Theater Is Disreputable YKTTW Discussion

Theater Is Disreputable
Actors are disreputable.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-06-17 13:44:10 sponsor: Goldfritha (last reply: 2012-09-20 10:57:57)

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Theater, or any occupation where you appeared on stage, was long held to be a disreputable profession in modern Europe -- under some laws, an actress could not sue for slander because her occupation meant she could not have a reputation to protect. This led to a self-fulfilling situation, in which many women avoided the stage to protect themselves. The plots of many plays did not help the matter. (Also, actresses painted.)

Unsurprisingly, it was reflected in literature, though a Forgotten Trope today. It's mostly a female trope, since A Man Is Not a Virgin.

In early works, it would mostly be used as a shorthand to indicate that an actress was The Vamp. As the stigma of acting decreased, it became a way to indicate the desperation of a poor family, that a daughter or wife would go on stage, or an obstacle to love, where the young man must get his parents to revoke the Parental Marriage Veto inspired by her occupation.


  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Freckles,
  • In the last of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women books Jo's Boys, an actress discusses the purification of the stage with an aspiring actress.
  • In Jane Austen
    my Mother was the natural Daughter of a Scotch Peer by an Italian Opera-girl
    • In Mansfield Park, Fanny's disapproval of private theatricals is a mark of her character.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers's Strong Poison, a major element of the Back Story is Rosanna Wrayburn, aka "Cremorna Garden", who ran away to go on stage and fully lived up the reputation of actresses.

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