TREADING THE BAWDS Actresses and playwrights on the late-Stuart stage
226pp. Manchester University Press. £50.
0 7190 7250 6
Jean I. Marsden
FATAL DESIRE Women, sexuality and the English stage, 16601720
216pp. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. $45; distributed in the
UK by Plymbridge. £25.50.
0 8014 4447 0
From Restoration gossip to twenty-first-century film, the story has
survived that the Earl of Rochester bet he could turn the young
Elizabeth Barry into a great actress, and won his wager. He
accomplished this by making Barry rehearse a part up to thirty times,
going into every detail of her character's speeches; and it may be
assumed that there was a sexual element to this pedagogy, because the
actress later bore her tutor a daughter, in 1677. As the recent film
of Stephen Jeffreys's play, The Libertine, makes clear, the
Restoration stage would never have had its Shakespearean heroines well
acted without the critical interventions of the good Earl.