- Drama developments
- Mystery and morality plays
- The earliest permanent theatres
- Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre design
- Female roles before 1660
- Restoration theatre
- Commedia dell’Arte
- Eighteenth century theatre
- Nineteenth century melodrama
- Naturalism and realism
- Twentieth century experiments
- Later twentieth century theatre
- Literary features of Elizabethan drama
Female roles before 1660
In Shakespeare's day, women were not allowed to act on the stage in England. All the female roles in Shakespeare were played by adolescent boys whose voices had not broken – including such famous romantic leads as Cleopatra and Juliet.
This situation did not change until after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, who had spent many years in France where customs were different.
In several of his plays, such as The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Cymbeline, and Twelfth Night, Shakespeare has female characters disguise themselves in boys' clothing, which must have been more comfortable for the boy actors.
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