(Charke 1930).  Charke is concerned with representing each character in its epitome, and she displays a sense for the nuances of behavior so much so that she is able to affect the demeanor of a physician such that "some of the weaker Sort of People" were "persuaded into as high an Opinion of [her] Skill as [her] Cousin's" (Charke 1930). The writer Charke again cites a play character, this time Leander in The Mock Doctor, when relating her story, asking the reader to draw a comparison between the character on-stage and her youthful character on her own "stage."  She says that like Leander, she is of the opinion that by learning the jargon of the occupation she seeks to represent, she will create a more believable character.  She accomplishes this by learning fragments of Latin medical phrases, which "served to confound their Senses, and bring [her audience] into a high Opinion of [her] Skill in the medicinal Science" (Charke 1930).  Charke's perception that she is playing a role is clear by her efforts to affect such a close representation of what she considers a true doctor.

Charke's motivation for pursuing the role of physician is more complicated than a simple desire to abate boredom.  Although she does mention that it was an "Expedient for [her] Amusement," she emphasizes the gratification she received from the charitable aspect of the experience.  Even as she writes the story, she finds "Happiness" in the "pleasing Reflection of not having, through Inexperience, done any Harm by my Applications, I thank the Great Creator for, who (notwithstanding my extream Desire of being distinguished as an able Proficient), knew my Design was equally founded on a charitable Inclination" (Charke 1930).  Thus, along with a desire to amuse herself, she takes on the role of physician to help others in a way she could not have accomplished by carrying out traditional domestic duties; she is able to cultivate her theatrical skills by striving to portray a distinguished doctor.

Charke's occupational role-playing continues into her adulthood.  One such adventure is her stint as a Grocer-woman.  It is easy to assume that Charke took to this for economic reasons. However, Charke does not mention an economic motive in her decision, indeed that it is not so much a decision as a "new Whim."  She felt; "[she] took it into [her] Head to dive into Trade" (Charke 1930).  The motive that she does not mention explicitly, but one that is suggested by her language, is theatricality. Once again, by taking on this role, Charke is able to exercise her acting skills, especially since she is not able to express them on the stage at this point.


The dramatic aspect of Charke's project is apparent, as it is in the previous example of the physician.  She remarks that her friends came out to see her "mercantile Face; which carried in it as conceited an Air of Trade as it had before in Physick" (Charke 1930).  The idea of putting on a face is integral to the theater, and this relationship is firmly established by Charke's conscious imitation of the appearance and persona of a true tradeswoman.  Just like any good actress, Charke researches the realistic behavior and concerns of whom she is attempting to play.   She actively begins reading trade papers to familiarize herself with the concerns of tradesmen.  As usual, Charke does not settle for playing a mediocre version of her given role; although her "Stock perhaps did not exceed ten or a dozen Pounds at a Time," she put on the air of one who "had the whole Lading of a Ship in [her] Shop" (Charke 1930).  She asserts the dramatic nature of her new occupation by being her own critic. Reviewing her antics from the perspective of a number of years hence, Charke calls her performance a "ridiculous Scene," and a "Farce" (Charke 1930).  Charke's endeavor is ultimately an economic failure because she begins to stray from the character of a true grocer.  Her most vital mistake is misreading the nature of the thief who stole her brass weights. However, it should be pointed out that although he was the ultimate cause of her ruin, Charke admires the boy's mastery of his given art, albeit that art is thievery. After all, she, like the boy, is engaging in the pursuit of an art; in her case, it is the art of theater.

The final occupational role examined is chosen because it is one in which Charke engages in cross-dressing.  Charke obtains the position of waiter at Mrs. Dorr's King's Head Inn under the guise of a young man.  The obvious motivation for taking this role is to obtain a means of "daily Bread" for herself and her child (Charke 1930).   She is aided in finding this position by a friend of hers whom she tells that "there was nothing, which did not exceed the Bounds of Honesty that I should think unworthy of my undertaking" (Charke 1930).  This statement serves to show Charke's determination to survive despite economic hardship, and it is a means for Charke to reaffirm that her life follows the commandments of conventionality, an affirmation that she strives to get across through her autobiography.  Her reason for taking the position as a male seems to be two-fold. Firstly, as a man more positions of a physical nature are open to her.  Secondly, she is protected from the aggravated "Impertinence" of the "lower class of People" who would harass a female waiter more than a male counterpart (Charke 1930).

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Priya Shah - The World is a Stage: Theatricality, Conventionality... [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]