Women and Power in Eighteenth-Century France Actresses at the Comédie-Française*
Lenard R. Berlanstein
The writer and future revolutionary Louis-Sébastien Mercier proclaimed in a tract on the reform of theater that "the prestige which covers an actress renders her the most dangerous woman one can imagine."1 His emphasis on her "prestige" underscores the prominence of actresses in prerevolutionary society and culture. The leading female artists at the Comédie-Française (and possibly at some of the lesser theaters) were surely among the most visible and celebrated women of their day. The queen and royal mistresses____________________
I express deep appreciation to Sarah Maza, Jeffrey Ravel, and Jack Censer for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this essay.