Theatre Under Louis XIV

By Julia Prest

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Cross-Casting and the Performance of Gender in Drama, Ballet, and Opera

Cross-gender casting was a recurring phenomenon in the French theatre during the reign of Louis XIV. This book explores the trend and its related gender issues in different theatrical genres and different performance contexts. Although professional acting troupes under Louis XIV employed both men and women, cross-casting remained an important feature of French court ballet (in which the King himself performed a number of women’s roles). Cross-casting also remained an occasional feature of spoken comedy and tragic opera.

This book fills an important gap in the history of French theatre and provides new insight into wider theoretical questions of gender and theatricality. The inclusion of chapters on ballet and opera (as well as spoken drama) opens up the richness of French theatre under Louis XIV in a way that has not been achieved before.

‘In this innovative and engagingly written study, Prest covers ballet and opera as well as spoken plays. Her range encompasses the history, principles, and practices of religious school performances and court performances as well as those of the commercial theatre. She is a sure guide and her analysis of comedy, eroticism, sexual ambiguities, and the courtly ideal is outstanding. Prest’s impressive knowledge of the original texts, contemporary polemic, and a wide range of modern critical thinking enables her to present insights and discoveries that will change the way we see seventeenth-century performance practice.’  William Brooks, University of Bath, UK

Palgrave Macmillan, 2006 & 2013. Available in Hardback and Paperback, 208 pages.


Table of Contents

1. Cross-Dressing and Cross-Casting
2. Unattractive Women: Cross-Casting in Comedy
3. Boys Will Be Girls: Cross-Casting in School Drama
4. Female Roles in Court Ballet I: Men Playing Women
5. Female Roles in Court Ballet II: Women Playing Women
6. Cross-Casting and Gender Ambiguity in Opera