From Aspatia to Amintor (and Back Again?): Casting, Gender, and the Actor’s Career
Lucy Munro, King’s College London
This paper explores casting, the performance of gender, and the shape of an actor’s career through the prism of The Maid’s Tragedy. According to the Restoration theatre historian James Wright, Amintor was played in the Caroline period by Stephen Hammerton, ‘who was at first a most noted and beautiful woman actor, but afterwards he acted with equal grace and applause a young lover’s part’. Cast-lists and epilogues by Shirley, Suckling, and Killigrew similarly allow us to trace Hammerton’s movement from female to male gender performance. Drawing on these materials and the famous wood-cut illustration of The Maid’s Tragedy, the paper explores the impact of changing casting practices on the play. Inclusive casting may offer similar opportunities for actors to move between roles and genders, but it also has the potential to reverse, interrupt and queer the hierarchical and teleological structures of the early modern theatre industry.