Degree Granting Department
Lagretta Lenker, Ph.D.
Apprentice, Drama, Masculinity, Performance, Renaissance
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.
Scholar Commons Citation
Junkins, C R., "My Lord Lackbeard: Enfranchisement and expressions of beardlessness in Shakespeare's canon from 1594 to 1601" (2007). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.