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The First English Actresses

The First English Actresses
Women and Drama, 1660–1700


  • Date Published: June 1992
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521422109

£ 36.99

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About the Authors
  • Before the Restoration of Charles II there were no professional actresses on the English stage, and female roles had almost always been played by men. This book describes how and why women were permitted to act on the public stage after 1660, and the consequences of their arrival for the drama of the period. Elizabeth Howe opens up a fascinating subject to non-specialists. Beginning with a general account of the workings of Restoration theatre, she goes on to explain the advent of the actresses and how they were treated. Perceived predominantly as sex objects, the actresses' sexuality was variously exploited in ways that had important consequences for drama. The book addresses questions that are relevant to women's issues in every period: how far did the advent of real women players alter dramatic portrayals of women? Did this encourage more or less equality between the sexes? Although in one sense merely playthings for a small male elite, the pioneering actresses also represent a distinct female voice in society and a fresh place in discourse.

    • Describes the arrival of the first actresses on the English stage
    • Feminist interest as well as drama, so should find a place in both areas of bookshops
    • Plays by Restoration women dramatists are now being published, eg The Female Wits Anthology ed Fidelis Morgan (Virago 1981) and The Works of Aphra Behn
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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 1992
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521422109
    • length: 244 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 157 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • contains: 12 b/w illus. 2 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    A note on styling, dates and editions used
    1. The arrival of the actress
    2. Sex and violence: the exploitation of the actress in Restoration drama
    3. The actress, the dramatist and comedy
    4. Life overwhelming fiction: how actresses' own personalities affected their roles
    5. Elizabeth Barry and the development of Restoration tragedy
    6. The actress as dramatic prostitute/mistress
    7. The angel and the she-devil and their impact on Restoration drama
    8. Conclusion: the achievement of the first English actresses
    Appendix I. Major actresses and their roles
    Appendix II. Plays in which Barry and Bracegirdle appeared together

  • Author

    Elizabeth Howe

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