12-5). Benedick’s performance on stag e as bearded or beardless, then, is a choice for each individual director, as is Bottom’s. Much Ado About Nothing represents, if not the height of Shakespeare’s examination of beards, at least his most visu al. Not only would the actors have visually performed various stages of bearded and b eardlessness, but the dialogue continually draws the audience’s attenti on to the performance. The ironic tone of the dialogue, especially Beatrice’s comments, suggests an open rebellion on Shakespeare’s part. The play does more than jest; it emphatically cri tiques the early modern custom of “noting” one’s gender through beard wearing. Claudio ex ists in a constantly shifting state between enfranchised lord and lackbearded apprentice. Benedick likewise shifts between burly warrior and fashionably trimme d domestic. But only focusing on the men in the drama, along with Beatrice’s comments, neglects the final beardless male on stage. Shakespeare devotes much stage time and dialogue to criti quing Hero’s face. As mentioned before, the male apprentice actor is perhaps dresse d in women’s garb and labeled a female character, but the audience surely recognized th e actor for what he wa s: a beardless male. Arguing otherwise creates an implication that such audiences were frankly stupid, an uncomfortable implication at best. Rather, Sh akespeare presents a circle of men, most of


32 the patriarchs, misreading Hero’s face and drawing conclusions which the audience has already been prepared to see as clearly false. The echo is hard to miss: early modern men are also examining the beardless male apprentices around them and arriving at similarly false conclusions. In Merchant of Venice Shakespeare examines the economic perils of transitioning from apprentice to patriarch, with so me attention to beardlessness. For Much Ado About Nothing he switches focus, with beardlessne ss at the forefront and the nature of patriarchy interrogated. As You Like It though, seems to balance both issues. Like Claudio, Orlando from As You Like It is specifically described as a beardless youth. Celia fears for Orlando during his wrestling matc h with Charles, crying out, “Alas, he is too young!” ( AYL 1.2, 145). Later, she describes him as a youth that “hath but a little beard” ( AYL 3.2, 205). Rosalind also remarks that Orlando has “a beard neglected, which you have not” and compares it to a “younger brother’s revenue” ( AYL 3.3, 365-8). As with Merchant of Venice As You Like It focuses on the perils that young men faced when transitioning from a dependant to an enfranchised patriarch. In As You Like It however, Shakespeare concentrates on the role of edu cation in this process. Here, Ben-Amos’ earlier comment is extremely appropriate. Th e transition of youth to adult follows this pattern: “the acquisition of ne gotiating skills; the evoluti on of material preoccupations and concerns for betterment; and the assumpti on of responsibilities fo r other people, both young and old” (208). All three components are directly addre ssed in this play. As Ben-Amos points out, early-modern conceptions of the difference between youth and adulthood centered on both Aristote lian and Augustinian arguments regarding experience. The youth relied too much on fee ling than reason; the adult, according to


33 Ben-Amos, “reached perfection as a result of organic evolution, but also as a result of social experience” (29). While Merchant of Venice examines marriage as the transitioning point, As You Like It explores the importance the period placed on experience. Through proper experience and re asoning, a youth could then transition into mature adulthood, thus allowing him to marry. This emphasis on the shift from boy to man is made all the more apparent by Shakespeare’s wordplay: Orlando de Bois. To the modern reader, Celia’s comment that Orlando has “but a little beard” suggests a confession that Orlando sports some sort of facial hair, enough to indicate that he possesses the essential generative quali ties of manhood (heat and seminal fluids) which a full beard should expose. Such a reading, however, reveals more about our contemporary tendency to categorize indivi duals based on genetic s or physiognomy, or an indication of a person’s character. For the early modern audience member, these categories are all too fluid. Both Celia and Rosalind insist on viewing Orlando as a youth despite the few hairs growing on his chin. Or, just as likely, if J ohnston’s interpretation of laws dictating that bearded apprentices be fined is correct, Orlando is a young man required to keep his beard shaved. Reginald Reynold’s text playfully explores the poor shaving experience an early modern man might face, one in which the absences of soap and safety razors would leave a man’s ch eek “as smooth as a toothbrush” (84). Orlando opens the play by claiming that his older brother, Oliver, purposely blocks him from gaining the education and e xperience necessary to become a gentleman. Jaques, the middle brother, Oliver “keeps at school” ( AYL 1.1, 5). As for Orlando, Oliver keeps him “here at home unkept,” for whic h Orlando claims, “differs not from the stalling of an ox” ( AYL 1.1, 8-10). Orlando notes that he is “not taught to make


