Keeping Boys and Men: Marvelous Pageboys in Romantic Tragicomedy

Mary Trull


In many English plays of the early 1600s, pageboys embody a degraded service that contrasts with a nostalgically evoked feudal ideal. The genre of romantic tragicomedy emerging in the years 1608-13 gave pageboys a new dramatic function: they became miraculous figures exemplifying virtuous service. The compelling, sexually ambiguous boys of tragicomedy offer a marvelous and reassuring resolution to concerns about wealth and social decay in the early modern context. The motif of the marvelous linked to these pageboys in tragicomedy reflects the genre’s infusion with romance, which allows for reassuring resolutions to these plays. This article theorizes tragicomic pageboys’ function by connecting contemporary discourses of cuteness with early modern theories of the marvelous, while grounding these formal concerns in the historical context of early modern service.


Shakespeare, drama, romance, genre, pageboys, childhood, service, tragicomedy, Fletcher

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