New book claims child-catchers kidnapped boys for the Elizabethan stage
Children forced to perform under threat of whipping
Child-catchers stalked the streets of Elizabethan England seeking out boys they could force on to the stage, an Oxford academic has claimed in a new book.
Dr Bruce van Es, who studied original Elizabethan documents, writes that Elizabeth I signed warrants which allowed theatres to kidnap children and force them to perform under the threat of whipping. Using the commissions, playhouse owners boasted that they had “authority sufficient so to take any nobleman’s son in the land”.
Thomas Clifton, a boy of 13, was on his way to school when he was snatched. A group of men “did haul, pull, drag and carry away” the child, according to later court depositions.
“Technically these warrants were designed to allow the Master of the Children to ‘take up’ boys for service in the Chapel Royal,” said Dr van Es. “But the reality was very different. It was well known that the Children of the Chapel Royal was really an acting company and the Queen did nothing to intervene.”
Dr van Es also uncovered a seedier side to the practice. Not only were young boys apparently kidnapped and forced into the theatre, they were also made to perform overtly sexual material, often in seedy backstreet theatres for all-male audiences.
However, Professor Michael Dobson, the director of the Shakespeare Institute, rebutted Dr van Es’s theory, saying that there was not enough documentary evidence to support his claims.
“We have got one very well documented court case, the Clifton case, but that’s it,” he said, adding that children were increasingly co-opted to do more artistic duties while they were still at school.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Student jailed for hacking University of Birmingham computers to improve his grades
- 2 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
MasterChef 2015: Simon Wood named winner
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Sherlock series 4: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have to be 'persuaded' to return, says Steven Moffat
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election