Elizabethan Audiences Entertained by Kidnapped Kids Forced on Stage

The reign of Queen Elizabeth I saw a brilliant flourishing of the arts, and while this is generally seen as a positive development, some troubling information has emerged that casts a pall on the theatrical community of the day. Some of the child actors performing on the Elizabethan stage were actually victims of legal kidnapping, taken by theater owners exploiting a privilege granted to them by the queen, which allowed them to forcibly recruit children for their troupes. As if being ripped from their families were not bad enough, these children were also subject to cruelty, violence, and sexual exploitation. More…



Elizabethan theatre


Henry Clifton’s evidence describing the abduction of his son, Thomas, on 13th December 1600


“The said confederates… did waylay the said Thomas Clifton as he should pass from your said subject’s house to the said school… with great force and violence did seize and surprise and him with like force and violence did, to the great terror and hurt of him the said Thomas Clifton, haul, pull, drag and carry away to the said playhouse in the Blackfriars.”


In reply, the theatre owners showed the powers given to them by royal authority in 1597


“Elizabeth, by the grace of God Queen of England… to take such and so many children as he or his sufficient deputy shall think meet, in all cathedral, collegiate, parish churches, chapels, or any other place or places as well within liberty as without within this our realm of England whatsoever they be” More…



Comments are closed.