Shakespere’s Boy Actors

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For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the situation of the boy actors in Elizabethan theatre. Were they chosen because they were naturally effeminate or did they have to go through intensive training so that they could convincingly portray women before their noisy and boisterous audience? Was the whole business of dressing up as girls and women exciting for the boys or was it all in a day’s work? I would imagine that it would be boys in their late teens who would have played such mighty characters as Cleopatra or Lady Macbeth or the Nurse in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Or maybe men in their twenties would have played those mature parts.Younger boys would have been Juliet or Rosalind.

Of course the boys would have been at the age where they would have had erections beneath their dresses much of the time which must have been inconvenient. Did they have special techniques to deflate their hard-ons? Of course in England at that time they would have been uncut. And after the excitement of the performance on the great stage of the Globe did they relieve each other with hands and lips backstage in the Tiring House? I remember hearing a rather wicked radio play a few years ago. It depicted that busy man of the theatre – William Shakespeare, actor and playwright, providing a valuable service to the boy actors. Lifting their dresses before they were due to step on stage, he would drain their balls to make sure their cocks were deflated.

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