Facial Hair and the Performance of Early Modern Masculinity is the first full-length critical study to analyse the importance of beards in terms of the theatrical performance of masculinity.
According to medical, cultural, and literary discourses of early modern era in England, facial hair marked adult manliness while beardlessness indicated boyhood. Beards were therefore a passport to cultural prerogatives. This book explores this in relation to the early modern stage, a space in which the processes of gender formation in early modern society were writ large, and how the uses of facial hair in the theatre illuminate the operations of power and politics in society more widely.
Written for scholars of Early Modern Theatre and Theatre History, this volume anatomises the role of beards in the construction of onstage masculinity, acknowledging the challenges offered to the dominant ideology of manliness by boys and men who misrepresented or failed to fulfil bearded masculine ideals.
Table of Contents
Introduction; 1. Youth: Beardless boys; 2. Liminal masculinity; 3. Maturity: Lovers and bearded manhood; 4. Old age: Greybeards and the decline of manliness; Afterword: The nest of beards
Eleanor Rycroft is a lecturer in Theatre and Performance at the University of Bristol. A theatre historian of early English and Scottish drama, her research often involves practical explorations of plays. Recent publications include a co-edited special edition of The Shakespeare Bulletin, as well as book chapters for Oxford University Press, Palgrave, and Ashgate. She has written on material cultures of the early modern stage, theatre at the court of Henry VIII, practice-as-research, and the historical performance of witchcraft.
A magisterial study of the importance of beards and tonsure to the representation of masculinities of all kinds on the Renaissance stage, and in wider early-modern society. In this copious, nuanced account of the ways in which often subtle variations and combinations of smoothness and hairiness, trimness and shagginess marked, yet simultaneously problematized prevailing early-modern conceptions of boyhood, youth, and manhood, Eleanor Rycroft makes a timely, compelling intervention in the fields of early-modern gender and theatre studies.
-- Greg Walker, Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh