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Early Shakespearean Actresses


John W. Crawford

One of the innovations of the Restoration in England was to introduce publicly the female actor on stage, with the reopening of the theatres. Charles II not only created two companies with his return to England, but promoted the concept of females as actors. It took courage for the first ones to enter this questionable vocation, considering the history the stage had achieved in Elizabethan and Stuart times, a history that demonstrated much criticism about the morality of dramatists and actors. Restoration actresses like George Anne Bellamy and Dora Jordan, as well as early eighteenth-century actresses like Catherine Clive and Peg Woffington proved that much individuality did indeed exist among the first; and even though the theatre had gained a much better reputation by the early nine- teenth century, still actresses like Ellen Terry and Julia Marlowe were often the talk of the town because of their personal lives. Yet, these women proved that there is a place for the actress in modern drama.
Contents: 1. Brief background of the world of actors of the sixteenth century - 2. Individual sketches of various early actresses of Shakespearean roles - 3. Summary essay of certain actresses and their influence on Shakespearean drama.