Restoration England (1660~1720) was a raucous time for theater-making. After an 18- year Puritanical ban on the theater, and with the restoration of the worldly Charles II to the throne, English theater underwent a pivotal rebirth. At this time, women were allowed to act on the public stage for the first time, an event carrying enormous implications for gender roles. This paper argues that actresses posed a threat to the patriarchal hierarchy that was in place at this time. Their unique position in professional theater and unusual access to a public voice not available to the rest of women enabled actresses to subvert restrictions placed on their sexuality and public gender roles. As such, the first English actresses transgressed traditional patriarchal norms and had to be subjugated to prevent social disorder; this was primarily achieved through sexualization of their stage roles, association with prostitution and the satisfaction of the male ‘gaze.’

Date of Completion

Fall 2012

Degree Type