By Lesley Ferris

Crossing the level brings jointly for the 1st time essays which discover cross-dressing in theatre, cabaret, opera and dance. the amount includes seminal items that have turn into commonplace texts within the box, in addition to new paintings specially commissioned from top writers on performance.Crossing the degree is an crucial sourcebook on theatrical cross-dressing. it will likely be crucial examining for all these attracted to functionality and the illustration of gender.

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Additional info for Crossing the Stage: Controversies on Cross-Dressing

Sample text

For when women “catch the bridle in their teeth, and runne away with their Rulers, they care not into what dangers they plunge either their fortunes or Reputations” (C2); consequently, those who are “Fathers, Husbands, or Sustainers of these new Hermaphrodites” (C2v) must keep them in order, forbid the buying of such outrageous apparel, and instruct them in the virtues which are women’s best ornaments. It is important to remember that for the lower-class woman who found herself in the Aldermen’s court, it was not just a husband’s chastisement but the whip, pillory, and prisons of the state’s repressive apparatuses that constituted her as a guilty subject and effected her punishment.

The good woman, Viola, thus becomes the vehicle for humiliating the unruly woman in the eyes of the audience, much as Titania is humiliated in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by her union with an ass. Not only is the figure of the maleattired woman thus used to enforce a gender system that is challenged in other contexts by that figure, but also, by a bit of theatrical handy-dandy, the oftrepeated fear that the phenomenon of boy actors dressed as women leads to sodomy is displaced here upon a woman dressed as a man.

To transgress the codes governing dress was to disrupt an official view of the social order in which one’s identity was largely determined by one’s station or degree—and where that station was, in theory, providentially determined and immutable. Of course, as social historians such as Lawrence Stone, Keith Wrightson, Barry Reay, and David Underdown have argued, this view of the social order was under enormous pressure (see note 6). Social mobility was a fact, its effects strikingly clear in an urban center such as London, and economic and cultural changes were creating tensions between a social order based on hierarchy and deference and one increasingly based on entrepreneurship and the social relations attendant upon the emergence of early capitalism.

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