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Keith Kikuchi

Professor Hudson

Women in the Visual and Literary Arts

17 March 2014

"Nell Gwynne"

In King's article, King describes the nature of actresses in Restoration England. These

actresses were noted as being from the lower status but cast in the role of aristocratic women:

often having to assume the dress and mannerisms of the aristocracy. The disparity between the

classes and the dualistic role of the actresses led to the eroticization of these differences. This

came at the expense of the performance, but benefited the audience, who were mostly from the

aristocracy. In the mid-18th Century, that notion became a tactic that showed the actresses

"innate" abilities.

In King's "two bodies" theory, King states that these actresses had two identities, that of

the character they were performing as and that of their physical body. The discrepancy between

the status of the actress and that of her character were exploited and played out in performances

as dramatic material. The actress' physically body subtly represented her availability and

materiality to the audience underneath the upper-class clothing.

The first women actresses were taught not to "be" their character but to re-present

themselves alongside their character. These women were often taught by boy actors who

themselves had to do the same. As with any form of voyeurism, the ability to see an actress in

the nude was privileged and empowering to the individual. Lower-class women, whom the

actresses represented, were easy prey for the sexual advances of upper-class men. Sadly, it is due
to the actresses portrayal of being associated with sex and prostitution that led to the norm of

female characters fulfilling that role and conveying the notion that real women have "innate" and

"natural" talent.