Illuminations by Anthony Esolen

Column

Illuminations

Hymns of the Ages

Recently I challenged some friends of mine to name two forms of art—not works of art, but the very forms themselves, for which children are both necessary and of the essence. They couldn't think of any, and that's remarkable, since our children are supposed to be introduced to art in school, and since the highest praise that you can give a child now is to say he is "creative."

One of the forms I was thinking of is Shakespearean drama, in which boys played most of the women's parts, and sometimes played women in disguise as boys. I might have been stretching things there, since we can easily imagine the more natural theatrical convention, which is to have women play the parts of women. And except in those comic or tragicomic cases (Rosalind, Viola, Imogen) in which the disguise came into play, the sex of the actor was of no consequence; though there must have been some child-geniuses romping about in Shakespeare's time for him to write for them such parts as those of Juliet and Cleopatra and so forth.

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Anthony Esolen is Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Thales College and the author of over 30 books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House) and, with his wife Debra, publishes the web magazine Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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