A stage under petticoat government : Italian international actresses in the age of Queen Victoria
The aim of this thesis has been to document the English careers of the two nineteenth-century Italian International actresses Adelaide Ristori and Eleonora Duse. The English careers of Duse and Ristori are discussed in the light of both the nineteenth-century debate which developed in England on the role and nature of the actress, and the reception of foreign stars on the English stage and the ensuing discussion on the way foreign theatre stars conformed to, or contravened, prevailing images of English womanhood. Chapter 2 looks into the role and status of the actress from the mid-nineteenth-century to the fin de siecle by deploying critical tools offered by feminist theatre criticism. It is an attempt to define the role of the nineteenth-century actress as a professional woman and draw attention to the voyeuristic nature of nineteenth-century theatre where actresses were put on display: on the one hand they were admired and visually possessed by their audiences, but on the other, they were doomed, as women who made a public show of their bodies, to be social outcasts. Chapter 3 attempts a chronology of foreign actresses on the English stage and focuses on their reception which provides a basis for comparison between English and foreign nineteenth-century actresses. Chapter 4 and 5 respectively, reconstruct Ristori's and Duse's English careers. Issues tackled in the previous chapters resurface here to provide a critical angle in trying to evaluate their reception in Victorian England. The conclusion endeavours to pull together the different lines of this study and points to possible lines of research to be pursed in the future in the field of women in theatre.