The First English Actresses: Women and Drama, 1660-1700 / Edition 1

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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. Elizabeth Howe opens up a fascinating subject to nonspecialists. Beginning with a general account of the workings of Restoration theater, she explains the treatment received by the actresses and how their sexuality was exploited. The book addresses questions that are relevant to women's issues in every period: how far did the advent of 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 new female voice in society and a new place in discourse.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...packed with new information on women involved in drama of the times, from analysis of theatre objectives and performance technicalities to consideration of how actresses were treated by companies and society during the times." The Midwest Book Review

"...a detailed, meticulous study, which will be of interest to the specialist as well as the general reader....presents an enormous amount of information and will almost certainly provide the impetus for future studies." Elizabeth D. Harvey, Renaissance Quarterly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521422109
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1992
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents

Illustrations; A note on styling, dates and editions used; Preface; Introduction; 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; Notes; Bibliography; Index.

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