‘Our friend venus performed to a miracle’: Anne Bracegirdle, John Eccles and creativity

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One spectator observed, ‘Our friend Venus performed to a miracle’. ‘By a Potent and Magnetick Charm in performing a Song’, another commented, she ‘caus'd the Stones of the Streets to fly in the Men's Faces’. These effusive remarks both refer to the renowned actress-singer Anne Bracegirdle (baptised 1671, died 1748; for a portrait, see Plate 11.1), who frequently provoked enthusiastic responses from those who witnessed her considerable talents. She worked consistently – first with the United Company and later with the company at Lincoln's Inn Fields – from 1688 to 1707, when she retired from the stage; judging from contemporary evidence she was a compelling performer, and her singing coupled dramatic ability with vocal grace in a particularly potent way. Bracegirdle's biography is unusual for this era. Unlike many other actresses, who traded sexual favours for financial gain and even social status, Bracegirdle staunchly maintained her reputation for chastity throughout her career. And this off-stage persona affected her on-stage performances: frequently, as we shall see, her musical characters traded on familiarity with her off-stage persona. The composer John Eccles (c. 1668–1735) wrote numerous songs specifically for Bracegirdle during her career. The collaboration was mutually beneficial: Eccles was an astute man of the theatre and his accessible music pleased audiences, particularly when performed by the talented actress–singer; in turn, Bracegirdle enjoyed heightened success because of the songs Eccles crafted specifically to suit her vocal and dramatic abilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationConcepts of Creativity in Seventeenth-Century England
PublisherBoydell and Brewer Ltd
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781782042310
ISBN (Print)9781843837404
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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