Anne Bracegirdle

Definition

Theater

  • (1663 - 1748) One of Britain's first professional actresses.Anne was born in poverty and trained for the stage by Thomas Betterton.By 1688 she was appearing at Covent Garden, where she began to acquirea reputation for comedy. She was embroiled in scandal in 1692 when a certainCaptain Hill, who had become besotted with her, first attempted to abducther and then murdered her colleague, the actor and playwright William Mountfort(1664 - 92), out of sheer frustration.

    Although Mrs Bracegirdle was clearly an accomplished flirt and may wellhave been the mistress of William Congreve, she had a reputation forchastity that is almost unique in her profession and era. She created Congreve'sAngelica (opposite Betterton's Valentine) in Love For Love (1695) as wellas Millamant in his The Way Of The World (1700); probably, she was alsothe first woman to play Portia in The Merchant of Venice. She retired in 1707 as a gesture to the rising young actress Anne Oldfield, who succeededher as Millamant and in other roles. She lived quietly for another 40 years and wasburied in Westminster Abbey.

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