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Autumnal Faces

Old Age in British and Irish Dramatic Narratives

Edited By Katarzyna Bronk

Autumnal Faces is a timely study within the ever-growing research on the ways older people and ageing itself have been conceptualized and represented in the popular imagination and, more specifically, in drama and on stage. Tracing this theme from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century, this volume offers original, innovative and diachronic analyses of plays and performances that focus on or are peopled with older characters. The contributors study the roots of positive and negative stereotypes pertaining to senescence and the elderly, offering meticulous interpretations of dramatic narratives and performances on topics such as gendered ageing, geronticide, the «sins» of senex amans and iratus, ageing and uncontrolled passions versus ageing and prudence, longevity and immortality, memory and life narratives, the elderly as storytellers and repositories of wisdom in British and Irish culture, Alzheimer’s disease and the loss of self, and intergenerational conflicts. Ultimately, this collection of essays answers the ongoing call for more studies devoted to humanistic/cultural gerontology, seeing old age not just as an issue affecting past generations but one that is increasingly important as we all age into an unknown future.

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6 ‘What a Nautious Thing is an Old Man Turn’d Lover’: Anthony Leigh Acting Age on Stage (James Evans)


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6    ‘What a Nautious Thing is an Old Man Turn’d Lover’: Anthony Leigh Acting Age on Stage


Restoration actor Anthony Leigh specialized in portraying foolishly amorous older men. Among such roles for the Duke’s Company and the United Company are four that demonstrate his ability to make potentially marginal, stereotypical characters so compelling that they could steal scenes or contradict the narrative prescribed by the young in sex comedies. Old Bellair in Etherege’s The Man of Mode, Old Fumble in Durfey’s A Fond Husband, the title role of Behn’s Sir Patient Fancy and Sir Feeble Fainwou’d in her The Luckey Chance allowed Leigh to foreground his talent for physical humour and stage business. While these playwrights scripted older characters who forgive those mocking them or repent their folly, it was the comic energy of Leigh’s large body in performance that audiences could find more laughable than tropes of decline associated with ageing.

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