Roberta Barker, “A Tragedienne in Trousers: Imagining The Maid’s Tragedy through the Career of Richard Robinson”

A Tragedienne in Trousers: Imagining The Maid’s Tragedy through the Career of Richard Robinson
Roberta Barker, Dalhousie University

Richard Robinson (d. 1648) was one of the leading boy actresses of the King’s Men from c. 1610-16. From surviving cast lists, we know that he appeared in Beaumont and Fletcher’s tragedies Bonduca and Catiline (c.1611 and 1613) and that he played the Lady in Middleton’s Second Maiden’s Tragedy in 1611; he seems to have specialized in the roles of noble, virtuous, and often defiant tragic heroines. Dr. Barker’s paper proposes Robinson as a likely candidate ¬†for the first Aspatia in Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Maid’s Tragedy, and asks what it might mean for our understanding of this cross-dressing, doomed heroine to imagine him in the part. What does a sword fight look like when one combatant is played by a boy who played very womanly women? How might Robinson’s penchant for tragic ultra-femininity have shaped the playing of Aspatia’s male disguise, her dueling, and her death?