Staging Age pp 85-108 | Cite as

Performing Female Age in Shakespeare’s Plays



In Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, in moments of glorious self-irony, Cleopatra dismisses her youthful “salad days, / When [she] was green in judgment, cold in blood” (1.5.73-74). Instead, she acknowledges an older but still enticing body that is “with Phoebus’ amorous pinches black / And wrinkled deep in time” (1.5.28-29). In the twenty-first century, a seeming celebration of female “post-salad days” has become a fashion: Thousands of websites tell women, “Sixty is the new forty.” However, for women in theatre, Shakespeare’s plays offer limited stage opportunities once they are beyond their salad days,1 a situation that many older performers lament. After providing an overview of what older female performers encounter in Shakespeare’s plays, this chapter presents and discusses excerpts from Janet Hill’s interviews with women who have been acting in those plays for many years. Their words provide a valuable perspective not only on the profession, but also on attitudes toward age/aging and performance.


Female Character Female Role Sexual Appeal Mirror Stage Henry Versus 
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© Valerie Barnes Lipscomb and Leni Marshall 2010

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