• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Nell Gwyn (Playhouse Cretaures) essay

Extracts from this document...


Nell Gwyn. Nell Gwyn (or Gwyn or Gwynne), born Eleanor, (2 February 1650 - 14 November 1687), was one of the earliest English actresses to receive prominent recognition, and a long-time mistress of King Charles II. Called "pretty, witty Nell" by Samuel Pepys, she has been called a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration England and has come to be considered a folk heroine, with a story echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella. Elizabeth Howe, in The First English Actresses, says she was "the most famous Restoration actress of all time, possessed of an extraordinary comic talent."[1] By Charles, Nell had two sons, Charles Beau clerk (1670-1726) and James Beau clerk (1671-1680). Charles was the first Earl of Buford, later Duke of St. Albans. Early life Very little is reliably known about Nell Gwyn's background. Her mother was Helena (or perhaps Eleanor) Gwyn, nee Smith; contemporaries referred to her as "Old Madam Gwyn" or simply "Madam Gwyn". Madam Gwyn was born within the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, and is thought to have lived most of her life in the city. She is believed by most Gwyn biographers to have been low-born; Beauclerk calls this conjecture, based solely on what is known of her later life. Nell Gwyn's father was, according to most sources, Thomas Gwyn, a Captain in the Royalist army during the English Civil War.[2] Three cities make the claim to be Nell Gwyn's birthplace: Hereford, London (specifically Covent Garden), and Oxford. Evidence for any one of the three is scarce.[3] That "Gwyn" is a name of Welsh origin might support Hereford, on the border with Wales; The Dictionary of National Biography notes a traditional belief that she was born there in Pipe Well Lane, renamed to Gwyn Street in the 19th century. London is the simplest choice, perhaps, since Nell's mother was born there and there is where she raised her children. ...read more.


It makes me, I confess, admire her.[19] Many comedies of the day, like The Maiden Queen, featured breeches roles, where the actresses appeared in men's clothes under one pretense or another; if nothing else this could draw an audience eager to see the women show off their figures in the more form-fitting male attire. The attraction had another dynamic: the theatres sometimes had a hard time holding onto their actresses, as they were swept up to become the kept mistresses of the aristocracy. In 1667, Nell Gwyn made such a match with Charles Sackville, titled Lord Buckhurst at that time. She supposedly caught his eye during an April performance of All Mistaken, or The Mad Couple, especially in one scene in which, to escape a hugely fat suitor able to move only by rolling, she rolls across the stage herself, her feet toward the audience and her petticoats flying about. A satire of the time describes this and also Hart's position now, in the face of competition from the upper echelons of society: Yet Hart more manners had, then not to tender When noble Buckhurst beg'd him to surrender. He saw her roll the stage from side to side And, through her drawers the powerful charm descry'd. [20] Beauclerk describes Buckhurst: "Cultured, witty, satirical, dissolute, and utterly charming".[21] He was one of a handful of court wits, the "merry gang" as named by Andrew Marvell. Sometime after the end of April and her last recorded role that season (in Robert Howard's The Surprisal), Gwyn and Buckhurst left London for a country holiday in Epsom, accompanied by Charles Sedley, another wit in the merry gang. Pepys reports the news on 13 July: "[Mr. Pierce tells us] Lord Buckhurst hath got Nell away from the King's house, lies with her, and gives her �100 a year, so she hath sent her parts to the house, and will act no more."[22] However, Nell Gwyn was acting once more in late August, and her brief affair with Buckhurst ...read more.


of Luke 15:7 "Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Legacy Though Nell Gwyn was often caricatured as an empty-headed woman, John Dryden said that her greatest attribute was her native wit, and she certainly became a hostess who was able to keep the friendship of Dryden, the playwright Aphra Behn, William Ley, 4th Earl of Marlborough (another lover), John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester and the king's other mistresses. Nell is especially remembered for one particularly apt witticism, which was recounted in the memoirs of the Comte de Gramont, remembering the events of 1681: Nell Gwynn was one day passing through the streets of Oxford, in her coach, when the mob mistaking her for her rival, the Duchess of Portsmouth, commenced hooting and loading her with every opprobrious epithet. Putting her head out of the coach window, "Good people", she said, smiling, "you are mistaken; I am the Protestant whore."[34] This appeal to British bigotry made her immensely popular. The Catholic whore was still the Frenchwoman Louise de K�rouaille, who had been raised to Duchess of Portsmouth in 1673. Nell is also famous for another remark made to her coachman, who was fighting with another man who had called her a whore. She broke up the fight, saying, "I am a whore. Find something else to fight about." Nell was the only one of Charles II's many mistresses to be genuinely popular with the English public. It is thought to have been Nell who persuaded the king to build the Royal Hospital, Chelsea in London for ex-servicemen. Zoe Tapper played the part of Nell Gwyn in the 2004 film Stage Beauty. Gwyn is a supporting character but some of her history and her current (at the time the movie portrays) role as the King's mistress is mentioned. Samantha Cameron, the wife of Tory leader David Cameron is thought to be a descendant of Nell. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level British History: Monarchy & Politics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level British History: Monarchy & Politics essays

  1. Does Alexander II deserve the title of 'Tsar liberator'?

    The Emancipation manifesto can clearly be interpreted as quite weak in terms of setting out clear, focused plans of how the situation was going to be dealt with in the short and long terms, and, like his father Nicholas had been, Alexander shows clear signs that he is focused more

  2. Betrayal In The Song of Roland and The Romance of Tristan and Iseult.

    The betrayal of Ganelon is unforgivable by Charles, but the feudal system under which they are both obliged requires Ganelon is tried by a jury of fellow vassals.

  1. This essay examines the actions of Charles VII in relation to events pertaining to ...

    The outcomes of the trial seem to support such a theory.49 With Bishop Cauchon, Joan's main opposition dead, and the English retreating, the other judges who participated in the initial trial blamed the English and Cauchon as well as the procedure of the Condemnation Trial; the faults of the Church

  2. Charlemagne Essay.

    Charles placed military burdens on all freemen, but the recruitment system took into account variations in wealth of freemen, the distance of the campaign and the threat the enemy posed when it was decided who should serve. An example of showing flexibility of military system is the 807 capitularies, 'ordered

  1. arctic story

    me or is he trying to avoid me, he just wants me to shut up on a constant basis. My feet really do hurt in these boots. I think they make them so that they hurt. They are just so uncomfortable.

  2. Examine the sun's coverage of the royal family in the edition of Monday 10th ...

    The keyword, which makes the reader, want to read on is "grim faced", this tells us that Charles is extremely worried and upset because the accusation about his sexuality is very serious. This is the "biggest crisis of his life", suggests that Charles is in deep trouble, this reminds us

  1. History Of Framlingham Castle

    School Master think fittest' The poorhouse was built using stone from the Great Hall and or the Chapel. The poorhouse was built on the site of the Great Hall. The poorhouse functions until 1839. After 1839 Framlingham was used sparadically as a drill hall and firestation but was not lived in.

  2. The changing position of women and the suffrage question. Revision notes

    How effective was the women?s franchise movement 1865-1903? The election of John Stuart Mill to the House of Commons The election of John Stuart Mill to the House of Commons was important to the cause of female suffrage for several reasons: * John Stuart Mill was elected on a female suffrage platform; although he refused to canvass he

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work