They were not really boys, they were Castratis. 

We used castrati (castrated male ex-opera singers) to play women for two main reasons. They could project their voices better than women which was necessary to fill the large stages, such as the 3,000 seat Globe, which were unique to England. Also, the church could not complain about risque women on stage.

This is what the wife of a man who plays a female role in the Bards plays at the Globe Theater in London had to say about boys in the plays:

Rylance's wife, Claire van Kampen, the company's master of theater music, says, "I just don't believe it was young boys." Boys of 14 or 15 already have deep voices, she notes, so if voice were the chief concern, they would have had to use children, who could hardly play such complex roles. Here

She knows what she was talking about. The boys that acted the parts of the women in the plays were not children. They were ex 'choir boys' or  castrati who were always referred to as 'boys' no matter how old they were. They could be 50 years old and they were always referred to as 'boys', never as men. These were castrated singers from Catholic Choirs and operas. These were the 'choir boys' who my husband, the Earl of Oxford, was hiring in Italy for our stage which I was inspired to include in the following horrible tripe I wrote about him. (But he admitted that he deserved what I wrote.)

Oxford also consorted with a sixteen-year-old Venetian choirboy named Orazio Cogno. Oxford brought Orazio back to London with him, where he remained with Oxford for approximately one year before returning to Venice. In 1580-81 Oxford was accused of pederasty with Orazio, with another Italian boy named Rocco, and with other boys as well.

The trophies he brought with him to England in Apr 1576 included a pair of silk gloves for the
Queen, the choirboy, and syphilis. Here

A Castrati's voice only lasted for ten years or so at the very high quality needed for singing. However, their voices were just fine for working in the plays and would remain so for another twenty years. There were always at least 5,000 retired castrati's in Italy from which we could draw for the parts of women in the plays.

The Earl found the best and brought them back to England for the stage productions. He had nothing to do with them sexually. I was the only one that knew that for sure though and I could have supported him but what did I do? I convicted him of homosexuality for something which he did to me and no, I do not care to elaborate on what it was.

The castrati were used to memorizing long passages of song in languages they could not understand and of course maintaining perfect timing was easy after singing in groups so they all worked out great. 
They could sound exactly the same as any woman but their voices were much more powerful. Any castrado's voice easily filled up a 3,000 person theater in spite of the audience and their fights, barking dogs and the inevitable baby crying in their attempt to upstage everybody for a tit.

The volume of the voices were only a problem on the large English stages but not on those of the European mainland. Only England had interesting plays such as the bards. So our audiences were three thousand or more while only one theater in Europe seated 1200 to watch rehashed 'Christian Passion Plays' but in reality there were rarely as many as 500 in the bored audiences. Hence mainland European theaters never needed voices stronger than a woman's while English theaters needed the volume that Castrati's alone were able produce.

Also, Castratis were much more responsible than children ever would have been. Can you imagine children being involved on a regular basis in major stage productions to audiences of 3,000 up to three times a day? Forget the abilities of your own very extraordinary son, I'm talking about the average boy of 10 or 11. Or think of a boy even trying to fill half of a large hall with his voice. His vocal chords would be torn apart in less than one play.

Javier MedinaIf you want to hear the voice of a modern castrati meet Javier Medina. Take a deep breath, the sound is hauntingly impressive. In singing Whitney Houston's One Moment in Time he is a living master. Their singing was often far too powerful for most women and frightened them ruthlessly but without cause. It rips through the mind screaming out 'I'm a 40X alpha female'. It was never a problem for me since from my childhood I knew Queen Elizabeth, who was certainly a 40X alpha female.

Women who had never heard a castrati sing often said things like 'Dare close your eyes and he sounds like an 80 foot Amazon' or 'with my eyes closed he reminds me of my mother only much, much bigger'.

This served to reinforce the power of the women roles and made them all alpha females. It's obvious that they were all alpha females to begin with as I only wrote into the plays alpha women, who I then empowered with words. It made the audiences accept the fact that woman were strong and powerful. Using castrati instead of women actually did many times as much for women's rights than if we had used women. We said 'Leave those mousy sounding women to the French and Spanish stages'.

One of the most famous and last recorded of the 19th century professional castrati singers was
Alessandro Moreschi and here is his rendition of Ave Maria which you can download for free.

Also, since they were not women the plays could be as ribald as we wanted and the church could not say much of anything about it. Many of the rich women had them as lovers since castrati seem to able to function in every way a man could except for reproduction....which is one reason why the women liked them so much as lovers.

We needed to keep our hiring of castrati at a very low key so we called them boys. It was as simple as denying that we were using castrati. The Pope was ready to declare war over castrati so we did not want to upset the Catholic Church. It goes back to about 1529 and the real cause of the split between England and the Catholic Church which I cover on this page.

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