University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)3-21
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Journal publication date1 Feb 2017
Early online date10 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


Lucia Elizabeth Vestris (1797-1856) and Sara Lane (1822-1899) are two pioneering women in nineteenth-century theatrical history. Both were accomplished singers, initially made their names in comic and breeches roles, and, during periods when theatrical management was almost exclusively confined to men, both successfully ran theatre companies (Vestris at the fashionable Olympic and Lyceum Theatres and Lane at the Britannia in the East End). Despite these parallels in their professional activities there are substantial disparities in the scrutiny to which their personal lives were subjected and in how their contemporaries and posterity have memorialised them. In this article Janice Norwood examines a range of portraits and cartoons of the two women, revealing how the images functioned as reflections and creators of the women’s public identities as well as recording changes in aesthetic practice and social attitudes. She argues that the women’s iconology was fundamentally shaped by the contemporary discourse of gender difference. Janice Norwood is Senior Lecturer in English Literature, Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Hertfordshire. She has published on various aspects of nineteenth-century theatre history and edited a volume on Vestris for the Lives of Shakespearian Actors series.


This article has been published in a revised form in New Theatre Quarterly, [ This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. COPYRIGHT: © Cambridge University Press 2017.

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