“Performing Reparative Transgender Identities from Stage Beauty to The King and the Clown”
Trans Historical: Gender Plurality before the Modern, ed. Greta LaFleur, Masha Raskolnikov, and Anna Klosowska (Cornell University Press, 2021), 322-349
Analyzing trans narratives about the early moderns through the lenses of affective labor and social reparation, this chapter reclaims as trans the Shakespeare films that have been misinterpreted as homosexual. In doing so, this chapter builds a longer, more intersectional history of gendered embodiment.
Reparative trans performances—works in which characters see their conditions improve—carry substantial affective rewards by offering optimism and emotional gratification, as exemplified by two recent films about early modern theatre making. The South Korean blockbuster The King and the Clown (dir. Lee Joon-ik, 2005) delineates the love triangle between a fifteenth-century king, a masculine jester, and a trans feminine character. Stage Beauty (dir. Richard Eyre, Lions Gate, 2004) chronicles the private life and stage career of the historical boy actor Edward Kynaston (1640–1712) who plays exclusively female roles before taking on male roles on stage.
By reading these two films in the context of trans cinema, this chapter makes an intervention in both transgender and Shakespeare studies by demonstrating new ways to interpret gender variance beyond just a dramatic device.