Elizabeth Barry - Encyclopedia


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ELIZABETH BARRY (1658-1713), English actress, of whose early life the details are meagre. At first she was so unsuccessful on the stage as to be more than once dismissed; but she was coached by her lover the earl of Rochester, who had laid a wager that in a short time he would make a first-rate actress of her, and the results confirmed his judgment. Mrs Barry's performance as Isabella, queen of Hungary, in the earl of Orrery's Mustapha, was said to have caused Charles II. and the duke and duchess of York so much delight that the duchess took lessons in English from her, and when she became queen she gave Mrs Barry her coronation robes in which to appear as Elizabeth in Banks's Earl of Essex. Mrs Barry is said to have created over ioo parts, and she was particularly successful in the plays of Thomas Otway. Betterton says that her acting gave "success to plays that would disgust the most patient reader." Dryden pronounced her "always excellent." Cibber is authority for the statement that it was on her behalf that benefits, which up to that time were reserved for authors, were first established for actors by command of James II. Mrs Barry had a child by Lord Rochester and a second by Sir George Etheredge, both of whom were provided for by their fathers. In 1709 she retired from the stage and died on the 7th of November 1713.

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