QueenʼsMen Editions

About this text

  • Title: Shakespeare and the Queen's Men (SQM) Repertory Productions
  • Author: Peter Cockett
  • Textual editors: Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
  • Coordinating editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Peter Cockett. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Peter Cockett
    Editors (Text): Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
    Peer Reviewed

    Shakespeare and the Queen's Men (SQM) Repertory Productions

    All-Male Company

    As part of our efforts to approximate the working conditions and theatrical conventions of the original Queen's Men, we decided to work with an all-male cast. Although Mark Rylance and others had experimented with this convention at the Shakespeare's Globe in London, the direct experience of it in our work brought insight for me and many in our audience who had not been not able to attend Globe performances. As critic Jon Kaplan remarked in his review of the Experiment in Elizabethan Comedy, "it was…fascinating to watch the audience's reaction to the female roles. All played by men, as was the tradition, they were usually comical; Jason Gray's whorish Meretrix was a standout. But in a variation on the King Lear story, Cordelia (here, Cordella, played by David Tompa) became a moving figure whose wooing by the king of France (Gray) proved that powerful emotion lends reality to any casting, even if it's not so politically correct today."

    As with all elements of our experiment, our productions were very much approximations of the Queen's Men working conditions. Details of the relationship between the historical evidence on all male casting and our own approach can be found by visiting the "Gender and the Queen's Men" module on the Performing the Queen's Men website. This module also explores the impact the all male cast had on the understanding and interpretation of gender in the productions. Initially I felt the company's interpretation of the female characters would have been as conservative as the rest of their politics (see below), but through the rehearsal and performance process I began to appreciate how the male casting allowed for certain freedoms in the representation of women. The result remained stereotypical and conservative in relation to our understanding of gender today, but might well have been provocative and even a little radical in its own time. This understanding arose specifically from the performance of Julian DeZotti who took on the roles of Cordella, Kate, and Margaret of Fressingfield. I pick up this theme in many of my annotations to the play texts, noting how the experience of directing the company 'boys' changed my interpretation of the female characters.

    The all-male company also resulted in a very specific energy in the rehearsal room. (Follow the link to hear SQM actor Scott Clarkson address this issue). The dynamic of the company on stage became distinctly masculine and although the performances of the women were well received and convincing I always felt that the productions presented an obtrusively male perspective on the stories. For me, predominance of testosterone in the rehearsal room was an influential factor in the development of the boisterous SQM company style.