Facial Hair and the Performance of Early Modern Masculinity: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Facial Hair and the Performance of Early Modern Masculinity

1st Edition

By Eleanor Rycroft


224 pages

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Hardback: 9781138578203
pub: 2019-07-12
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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 on-stage masculinity, acknowledging the challenges offered to the dominant ideology of manliness by boys and men who misrepresented or failed to fulfil bearded masculine ideals.


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

Table of Contents

1. Youth: Beardless Boys 2. Liminal Masculinity 3. Maturity: Lovers and Bearded Manhood 4. Old Age: Greybeards and the Decline of Manliness

About the Author

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.

About the Series

Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama

Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama
This series presents original research on theatre histories and performance histories; the time period covered is from about 1500 to the early 18th century. Studies in which women's activities are a central feature of discussion are especially of interest; this may include women as financial or technical support (patrons, musicians, dancers, seamstresses, wig-makers) or house support staff (e.g., gatherers), rather than performance per se. We also welcome critiques of early modern drama that take into account the production values of the plays and rely on period records of performance.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
DRAMA / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
DRAMA / Shakespeare
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / General
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / History & Criticism