34 anything,” and that Oliver s eeks to “mar that which God made, a poor unworthy brother of yours, with idleness” ( AYL 1.1, 29, 31-3). Orlando retreats into the idyllic, pastoral world of Duke Senior’s forest exile, and th ere he is supposedly educated by the Duke’s tutelage and Rosalind’s guidance in the art of romantic courtship. As with Portia and Beatrice, Shakespeare uses Rosalind to critique early-modern stage conventions in regards to youn g male apprentices as women. In As You Like It the “boy plays girl” confusion reaches critical mass with a masterful “boy plays girl plays boy plays girl” performance. Rosalind escapes her uncle into the forest under the guise of “Ganymede.” There she realizes that Orlando is in exile with her and is writing dreadful doggerel in her honor. She strikes a bargain with Orlando: he (she) will “pretend” to be Rosalind, and Orlando will then woo him (her) in her (his) place. Ganymede/Rosalind claims that his/her goal is to cure Orlando of his love for the lady. Orlando is clear that he “would not be cured” ( AYL 3.2, 413), but he engages in the deception none the less. While Shakespeare describes a situation in which a youth must receive education in order to know the values and skills n eeded to be an adult man, he emphatically undercuts it. Orlando claims to lack the qua lities of gentleness and yet throughout the play, he demonstrates that such qualities are already inherent in hi s character. At the moment of his exile, Orlando gains a dependent in Adam, his father’s old manservant. The dependency is mutual; Adam’s gold sponsor s Orlando’s escape into the forest. That Adam is a dependent Orlando must care for, ra ther than a servant who cares for him, is emphasized by Orlando hauling the old man onto his back and carrying him off stage at the end of Act 2, Scene 6, and by making his first duty the securing of food and shelter


35 for Adam before he will take food himself. Su ch behavior reveals a patriarch’s duty, that of managing a household of dependents. Oliver’s motivation for denying Orlando education is heightened by hi s understanding that Orlando is “gentle, never schooled and yet learned, full of noble device, of all sorts enchantingly beloved” ( AYL 1.1, 157-9). Jaques, Duke Senior’s melancholy compan ion, accedes that Orlando possesses a “nimble wit” ( AYL 3.2, 272). Lastly, at the point of his salvation, when a lioness is about to pounce on his persecutor Oliver, Orlando risks hi s life to defend his brother’s. These incidents demonstrate that the qualities of gentleness, honor and civic duty are characteristics inherent in th e individual and not learned. Secondly, Shakespeare implies that the courtl y skills that a gentleman is expected to learn are merely customs, fine clothes m eant to cover sin and corruption rather than outward expressions of virtue. Duke Seni or describes the court as “envious” and “painted pomp” ( AYL 2.1, 3-4). The champion of courtly values and sophistication is none other than Touchstone, the fool. As Touc hstone tries to demean Corin for his lack of courtly skills, Corin replies that such skil ls are useless: “Those that are good manners at the court,” Corin claims, “ar e as ridiculous in the count ry as the behavior of the country is most mockable at the court” ( AYL 3.2, 43-6). Lastly, one must question the value of Rosalind’s stra tegy of educating Orlando in wooing ladies. Shakespeare clearly parodies Ovidian and Petrarchan traditions with Silvius and Phoebe. Even Rosalind joins in the critique as she di agnosis Orlando’s loveclaims: Orlando lacks the “lean cheek,” “a blue eye, and s unken,” “a beard neglected,” “hose . ungartered,” “bonnet unbanded,” “sleeve unbuttoned,” and “shoe untied” ( AYL 3.3, 364-70). Both Rosalind and Orlando are sm itten with each other from the beginning


