Women Dramatists at the Turn of the Century
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The 1680s and early 1690s were a difficult time for dramatists. Political unrest, from the Popish Plot to the Glorious Revolution in 1688, caused a sharp drop in theatre attendance, about which Behn complained in her Prologue to The Feigned Courtesans. William III showed no interest in the stage and had no intention of renewing the patronage of his predecessors. The King’s Company collapsed in 1682 owing to financial mismanagement and merged with the Duke’s Company to become the United Company, leaving the market for new plays extremely limited. Behn herself had been forced to find other sources of income and had started to write novels. After her death in 1689, it took six years before a play by a new woman dramatist was performed on a London stage. The situation improved only when the United Company split up in 1695, and Betterton led a group of star actors to Lincoln’s Inn Field. The sudden new competition between the two playhouses revived the flagging market and also led to a spectacular upsurge in women dramatists in the 11 years between 1695 and 1706.
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