Working from the premise that Jonson's copious stage directions and meta-theatrical dialogue offer insight into early modern theatrical practice, I use The Devil Is an Ass to consider anew the question of the cross-dressed boy actor. Jonson draws careful distinctions among the female characters in The Devil Is an Ass, suggesting a range of performance styles for the boy actor. The meta-theatrical discussion of cross-dressed performance in The Devil is an Ass coupled with the sheer variety in its female characters make this play a fascinating artifact chronicling the range of the boy players' abilities and what playwrights and stage managers expected of them.
Regina Buccola is an assistant professor of English at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Her work on early modern drama has appeared in Sixteenth-CenturyJournal and Shakespeare and the Culture of Christianity in Early Modern Europe. She is coeditor, with Lisa Hopkins, of the essay collection Marian Moments in Early Modern Drama, forthcoming from Ashgate Press. Buccola's book Fairies, Fractious Women and the Old Faith is forthcoming from Susquehanna University Press.
'‘The top of woman! All her sex in abstract!’: Ben Jonson Directs the Boy Actor in The Devil is an Ass'.
8.2 (2005): 11-34 (paper). Article 2.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/earlytheatre/vol8/iss2/2