Question:

History of women acting in British Plays.

by Guest1145  |  earlier

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I am writing a report on the history of women actresses in British plays. I have gathered a lot of data but still stuck with this question. Who let women to act in british plays in the 1600s and why? Do you have any information regarding this? Someone please share your knowledge here.

 Tags: acting, British, history, plays, Women

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  1. Guest23269002


    Dear,

    your question is an interesting one, and I had actually never looked into the specifics of the transformation from boy-actor to actress in women's roles during this period - thank you for giving me the chance to do so.

    I found a succinct history of women onstage in 17th century England on The 17th Century Theatre Database:

    theatredatabase.com/17th_century/women_on_stage.html

    In brief: it seems that the phenomenon of women acting on the English stage did not happen at one specific time, nor was it allowed by any one individual - rather, it was a process. To start with, a French company of actors, including women, appeared onstage at Backfires and then a number of other theaters in 1629. These actresses were not received well by the public in England, and derisive comments were written on the subject for decades.

    In 1642, English Theatres were officially closed for 18 years under Puritan law. Nonetheless, there were exceptions and in 1656 a spectacle (not officially labeled 'theatre') of Davenant's 'Siege of Rhodes' is recorded as including an the actress, Mrs. Coleman.

    Charles II's Restoration began in 1660. This King had become accustomed to seeing women onstage during his exile on mainland Europe, where women were permitted to act, and he opened the doors for actresses in England.

    A book on the subject that looks interesting is Elizabeth Howe's 'The First English Actresses - Women and Drama, 1660 - 1700'. You can find details and purchase information here:

    cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521422108

    Another interesting website is Theatrehistory.com:

    theatrehistory.com/british/restoration_drama_001.html

    Hope this answer is helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact me again! Best of luck with your report
     

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