36 of the play. If Rosalind succeeds in curing Orlando, she does so by showing him that the courtly love tradition is no t a skill worth mastering. Again, as with Merchant of Venice and Much Ado About Nothing As You Like It fits easily within the genre of apprentice literature in that the economically troubled youth succeeds in transitioning from dependent to pa triarch. Orlando has been promised both wealth and education, but Oliver holds these things from him. As I mentioned earlier, such struggles were common for the apprentice in the years the mid to late 1590s, when almost half could not finish their apprentices hips. Like Orlando, a pprentices at the time found themselves at a loss, “not taught to make anything” and instead made to mar through “idleness.” As You Like It emphasizes that virtue might be an inherent trait, that the beardless young male is not automatica lly excluded from expressing those very virtues that characterize an enfranchised patriarch. Though he “hath but a little beard,” Orlando clearly shows that he understands the na ture of his role as a patriarch, supporting Adam as a dependent, wooing Rosalind th rough Ganymede, and both forgiving and defending his older brother Oliver. Similar to Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare questions whether outward appearance can nece ssarily define inward qualities. Orlando is, after all, shocked to find nobility in a fo rest environment, as is demonstrated by his initial assumption “that all thing had been sava ge here,” to brandish a sword and to put “on the countenance of stern commandment” ( AYL 2.7, 106-8). As You Like It marks the last of Shakespeare’s co medies that address the struggles of young, beardless male appren tices. One might describe Twelfth Night as Shakespeare’s “transition” from the “transition theme.” Twelfth Night includes a beardless young male ch aracter, Sebastian. Clearly he is performed beardless, as


37 Sebastian and Viola are so identical as to be mistaken for one another. Viola might wear a false beard, but such a prop would be incons istent with her claim to present herself “as an eunuch” to Orsino ( TN 1.2, 56). The play does not fo cus on Sebastian’s struggles so much as Viola’s, and Sebastian’s guardian and mentor, Antonio the sea captain, gives him little help in wooing Olivia. Viola’s love interest, Orsino, is already an enfranchised male, Duke of Illyria, and cl early does not need marriage to either Viola or Olivia to make him a patriarch. Between 1600 and 1601, then, Shakespeare ends his fascination with the struggles of beardle ss young men transitioning into fu lly enfranchised patriarchs. Before examining the forces the might have encouraged Shakespeare to abandon this popular and fertile theme after 1600, I w ill first point out that Shakespeare does address beardlessness in three other plays during the mid to late 1590s, and two after 1600. These particular instances, however, do not involves the struggles of beardless young men but helps illustrate th e seriousness of those scenes directed at apprentices in Merchant of Venice Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like It The most notable character is Prince Hal from the two Henry IV plays between 1596 and 1597. Shakespeare spends a great deal of energy in describing Prince Hal’s beardlessness in 2 Henry IV Falstaff describes him thus: [T]he juvenal, the Prince your master, whose chin is not yet fledge. I will sooner have a beard grow in the palm of my ha nd than he shall get one of his cheek, and yet he will not stick to say his face is a face royal. God may finish it when he will; ‘tis not a hair amiss yet. He may k eep it still at a face royal, for a barber


38 shall never earn a sixpence out of it; and yet he’ll be crowing as it he had writ man ever since his father was a bachelor ( 2H4 1.2, 19-27)12. Falstaff’s phrase “face royal” indicates a sepa rate category of beardless male characters in Shakespeare’s canon, men w ho by their royal blood are born masculine and do not require such symbols as beards to express th eir masculinity. Note that Falstaff claims that Prince Hal was “writ man ever since his fa ther was a bachelor.” Even before Hal’s conception, his masculinity was unquestioned. The same could be said about the Dauphin from King John written between 1594 and 1595: Ph illip the Bastard calls the Dauphin a “beardless boy” ( Jn 5.1, 69). In the later Antony and Cleopatra dated from 1606 to 1607, Cleopatra dismisses Octavi us as “scarce-bearded Caesar” ( Ant 1.1, 22). These men operate outside of the fray, out side the malleability and detachability evidenced by Bottom and Benedick. They de monstrate that Shakespeare understood that masculinity existed as an essential element of the royal male, perhaps as an element of the royal’s place in the Great Chain of Being. The last example, Troilus from Troilus and Cressida dated between 1601 and 1602, is more problematic. The play’s early ti tle pages labeled this drama a history, but Bevington categorizes the play as a “black comedy or comedy of the absurd” (455). Pandarus claims that Troilus “has not pa st three or four hairs on his chin” ( Tro 1.2, 113). Secondly, his chin is clear enough that Pa ndarus is able to identify a dimple ( Tro 1.2, 122). According to Pandarus, though, Helen states, “Here’s but two-and-fifty hairs on your chin, and one of them is white” ( Tro 1.2, 158-9). Though Troilus is beardless, 12 With these lines occurring in the second part of the history cycle, and with the many references to Prince Hal as a youth and a boy in both, I believe it is safe to assume he was likewise performed as beardless in 1 Henry IV as well.


