Thomas Betterton

(2535 words)
  • David Roberts (Birmingham City University)

For the half-century of a career which started on the eve of Charles II’s Restoration in 1660, Thomas Betterton was widely regarded as, in the words of Samuel Pepys, “the best actor in the world”. He was also London’s foremost theatre manager, an occasional playwright, and a friend to major writers including Dryden and Pope. His name was a by-word for some rare theatrical commodities. To do as Betterton did meant reading a role for its emotional logic; it meant transcending limitations of age and physique to make an audience understand a character, not simply admire the actor who played it; it meant behaving with the sort of professionalism which made people suspend their usual judgments about the semi-respectable status of …

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Roberts, David. "Thomas Betterton". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 22 April 2008
[, accessed 28 September 2016.]