- A leading male role that is played by an actress. In Britain,this was particularly common in the romantic comedies of the earlier18th century. Roles in which female characters temporarily disguisethemselves as men (as Rosalind does in As You Like It)are not strictly speaking breeches parts.
Celebrated English examples of actresses playing breechesparts are Peg Woffington as Sir Harry Wildair in Farquhar'sThe Constant Couple and Mrs Mountfort as Macheath in Gay'sThe Beggar's Opera. In Victorian times, Madame Vestriswas noted for playing male roles. The tradition survives in the conventionthat the principal boy in pantomime is played by a youngwoman. see also female impersonator.