Women as Characters: Cleopatra Imagined

Comparatively few actresses appear in nineteenth-century etchings of Shakespearean female characters; far more often artists render an ideal female character rather than the role in action. One reason for this may be that critics like Anna Jameson and Helena Fawcitt were writing very popular criticism of Shakespeare's female characters at the same time that actresses were still suspect. Oxberry's Dramatic Biography (in multiple volumes) often question the morals of actresses at the same time as praising the characters they play.

Equally intriguing, images of female characters often consist of head-and-shoulders shots, unless the figure is part of a scene. These are portraits, in keeping with the growing investment in the quality of character rather than action as far as female characters go.

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