Academic journal article Theatre Notebook

Anne Bracegirdle-A Current Myth

Academic journal article Theatre Notebook

Anne Bracegirdle-A Current Myth

Article excerpt

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on Anne Bracegirdle now records as fact the romantic notion that the actress made no appearances in the theatre for more than two months after the fatal attack on the leading actor William Mountfort by Captain Hill and Lord Mohun. It states: 'The tragedy kept Anne off the stage until after Lord Mohun's trial and acquittal in February 1693, when she returned as Lady Trickitt in Thomas Southerne's The Maid's Last Prayer.' This idea appears to have first surfaced in Bracegirdle's entry in The Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, etc. (Highfill et al., 1973): 'That Anne Bracegirdle was shaken by the dreadful affair is evident from the theatrical records: she had played (or was supposed to have played) the Countess of Essex in The Unhappy Favourite on 9 December 1692, the day of the murder, and her next recorded performance was as Lady Trickitt in The Maid's Last Prayer at the end of February 1693, about a month after Lord Mohun's trial.'

For this period, we have very little information about the performances of plays in the standard repertoire which occupied the theatre on most days. We know from the Gentleman's Journal for December 1692 (published in January 1693) that the loss of Mountfort and the comic actor Anthony Leigh, who died less than a fortnight after Mountfort's murder, meant that there was a delay in putting on new plays. …

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