Article Title

"Weeping Mothers Shall Applaud": Sarah Yates as Margaret of Anjou on the London Stage, 1797


Sarah Burdett


This study demonstrates the decisive role played by casting choices in determining the relationship between dramatic characters’ textual and performed identities, by assessing a performance of Thomas Francklin’s tragedy The Earl of Warwick (1766). The heroine of Francklin’s tragedy is Margaret of Anjou, the medieval warrior Queen of Lancastrian England. Despite her textual representation as a savage and bloodthirsty amazon, when an unrevised version of Francklin’s play was staged at the Haymarket Theatre in 1797, it was not as a masculine warrior, but as a grieving and sentimental mother that Margaret was interpreted by her audience. I hypothesize that the discrepancy formed in 1797 between Margaret’s textual and performed identities was determined largely by the actress embodying the role. My analysis sheds light on the life and career of the critically neglected actress Sarah Yates. I contend that audiences’ knowledge of the domestic affliction suffered by Yates just six months before she appeared at Haymarket served to defend the actress against charges of unwomanly ambition, while concurrently vindicating her character’s foray into battle, by manipulating theatregoers into perceiving Margaret, like Yates herself, as a desperate and devoted mother.

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