39 Shakespeare seems to make little comment a bout its meaning. Instead, the play seems to focus on sexual exploits a nd political squabbles. What, then, accounts for the five to se ven year period in which Shakespeare dramatizes beardlessness? That Shakespeare is exploiting a physical characteristic of one of his fellow actors is certai nly a possibility. Shakespeare’s plays contain many specific references to a character’s physical appearan ce. Perhaps the most obvious examples are the short and dark and tall and fair boy a pprentices. The character of Hermia in Midsummer Night’s Dream is described as an “Eth iope” and a “tawny Tartar” ( MND 3.2, 256, 265), while Helena is teased for her heig ht, her “tall personage”: “are you [Helena] grown so high in his esteem because I am so dwarfish and low?” ( MND 3.2, 292, 294-5). In As You Like It Rosalind complains of being “uncommon tall” ( AYL 2.1, 113). W. W. Greg has also identified examples of physic al typecasting occurring with the actor John Sincler. Greg notes the constant references in 2 Henry IV to the thinness of the character Beadle, who is marked in early folios as be ing performed by “Sinkl o.” The presence of other characters similarly describe d as thin, such as Slender in The Merry Wives of Windsor and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night might also have been performed by him, which, Greg goes so far to suggest, “proves that Shakespeare was exploiting the remarkable appearance of a particular actor and was writing the part expressly for him” (266). The beardless adult male actor should be handled no differently from the two apprentices and John Sincler. He, too, may represent a particular actor. Secondly, an examination of the number of lines assigned to this actor reveals hi m to be a principal actor within the troupe. In fact, this actor te nds to receive the most lines, based on T. J.


40 King’s analysis of the plays. For example, in Merchant of Venice the character of Bassanio commands 329 lines, second only to Shylock at 335, followed by Antonio at 188 (King 184). In the case of Much Ado About Nothing Benedick holds the lead at 339 lines, followed by Leonato at 336, Don Pedro at 204, and our Lord Lackbeard Claudio at 272 (193). The beardless youth again dominates in As You Like It with Orlando having 304 lines to Touchstone’s 273 and Jaques’ 214 (202)13. Such a predominance of lines in the play, along with the significance of their ch aracters, suggests that the beardless male principal actor is perhaps Richard Burbage. Thomas W. Baldwin also identifies Burbage with these characters. His The Organization and Personnel of the Shakespearean Company is perhaps the best known work that attempts to assign actors to their particular roles and types. Despite the fact that his text first appeared in 1927, Baldwin is still fre quently cited today, although Gurr warns that his assertions are “overconfide ntly detailed” (15). For the period 1594 to 1603, Baldwin assigns the roles of Prince Hal, Bassanio, Claudio, Orlando and Orsino to Richard Burbage based on the fact that Burbag e is traditionally credited as the leading character actor of the troupe and because his age at th e time would roughly correspond to the ages of these characters. Rosalind and Celia identify Orlando’s ha ir as being reddish brown ( AYL 3.4, 7-9), which matches Burbage’s known portrait. With this theory in mind, Burbage would have created the ro les of the beardless young male up until Twelfth Night when he would have played Orsino to a younger, newer actor as Sebastian. Such a reading corresponds to Orsino’s signifi cance in the play, commanding 219 lines to Sebastian’s 123 (King 104). Baldwin reads Fals taff’s line, “Oh, for a fine thief, of the 13 Interestingly, the boy apprentice actor playing Rosalind has the most lines.


