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Thomas Betterton
The Greatest Actor of the Restoration Stage


  • Date Published: June 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521195843


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About the Authors
  • Restoration London's leading actor and theatre manager Thomas Betterton has not been the subject of a biography since 1891. He worked with all the best-known playwrights of his age and with the first generation of English actresses; he was intimately involved in the theatre's responses to politics, and became a friend of leading literary men such as Pope and Steele. His innovations in scenery and company management, and his association with the dramatic inheritance of Shakespeare, helped to change the culture of English theatre. David Roberts's entertaining study unearths new documents and draws fresh conclusions about this major but shadowy figure. It contextualizes key performances and examines Betterton's relationship to patrons, colleagues and family, as well as to significant historical moments and artefacts. The most substantial study available of any seventeenth-century actor, Thomas Betterton gives one of England's greatest performing artists his due on the tercentenary of his death.

    • Presents an array of new findings and deductions about Betterton's life and career, of particular interest to theatre scholars interested in documentary records of the seventeenth-century stage
    • Provides a fresh understanding of the place of actors in seventeenth-century London
    • This is the first biography of this major actor for more than 100 years, published on the 300th anniversary of his death
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Roberts's biography of Betterton is the first one of that leading actor and theater manager to have been published since 1891 - clearly an overdue scholarly treatment and one that is impressive for its extensive use of archival materials, from the British Library and beyond.' Devoney Looser, Studies in English Literature

    'This is an important book, and a valuable addition to the modest amount of modern writing we have on Betterton compared to that on the next great English actor-manager, David Garrick.' Kenneth Richards, Theatre Research International

    'This scrupulously researched biography … plugs a gaping hole in the history of London's theatres.' Studies in Theatre and Performance

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2010
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521195843
    • length: 270 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 160 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.57kg
    • contains: 11 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Look my lord, it comes: Betterton's Hamlet
    2. An obstinately shadowy Titan: Betterton in biography
    3. An actor of London: early years, 1635–1659
    4. A walk in the park: Betterton and the scene of comedy
    5. In the Duke's Company, 1660–1663
    6. Equal with the highest: Thomas Betterton and Henry Harris, 1663–1668
    7. Actor management: running the Duke's Company
    8. In the company of the Duke: Betterton and Catholic politics in the 1670s
    9. Union: Betterton and theatrical monopoly, 1682–1695
    10. Back to the future: breakaway to semi-retirement
    11. Books and pictures: Betterton and the Chandos portrait

  • Author

    David Roberts, Birmingham City University
    David Roberts is Professor and Head of English at Birmingham City University. His previous publications include The Ladies: Female Patronage of Restoration Drama (1989) and editions of Defoe's Colonel Jack, A Journal of the Plague Year and Lord Chesterfield's Letters. His articles and reviews have appeared in leading journals including Shakespeare Quarterly, The Review of English Studies, ELH, The Times Literary Supplement and New Theatre Quarterly.

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