Conniving Women and Superannuated Coquettes: Travestis and Caractères in the Early Modern French Theatre

Virginia Scott


In the early years of the professional French theatre, older women's roles—the nourrice, the entremetteuse, the mère—were normally played by men en travesti. Beginning in the 1630s, according to Pierre Corneille, the nourrice was replaced by the suivante, which was played by an actress. However, the last of the travesti actors, Hubert, did not retire from the stage until 1685. Molière used male performers, including Hubert, through much of his career, but beginning in 1670 he wrote as well for a woman, Mlle La Grange, who can be identified as the first actress to play the emploi of caractères and whose entry into the troupe of the Palais Royal marks the increasing inclusion of older women's roles in French comedy.

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