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Treading the bawds

Treading the bawds: Actresses and playwrights on the Late Stuart stage

Gilli Bush-Bailey
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Treading the bawds
    Book Description:

    Drawing on feminist cultural materialist theories and historiographies, ‘Treading the bawds’ analyses the collaboration between actresses Elizabeth Barry and Anne Bracegirdle and women playwrights such as Aphra Behn and Mary Pix, and traces a line of influence from the time of the first theatres royal to the rebellion that resulted in the creation of a player’s co-operative. Bush-Bailey offers a fresh approach to the history of women, seeing their neglected plays in the context of performance. By combining detailed analysis of selected plays within the broader context of a playhouse managed by its leading actresses, Bush-Bailey challenges the received historical and literary canons, including a radical solution to the mysterious identity of the anonymous playwright ‘Ariadne’. It is a story of female collaboration and influence with the spotlight focused on the very public world of women in the commercial business of theatre.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-363-8
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Series editors’ foreword
    (pp. vi-vi)
    Maggie B. Gale and Viv Gardner

    This series,Women, Theatre and Performance, has its origins in the work of a number of feminist theatre academics from the 1980s and 1990s–a period when interest burgeoned in the part that women have played in theatre over the centuries.That interest was in its turn the daughter of the ‘Second Wave’ women’s movement, the women’s theatre movement and the women’s history movement from the previous two decades. It was with some delight that women theatre workers, spectators and scholars alike discovered that womendidhave a significant history in performance, and these women – and some men – have...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    Twice a day, from Monday to Saturday, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane offers backstage tours to groups of schoolchildren, students and tourists. Clutching tickets admitting entrance ‘Through The Stage Door’, we are instructed to gather – in the foyer.² This impressive front of house space is positioned behind the four large double pillars that dominate Catherine Street on which this, the fourth Theatre Royal Drury Lane, now stands.³ A statue of Shakespeare, commissioned to adorn the portico of the theatre in 1820, now occupies a corner on the left hand side of the foyer, while on the other side the...

  6. Part I: Background

    • 1 In the company of women
      (pp. 27-50)

      Thomas Killigrew opened the doors of the first purpose-built Theatre Royal in 1663 but neither was it the first Theatre Royal nor was he the only theatre manager to entertain the newly restored King and his subjects. On Charles II’s return from exile in France in May 1660, a royal warrant was drawn up permitting two of the King’s loyal courtiers sole rights to the public performance of plays – for profit. The commercial theatre was born and the rights to this potentially lucrative enterprise were held by two patentees: Killigrew, a playwright who had remained close to the King’s...

    • 2 United we stand
      (pp. 51-75)

      The events of the 1680s reveal something of the social anxiety surrounding shifts in political power in both country and playhouse. This was a decade of political change in British society, signalling a departure from the triumphant libertine monarchism of the Restoration to the constitutional reforms introduced by the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688/9.¹ In the playhouse, the dramatic texts of this decade largely continue to support the Restoration values of the monarchy but there were also fundamental changes afoot in the day-to-day management of the two theatres at Drury Lane and Dorset Gardens. The accounts of this period in theatre...

    • 3 Control and influence on the Late Stuart stage
      (pp. 76-104)

      The theatrical season of 1688/9 is marked by political upheavals which brought about fundamental changes in the government of both the country and the United Company. In November 1688, James II was finally deposed in the ‘Glorious Revolution’ and the throne passed to his Protestant daughter, Mary II and her husband William III. William and Mary did not share the passionate interest in the theatre expressed by Charles and James and there is a gradual, but marked, shift away from plays that dealt largely with subjects and characters familiar to the inner court circle. Many of the stalwart royalist playwrights...

  7. Part II: The Players’ Company at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

    • 4 New Moves, New Voices
      (pp. 107-134)

      The playhouse in Lincoln’s Inn Fields had reverted to its original use as an indoor tennis court following the move of the Duke’s Company into its own purpose-built theatre in Dorset Gardens in 1674. The first task facing the rebels was to convert it once again into a playhouse, and Edward Langhans is the only theatre historian to my knowledge to note the significance of the fact that the ‘new’ theatre the company decided to occupy was in fact the first playhouse created by Davenant in 1660.¹ The relevance of this connection is, surely, that the theatre at Lincoln’s Inn...

    • 5 Competition and criticism
      (pp. 135-156)

      The Patent Company was in trouble. The big names of the Late Stuart stage were now to be found at Lincoln’s Inn Fields rather than at Drury Lane or Dorset Gardens and the London playgoing audience seemed more inclined to put their hands in their pockets for the rebels. Christopher Rich had managed to retain some senior players, notably comedian Joe Haynes. Several players had initially shown interest in joining the rebels but were persuaded to remain, including Susannah Verbruggen (formerly Mrs Mountfort) who used her popularity in breeches roles to deliver a blatantly crowd-pleasing prologue to Southerne’sOroonokoin...

    • 6 Re-forming the stage
      (pp. 157-178)

      The season of 1697/8 marks a crucial period in theatre history and an extraordinary chapter in the history of theatre women. In no other season on the Late Stuart stage were so many new plays by female playwrights performed by the same company in the same playhouse. Competition between the two houses was still fierce and an act of overt plagiarism by the Patent Company fuelled the ongoing animosity. The Players’ Company maintained its commercially successful edge over its rivals and this season can be seen to represent the peak of Barry and Bracegirdle’s joint career as actress/managers at Lincoln’s...

    • 7 Old stories, new histories
      (pp. 179-202)

      The personal and professional confidence which marks the work of the actress/managers and female playwrights in the closing years of the seventeenth century becomes increasingly strained as the company moves into the eighteenth century. Competition between the two houses led to the importation of expensive theatrical attractions from abroad, which drained the financial resources of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and once again the formation of a new united company was under serious discussion. Both houses faced growing pressure from the anti-theatrical lobby, which was attracting increasing support from the judiciary and, on her succession in 1702, the approval of the last...

    • 8 Certainly not a conclusion
      (pp. 203-207)

      This book began by considering the way history works and challenging the working of historiographical method in the traditional representation of women’s theatre histories. It has questioned the divide that happened after the event as it were, as the business of the theatrical past of women was asset-stripped and appropriated by the highest bidder: the playwright and her dramatic text to literature, the actress to biography or the byways of historical gossip. In pursuing an alternative history, one that tells the story of influence and collaboration between theatre women, the focus of this book has necessarily been tightened to look...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 208-222)
  9. Index
    (pp. 223-226)