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A Bold Stroke for a Wife

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Jocelyn Dickson

on 25 September 2014

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Transcript of A Bold Stroke for a Wife

Susanna Centlivre
Susanna Centlivre
After 1700
~At this time in history there was more documentation of her life
~In early 1700, she got into politics, working with the Whig party
~Also got back into acting and writing plays
~Played Alexander the Great in Nathaniel Lee's tragedy The Rival Queens or The Death of Alexander the Great at the Court of Queen Anne
~There, Joseph Centlivre, who was a cook for the Queen, became smitten with her when he saw her playing the breeches role (a role in which a woman plays a man)
~They married in 1707
Historical Context
Centlivre's Legacy
~She was one of the leading female playwrights of her time
~She was also the most commercially successful female playwright of that period
~She challenged the stigma attached to woman playwrights in Restoration England
~She was an actress, a poet, a feminist in her own right, and a playwright

A Bold Stroke for a Wife
By Susanna Centlivre

The Audience's Reaction
Plotting and Scene

Centlivre & Feminism
~Not much is known about her early life
~There are two different main theories:
1. Born to a Mr. Freeman of Holbeach, Lincolnshire, who passed away when she was three. At 14, she supposedly ran away and joined a group of travelling actors to get away from her not-so-nice stepmother.
2. She ran away with Anthony Hammond who disguised her as a man and took her to the
University of Cambridge where she learned a little grammar and some terms of logic before moving to London to work as an actor.

Centlivre's Works
~Numerous letters and poems
~Sixteen full length plays
~Three short farces
~Five of her plays became standard writings in the 18th and 19th century repertoires
~She wrote all of her writings between 1700 and 1722
~She wrote many of her earlier plays anonymously because of her gender

~She was writing in a time when society viewed female writers negatively
~She encountered so much hostility that she left the theatre world behind for two years
~In 1709, she returned with a comedy called The Busy Body
~It premiered to a small audience
~By it's third night the theatre was filled
~Because of The Busy Body's success, Susanna Centlivre never again hid her gender from audiences
~She wrote during a time when woman writers were viewed negatively
~She changed classic comic conventions to challenge society's assumptions about women
~Centlivre valued the efforts of fellow woman writers of the time
~Such as Aphra Behn and Mary Pix
~She wrote a poem to commandeer these efforts in 1703
~“Thou Champion for our Sex go on and show / Ambitious Man what Womankind can do.”
Centlivre & Feminism Cont'd
~Centlivre valued Pix's development of independent-minded heroine characters in her plays
~Centlivre and Pix became friends
~When Pix passed away in 1709, Susanna Centlivre donated the proceeds of a benefit performance of "The Busy Body" to Pix's family in order to pay a tribute to their friendship
~Centlivre generally wrote using the traditional romantic comedy plot:
Young lovers whose romance is blocked by selfish and inherently unsympathetic fathers or guardians
~This justifies the daughter character's rebellious actions
~Her plot structure features obstacles for the lovers, other characters plotting against them, complext intrigue, elements of farce, disguises, and intercepted or forged letters
~Strong elements of stage bustle and comic fun
~Restoration Comedy lasted from 1660 to 1710
~Charles II was King from 1660-1685, and strongly encouraged sexual explicitness in the theatre, for which Restoration Comedy was notorious
~The Puritans of the time attacked the theatre for it's immorality and profaneness
~In 1698, a minister named Jeremy Collier wrote a treatise against Restoration theatre, which historians suggest marked the end of the theatrical Restoration
~Sexual content of the plays was toned down
~ "A Bold Stroke for a Wife" was written in 1718, eight years after the recorded transition from Restoration Comedy to Eighteenth-Century Drama

A production of Centlivre's "A Bold Stroke for
a Wife" performed by students at Illinois
Wesleyan University in 2005
These two handsome ladies are Susanna Centlivre (left) and Mary Pix (right). They were both female playwrights and friends during the Restoration period and the 18th Century.
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