Before the Restoration of Charles II there were no professional actresses on the English stage, and female roles had almost always been played by men. This book describes how and why women were permitted to act on the public stage after 1660, and the consequences of their arrival. Elizabeth Howe opens up a fascinating subject to nonspecialists. Beginning with a general account of the workings of Restoration theater, she explains the treatment received by the actresses and how their sexuality was exploited. The book addresses questions that are relevant to women's issues in every period: how far did the advent of women players alter dramatic portrayals of women? Did this encourage more or less equality between the sexes? Although in one sense merely playthings for a small male elite, the pioneering actresses also represent a new female voice in society and a new place in discourse.