Alexa Alice Joubin deposited Contemporary Transgender Performance of Shakespeare, Special Issue of Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation 14.2 (2023) in the group The Renaissance Society of America on Humanities Commons 2 months ago
Cross-gender roles and performances permeate many of Shakespeare’s plays. This special issue on contemporary transgender performance of Shakespeare was published by the open-access journal dedicated to Shakespeare and appropriation, Borrowers and Lenders, and edited by Alexa Alice Joubin. It contains research articles and interviews of actors. She shows that these cross-gender acts have been misunderstood as “cross-dressing,” which implies crossing from one fixed binary position to the other. Viola presents as pageboy Cesario for most of the dramatic action in Twelfth Night. Falstaff escapes Ford’s house as the Witch of Brainford in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Rosalind ventures into the woods as Ganymede in As You Like It. In that same comedy, Celia (as Aliena), Phoebe, and Audrey were also played by boy actors in Shakespeare’s time. In Cymbeline, British princess Imogen dresses as a male servant, Fidele, on their quest to find their husband among the Roman soldiers. These works are in fact transgender plays. Centuries of cisgender-centric biases told us we have to suspend our disbelief to understand cross-gender roles. Joubin and her contributors ask: What if the body of the female character and the actor’s somatic presence exist on a continuum rather than in contrary fixations? The enactment of gender practices is not predicated upon “substitutions” (as in substituting the boy actor for Desdemona) or entail diagnostic recognition (as in being reminded of the “real” body beneath the illusion of Desdemona).