Restoration London's leading actor and theatre manager Thomas Betterton has not been the subject of a biography since 1891. He worked with all the best-known playwrights of his age and with the first generation of English actresses; he was intimately involved in the theatre's responses to politics, and became a friend of leading literary men such as Pope and Steele. His innovations in scenery and company management, and his association with the dramatic inheritance of Shakespeare, helped to change the culture of English theatre. David Roberts's entertaining study unearths new documents and draws fresh conclusions about this major but shadowy figure. It contextualizes key performances and examines Betterton's relationship to patrons, colleagues and family, as well as to significant historical moments and artefacts. The most substantial study available of any seventeenth-century actor, Thomas Betterton gives one of England's greatest performing artists his due on the tercentenary of his death.
'Roberts's biography of Betterton is the first one of that leading actor and theater manager to have been published since 1891 - clearly an overdue scholarly treatment and one that is impressive for its extensive use of archival materials, from the British Library and beyond.' Devoney Looser, Studies in English Literature
'This is an important book, and a valuable addition to the modest amount of modern writing we have on Betterton compared to that on the next great English actor-manager, David Garrick.' Kenneth Richards, Theatre Research International
'This scrupulously researched biography ... plugs a gaping hole in the history of London's theatres.' Studies in Theatre and Performance
This scrupulously researched biography, notwithstanding the long labors of Judith Milhous, plugs a gaping hole in the history of London's theaters. It was, above all, Pepys and Cibber (and, for more specialist readers, John Downes) who forced on later generations the recognition acknowledged in the subtitle of this book [...] Always alert to the perplexity of Londoners through the last decades of the seventeenth century, Roberts presents us with a Betterton who recognized `the audience's need to revisit the past in order to make sense of the present' (p. 80). "
-Peter Thomson, STP