Segments in this Video

Women Stage Actresses (05:15)


Until 1660, men and boys play women’s stage roles. Women's first stage performances shock audiences. Puritans object violently to women's presence on London's stages.

Negative Image of Actresses (03:20)

King Charles II mandates that men no longer be allowed to imitate women on stage. Audiences assume that female actresses are whores. Men have access to women's dressing rooms.

Women's Provocative Behavior (03:02)

People attend theaters daily where they fight and brawl. The test of good performances is whether they can distract the audience's attention. Actors speak directly to audiences.

Actresses and Mistresses (04:39)

Nell Gwynn, mistress to Charles II, changes the Restoration drama experience. Society takes a great interest in stage gossip. Gwynn displays great wit and self-mockery.

Attitudes Towards Women (04:19)

Men's general attitude towards women is licentious. Elizabeth Barry is kept by a number of wealthy patrons. The theater develops a reputation as a nest for prostitution.

Women's Legacy to the Stage (03:10)

Actresses are seen on stage disguised in men's clothing which revealed their legs. The prostitute image of actresses on stage persists for another 200 years.

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’Tis Pity She’s a Whore: The First Women on the London Stage

DVD Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Women appeared on London’s stages for the first time in 1660; before that, female roles were played by boys. When the first woman stepped onto the public stage, she was assumed to be a whore; men had free access to their dressing rooms and at least two, Moll Davis and Nell Gwynn, were mistresses to King Charles II. This program looks at the background and training of these first actresses, at their influence on plays written at the time, at their lives and the roles they played, and at how their sexuality and availability became the central feature of their professional identity. (26 minutes)

Length: 25 minutes

Item#: BVL4802

Copyright date: ©1994

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Only available in USA, Australia, Canada and United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland.