Actresses As Working Women In the Victorian Theatre





Actresses As Working Women In the Victorian Theatre

Lawrence Raw

HACETTEPE UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE, Proceedings of the XVth All-Turkey English Literature Conference, Special Edition (May 1995): 59-70.

Abstract

“No matter how moral, or well-behaved they might have been, many actresses – even the star actresses were associated with a life of immorality and degeneracy. The public nature of their art; the dubious social value of the institution in which they worked; the type of costumes they wore (which often revealed far more of the female anatomy than was permissable outside the theatre); the morally questionable parts they often had to play; all these factors conspired to make any Victorians believe that acting was a morally dubious profession. Actresses were no better than prostitutes; indeed, it was likely that some of them were prostitutes.



Such paradoxes lie at the heart of the actress’ status during the late Victorian period, and it is these that this paper seeks to explore. In keeping with the theme of this seminar – “Text and context in Victorian Literature” – this paper will subsequently look at the social position of the Victorian actress, as revealed through various sources – published plays, songs, autobiographies. Such evidence should demonstrate that the various manifestations of the actresses’ identity were constructed in keeping with the interests of particular groups, to the disadvantage of female performers themselves.”

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