CEMS Research Seminar: Harry McCarthy (Exeter) 'Not He, the Queen': Boyed Blackness and Queer Race on the Early Modern Stage'

CEMS Research Seminar: Harry McCarthy (Exeter) 'Not He, the Queen': Boyed Blackness and Queer Race on the Early Modern Stage'

This is a past event

Join the Centre for Early Modern Studies for this interesting seminar led by Dr Harry McCarthy.

This paper takes as its starting point Rosalind’s declaration in As You Like It that boys and women are ‘cattle of this colour.’ While Rosalind’s line has famously been taken as evidence for the shared (homo)erotic appeal of female characters and the boys who played them, its emphasis on colour—suggesting an affinity between boys and women that exists along racial as well as gendered lines—has been almost entirely ignored. The paper thus considers the implications of Rosalind’s invocation of ‘colour,’ positioning the portrayal of women by boys as a racializing, as well as gendering, act. It pays particular attention to the strategies of differentiation at play in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, considering how the performance of Shakespeare’s ‘manlike,’ ‘blackened’ relies upon the unique power of the early modern boy actor. How, in other words, might the material fact of Cleopatra being played by a professional boy actor have contributed to the strategies of racial differentiation critics have long asserted as central to the play’s dramaturgy? What happens to our reading of Antony and Cleopatra if we consider the performance of race and gender, mediated through the emphatically and professionally queer body of the boy, as coterminous and mutually informing? Building on recent work in premodern critical race studies and early modern trans studies that has demonstrated how racial difference and gender nonbinarism frequently operated in tandem in this period, the paper reads the always-already indeterminate body of the boy actor as a powerful technology of racial differentiation.

Harry R. McCarthy is Lecturer in Early Modern Literature at the University of Exeter (UK). He is the author of Performing Early Modern Drama Beyond Shakespeare: Edward’s Boys (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and Boy Actors in Early Modern England: Skill and Stagecraft in the Theatre (Cambridge University Press, 2022). His work on early modern theatre history, contemporary performance, and racial equity in Shakespeare studies has appeared in Early Theatre, English Literary History, Shakespeare, and Shakespeare Survey. He serves as a member of the Shakespeare Survey Advisory Board, and is currently pursuing a project titled Early Modern Racial Childhoods.

Dr Harry McCarthy

For more information or to register for online attendance please contact Prof Andrew Gordon.