actress



actress defined in 1939 year

actress - Actress;
actress - Female impersonator of women's parts in stage plays. Originally female roles were acted by men and boys. Foreign companies which included actresses visited London early in the 17th century, and women of rank figured in Elizabethan and Jacobean court masques and pageants, but actresses, like movable scenery, were first introduced to the English stage at the Restoration, by Killigrew and Davenaat, being later popularised by Betterton. Pepys saw actresses first in Jan., 1661, and noted on hearsay that one of Killigrew's productions was acted "by nothing but women." Mrs. Betterton (d. 1712) was the first notable English actress, and Edward Kyuaston (d. 1706) the last celebrated English impersonator of female characters. Shakespeare has several allusions to the appearance of men and boys in women's parts, e.g. in the epilogue of As You Like It and in Hamlet, II, 2; and their rivalry enters largely into the famous stage quarrel of 1599-1601. See Acting; Drama.

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