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Treading the BawdsActresses and Playwrights on the Late Stuart Stage$
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Gilli Bush-Bailey

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780719072505

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719072505.001.0001

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Old stories, new histories

Old stories, new histories

(p.179) 7 Old stories, new histories
Treading the Bawds

Bush-Bailey Gilli

Manchester University Press

The personal and professional confidence that marks the work of the actress/managers and female playwrights in the closing years of the seventeenth century became increasingly strained as the company moved 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. Female theatre practitioners at Lincoln's Inn Fields faced an escalation of hostility towards them from forces both outside and inside the theatrical community. ‘Petticoat Authors’ were the object of derision and abuse in satires that reinforced the writer/actress/whore trope with new vigour. Barry was, once again, reviled as a proud, mercenary whore, while Bracegirdle's virtuous reputation was openly mocked in sexually graphic lampoons. More seriously, the actresses' managerial position within the company was undermined when moves were made to place Betterton in overall charge of the Players' Company. In spite of the opposition ranged against them, the actress/managers resisted moves to curb their authority and, alongside the female playwrights, continued to negotiate their way through the treacherous waters of the anti-theatrical lobby. Ten new plays by female playwrights were produced between 1699 and 1705, including three by one of the most successful female playwrights of the eighteenth century, Susanna Centlivre.

Keywords:   female playwrights, theatre actresses, Susanna Centlivre, Lincoln's Inn Fields

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