41 age of two-and-twenty or thereabouts” ( 1H4 3.3, 188-9) as a refere nce to Prince Hal’s age. Assuming Prince Hal to have been play ed by Burbage, Baldwin then calculates his birth to “about the summer of 1573” (239). Be rnard Capp has since calculated Burbage’s birth to 1569, making him 27 or 28 at the time of 1 Henry IV ’s initial performances. By the time Burbage played Orlando, with his “s mall beard,” he would have been between 31 and 32. Herbert Moller’s fascinating sociolog ical study, “The Accelerated Development of Youth: Beard Growth as a Biological Marker,” argues that “the facial hair of upperand middle-class males consistently matured seve ral years later in the life course than it does in the twentieth century” (753). The ex amples Moller cites for Shakespeare’s period range from 19 to 24 (753-5), whereas contem porary males can expect to begin shaving on average at 16 or 17 (749). Even with the la ter onset of facial hair, Burbage would have still been shaving in order to perform the Lo rd Lackbeard roles, a habit Shakespeare was sure to have witnessed and, given the nature of Benedick’s teasi ng, perhaps frequently mocked.14 Leonato’s remark, addressed to Cla udio, that Benedick looks younger, might have been a pointed jab at Bu rbage. Given that Capp’s date for Burbage’s birth places Burbage as the age of 26 when Falstaff declar es him to be 24 might explain the addition of the very pointed “or thereabouts” to the text. This analysis offers an admittedly speculative view into the operations of the acting troupe. If Burbage’s beard began to grow between the age range of 19 to 24, then it would have become an issue in time fo r Bottom’s discourse in 1594. Burbage might have begun to shave then, which would have countered Falstaff’s remark about Prince 14 Burbage could at least grow a beard, as his known portrait demonstrates (if his portrait is a representative likeness).


42 Hal that “a barber shall never earn a sixpence out of it,” as Burbage’ s barber would have surely earned his keep by then. Leonato’s remark in Much Ado About Nothing along with Beatrice’s jests, again would have been directed at Burbage. Lastly, though Orlando has a small beard, the apprenti ce boy actor in the role of Rosalind is able to say, “Why, God will send him more, if the man be thankful” ( AYL 3.2, 206-7). By the time Burbage steps on stage as Orsino, the beardless trait is gone, and the comments in Shakespeare’s plays begin to fade. This line of reasoning sugge sts that Shakespeare’s plays show evidence of social dialogue occurring between the actors as well as the characters. Was the audience “in on” the joke? Would the audience have res ponded knowingly? Perh aps the appeal that Shakespeare’s plays offer scholars an opportuni ty to glimpse the inner workings of the acting troupe, men whom scholars have de dicated their lives studying, represents a romantic hope that is difficult to avoid. Unfortunately, without further evidence, the argument that Shakespeare’s beardless young gallant is a biographical comment on Richard Burbage’s career will always be a pleasant speculation. The shifting of themes away from beardless young males acquiring place and position as enfranchised adults occurs simu ltaneously with a more notable shift in performance repertories occurring th roughout London after 1599, when the boys’ companies reopened at Paul’s and the Blackfria rs. The diversification of the theaters suggests an obvious diversification of thei r repertories whereby companies began to focus their attention on particular sub-sets within their audience. This assertion, however, remains problematic. Andrew Gurr, in fact, describes parsing out the “division between the popular and the priv ileged, when it came into existence and what playhouses


