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Why were women not allowed to act in Shakespeare's plays back in the Elizabethan...

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maggie5193 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 9, 2008 at 8:14 AM via web

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Why were women not allowed to act in Shakespeare's plays back in the Elizabethan Era?

why were the women roles played by boys?

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 9, 2008 at 10:27 AM (Answer #1)

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In Elizabethan England, women did not have any personal freedom.  They had no social status outside of their association with their husbands or fathers.  As far as acting, women were normally not educated and did not take on professional jobs.  Acting was entertainment and at times violent.  Therefore it was no place for women. It would be considered immoral for women to be on the stage.  Improper, socially unacceptable.  Associating with men who were not members of your family, without a proper chaperone would be considered scandalous.

One of the reasons that history suggests Elizabeth I did not marry was because she would have lost some of her authority to her husband, it was the way society was organized.   

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 10, 2008 at 3:41 AM (Answer #2)

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Players and playwrights were not considered the optimum careers in this time period.  In fact, most of the playwrights and actors had full time jobs doing something else...writing wasn't even considered a career, and writers were sneered at as wasting time.

Because of this, actors were people of usually low social status.  True, the good ones performed for many upper class members of society, including the Kings and  Queens of England as well as other countries.  However, women were not allowed to act as a matter of law--it was illegal.  Actors in Elizabethan England are probably best compared to porn stars today--many are popular and "fun" to watch, but no one would want to bring these stars home to meet momma. 

Boys, therefore, were the best substitute for playing female parts.  Boys were used because their voices had not yet turned due to puberty and as they moved toward maturity, they could gargle with lemon juice to produce the more feminine voice of girls and women.  Older women were played by men who had to shave in order to hide their true gender.

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faithy1 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 19, 2010 at 4:09 PM (Answer #3)

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the women were not allowed to star in plays mainly because they were poorly eductaed and they had no education so they wouldnt now what to do and also they didnt have the rights or free will.

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