Captive Kids Forced to Act in Shakespeare's Day
In Shakespeare’s England, many kids were coerced into acting careers not by stage moms but by “child catchers,” new research shows.
Elizabethan-era boy players were prized in adult theater companies for their prepubescent looks and high-pitched voices, which allowed them to act in female roles alongside men. But some boy players were put into all-children acting troupes, and not all of them voluntarily; rather many were systematically exploited and abused, according to an Oxford University scholar.
While writing his new book “Shakespeare in Company” (Oxford University Press), Bart van Es found that child catchers seized young boys on their way to school, handing them over to theater company bosses that forced the kids to perform on stage or else face whipping. Read more.