43 it separated people into” as “the most knotty item in this whole history of playgoing” (68). Gurr notes “no direct evidence of links between social polarisation and the playhouse repertories favoured by different cl asses of playgoer” ( 51). Instead, scholars have resorted to what Gurr coyly labels “inf erence” to locate the various audiences with their preferred ideologies, namely, “that citizen s were the standard kind of playgoer in the 1590s, but that they were a distinctly less normal feature of the later indoor playhouse audiences” (61). Gurr grounds his assessmen t of these changes by examining admission prices: the wealthy could afford the indoor theaters, while the rest remained with the amphitheaters (76). In deciphering Shakespeare’s use of th e beardless young male in conjunction with apprentices in his audience, this reliance on price to determine audience is equally problematic, as the Globe falls within the ca tegory of the amphithea ters. Brian Gibbons suggests that ideology might offer clues to audience compositions. In Jacobean City Comedy Gibbons notes that while the Red Bull, Sw an, Rose and Hope theaters tended to focus on themes of “cheerful patriotism and national satisfaction,” the Globe tended to side with Blackfriars and the Paul’s by expres sing discontent with publ ic affairs” (34). Gibbons then divides the late Elizabethan audi ence into two ideologi cal categories: “the first includes lawyers, members of the Comm ons, merchants and Inns of Court students, nobility and gentry, the second more pre dominantly tradesmen, citizens, labourers, carriers, apprentices, servingmen” (34). While the Globe Theatre and Shakespear e’s troupe, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, did transition towards dramas that pleased the court, Gurr notes that this transition “was gradual and unemphatic” (77), unlike the abru pt end in 1600 to the young beardless male


44 trope. Clearly, another factor is present. The connection may be due to the abrupt loss of the Inns of Court students to the boy theaters. According to Gurr, Shakespeare’s plays dealing with themes of love were “notably popular” with the Inns of Court students, who tended to keep “commonplace books of verse from Shakespeare’s comedies” (154). There is, however, little evid ence to suggest that the Inns of Court students suffered the same economic and social anxieties as the apprentices in transitioning from young beardless male dependent to fully enfranch ised, bearded member of the patriarchy. I suggest that the marriage comedies re present Shakespeare’s subtle genius in creating dramas for his heterogeneous audi ence. As Mark Thornton Burnett notes, Shakespeare would have been discouraged to dr aft performances that expressly illustrated apprentices directly achieving success becau se such works would have been seen as “potentially dangerous and subversive” (37). Burnett adds, “Plays in which apprentices performed valiantly could be read as inciteme nts to riot” (37). The genre of apprentice literature from the 1590s, then, tended to urge apprentices to participate peacefully and patiently within the patriarc hal economy. “Shortages and de arth,” Burnett argues, “were confronted in texts which rea ssured apprentices with tales of the riches and advantages they might gain if only in youth they rema ined moderate, discip lined, and abstemious” (36). Clearly, the struggles faced by Bassani o and Orlando fall within this category, as both characters are rewarded with “riches and advantages,” and both characters begin their trials in a state comple tely opposite from “moderate, di sciplined and abstemious.” Faced with a situation in whic h he had to appeal to two segments of his audience, one that attended the theater to a pplaud poetic and lyric expressions of romance, the other that


45 attended to appreciate ex pressions of beardless yo ung men acquiring fortune and position, Shakespeare crafts his marriage comedies to elegantly please both. Throughout this essay, I have focused my attention on the beard-less-ness in order to argue that such a state represented a category rather than simply a lack. Such a lack is normally associated with immature stages of physiological development in males, but based on Johnston’s reading of guild record s, the imposing of fines on apprentices created a class of males who were “strongly en couraged,” if not out right oppressed, into removing their facial hair in order to express physi cally this separate category. A clear dichotomy existed between those whom we t ypically describe as patriarchs—married males with dependents, either children or servants, enrolled as masters in guilds or privileged through aristocrac y—and their charges, young males, apprentices, striving to achieve enfranchisement within the early m odern economy. The issue may seem trivial, but this distinction provides an example of early modern gender being performed through a lack of material. The evidence suggests that the role of material, “matter” as Judith Butler so coyly uses the term, is much more complex and operates in a much less straight-forward manner than is generally recognized. Such a reading also suggests exciting new avenues for future exploration regarding the performance of gender in the ea rly modern period that are, unfortunately, beyond the scope of this thesis. For example, perhaps the drive to materialize gender, to reach a state of enfranchisement into the ec onomic and political framework that defined early modern manhood, is a more crucial elemen t in constructing gender than the material components. The unstable relationship between bearded male masters and their beardless apprentices indicates a power struggle. The conflict betwee n a mattered body, the


