Original idea – Santa Barbara News-Press

The risque title gives a clue to the book’s plot

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“The general meaning of the title is a lie about sex. Its specific meaning is that it is a plot device in two of Shakespeare’s comedies – ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ and ‘Measure for Measure’, said ‘Bedtrick’ author Jinny Webber.

A lifelong teacher, Jinny Webber has always been fascinated by the theater and society of the Elizabethan era, and in particular its complicated gender roles on and off stage.

In Shakespeare’s London, no woman was allowed on stage. How could a woman manage to pretend to be a man and be a theater actress? What kind of relationship could she have? What was it like for her to be a member of Shakespeare’s acting company, and what female roles did she play?

Ms. Webber explores these themes in her recently published book, “Bedtrick” (Cuidono Press, $17 and $8.99).

“The general meaning of the title is a lie about sex. Its specific meaning is that it is a plot device in two of Shakespeare’s comedies – ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ and ‘Measure for Measure’,” Ms Webber explained in a telephone interview. from his home on the Mesa. “In this novel, the lie is in the world. What appears to be a marriage of a man (Alexander Cooke, aka Sander) and a woman is actually a marriage of two women. Sander has long passed for a man.

“I have found in my research that Cooke was a historical actor in the companies Shakespeare worked with over the years, beginning as a boy and becoming, in 1599, when this novel begins, an engaged man. He was known for being the origin of Shakespeare’s leading female roles. I was interested because Shakespeare’s female characters can be so outspoken at a time when women were expected to be quiet and obedient, with the exception of Queen Elizabeth, Sure. The idea of ​​a woman playing these strong female roles is appealing. Among the few people who know Sander’s true gender is Shakespeare himself.

Dr. Webber said “Bedtrick” is accurate about the story and plays from 1599 to the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. The fictional aspect is that beneath her breeches and doublet, Sander Cooke is a woman .

“The historical Alexander Cooke had children. If my character gave birth, she would lose her stage career,” the author told the News-Press.

“So instead, she marries Frances, a seamstress pregnant with Sander’s brother who refuses to marry her. Neither Sander nor Frances expected to have a female partner, but Frances would lose her clothes shop on London Bridge if she gave birth to a bastard. It would be a marriage of necessity. Although the two are initially very reluctant to do something so risky, Sander comes to the rescue of Frances because of their friendship,” Ms. Webber said.

“The story arc deals with the type of union, if any, that can develop between two women. If discovered, they could be whipped like witches or worse. Sander and Frances’ drama unfolds. takes place in a time of political turmoil in London, turmoil in Ireland, plague and the aging Queen’s inability to appoint a successor.

Ms. Webber, who taught at Santa Barbara City College for 33 years, has led several SBCC study abroad trips to Cambridge and London and one to Florence. While living and teaching in England, she did extensive research, traveled to historic sites, and attended dozens of plays.

She is also the author of the manual “Woman as Writer”, two historical novels, “The Secret Player” and “Dark Venus”, and several short stories. His plays, performed by local company Drama Dogs at the Center Stage Theater and the Central Library’s Faulkner Gallery, include “Queen Undaunted: Margaret of Anjou”, “Tales of Woo and Woe, A Journey of the Heart”, “Qualities of Mercy” and, in collaboration with Terre Ouwehand, “From Eve’s Fair Hand”.

Ms. Webber directed the SBCC faculty production of “As You Like It” and starred in amateur Shakespeare productions in Santa Barbara, playing Titania in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the 1980s and later Corin, the Shepherd in “As You Like It”. and the widow in “Taming of the Shrew” at Elings Park.

email: mmcmahon@newspress.com

for your information

“Bedtrick” by Jinny Webber is available from Chaucer’s Books, 3321 State St. at Loreto Plaza and Tecolote Book Shop, 1420 East Valley Road, Montecito. For more information, email jinnysb@aol.com or visit www.jinnywebber.com.

Irene B. Bowles