The sad life of Elizabethan child actors

Elizabethan theater life may have been booming for playwrights such as Shakespeare, but it was not so rosy for children in theatrical troupes. University of Oxford professor, Dr Bart van Es, discovered evidence of systemic child abuse while researching his book, Shakespeare in Company.

While Shakespeare himself seems to be appalled by the practise, it was common for young boys to be kidnapped and threatened into performing, whipped, beaten, and sexually abused by those who provided children for theaters. Evidence included documents such as the case of 13-year-old Thomas Clifton, whose father testified that a gang of men "did haul, pull, drag and carry away" his son on his way to school, inflicting "great terror and hurt". Young Thomas was "being held at the Blackfriars Theatre - and rather than returning him to his family, the theatre owners said the boy would be whipped if he failed to obey."