46 bearded master, versus that of the un-matte red body, the lack-bearded apprentices, recalls Michel Foucault’s king and prisoner in Discipline and Punishment In Foucault’s example, the king and prisoner participate in a “theoretical discour se, not in order to ground the ‘surplus power’ possessed by the person of the sovereign, but in order to code the ‘lack of power’ with which those subjec ted to punishment are marked” (29). While they are not exactly being “ punished” by their masters, th e beardless apprentices are clearly being used to define the boundaries of early modern masculinity. Granted, in this particular instance the major ity of those individuals marked as “youths” are unable to mark themselves into mascul inity until their bodies mature; however, the imposition of fines, as described by Johnston, indicate that at least some apprentices attempted to mark themselves as “men” without the economi c and political components necessary to maintain that status. More importantly, this system of fines sugge sts a reaction by those males in power to counteract that “usurpation.” Perhaps, then, power relations play a role in defining gender during the earlymodern period equally important as the mate rial component. Many of the materials Will Fisher notes as components of male gende r performance—swords, armor and daggers, for example—are weaponry. Johnston argues th at beards are more closely aligned with economic power, and elaborate codpieces woul d only be available to those individuals with the wealth to purchase them. Return ing to Fisher’s metaphor of “weights on a scale” to describe how individuals progre ss along a continuum between categories of male and female, I wonder if these “weights” are not simply expressions of power rather than simply material.


47 This struggle between bearded and beardl ess categories sugges ts a second element of Foucault’s examination of the physics of micro-power: he notes, “there is no power relation without the corre lative constitution of a field of knowledge” (27). Both parties, masters and apprentices, are clearly conscious of the role of beards as markers, and this consciousness pervades the examples of early mo dern culture left to us in various texts, not simply the Lord Chamberlain’s plays that I have examined. Shakespeare’s critique, however, reveals more than just a conscious understanding of the economic and political forces at work defining masculinity during this period. His cycle of plays in the mid to late 1590s seems to suggest a rebellion agains t such categories. He recognizes that the transition to adulthood is primarily driven by economic forces in Merchant of Venice He openly ridicules the custom of visually interpreting manhood in Much Ado About Nothing He suggests that the necessary requirem ents for an adult male, “the acquisition of negotiating skills; the evolution of material preoccupations and concerns for betterment; and the assumption of responsibil ities for other people, both young and old” (Ben Amos 208), are present in the individua l before education commences. The very term that Benedick attempts to use pejora tively against Claudio, “My Lord Lackbeard,” draws attention to these two cen tral elements: power, as Claudio is a count, a “lord,” who can clearly express power in denouncing Hero, and material, as Claudio physically demonstrates his “lack-beardedness.” Lastly, I’m reminded of Stephen Greenblatt’ s comment from his “Introduction” to The Power of Forms in the English Renaissance In examining Dover Wilson’s interpretation of Richard II Greenblatt is less fascinated by Wilson’s reading than he is intrigued by the actually timing and placement of it, “a reading that discovers


48 Shakespeare’s fears of chaos and his conseque nt support for legitimate if weak authority over the claims of a ruthless usurper – and the eerie occasi on of his lecture” – Weimar, Germany, 1939 (5-6). Scholarship’s interact ion with texts often comments more on the timing of the interaction than the interaction itself. Shakespeare’s use of beardlessness as a pervasive theme during the late 1590s has onl y recently been noticed – within the last ten years. Judith Butler’s Bodies that Matter identified the importance of the material in gender construction in 1993, but focus on beards has been even more recent. Within this decade, beards as an indicator of masculinity have reappeared as a dominant concept. Newsweek in its August 27, 2007, edition reported on men undergoing hair transplant surgery to encourage growth, not on their scal ps, but on their chins. The rebirth of the “retrosexual,” as opposed to the “metrosexual, ” has reached such critical mass as to inspire satire; on January 17, 2002, Fox’s The Family Guy presented “Brian Wallows and Peter’s Swallows,” in which the main characte r, Peter Griffin, resorts to growing a beard in order to appear more manly. Will Fisher, Mark Albert Johnston and myself, scholars interested in beards in the early modern period, are male : would asking if they had beards be inappropriate?


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