ALL THE KING'S LADIES by John Harold Wilson


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The author, professor of English at Ohio State University, surveys, with a certain charm and wit, the introduction of female players to the Restoration stage. His purpose is to consider what kinds of women they were, the conditions under which they lived and worked, their behavior on stage and off and finally the effect they had on late 17th century drama. Although the first English actress is not known for certain, a few -- Katherine Corey, Mary Betterton, Anne Shadwell -- had distinguished careers on stage and a few others -- Nell Gwyn, Moll Davis -- attained notoriety chiefly because of their off-stage achievements as royal mistresses. Because no ""lady"" could consider a career on the stage and because the barmaid and brothel class lacked all education and refinement, there was left only a narrow middle stratum from which actresses could be drawn. But whatever their dubious qualifications, ""to survive in the Restoration theatre, a woman needed a rugged constitution and a fighting heart; to preserve her virtue she needed a squad of guardian angels"". A lively, able account, definitely of interest to students of drama and the period.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1958
Publisher: University of Chicago Press