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February 1, 2021

Ellen Terry: One of Britain's Leading Shakespearean Actresses

Born 1847 in Coventry, English actress Ellen Terry began performing as a child, acting in Shakespeare plays in London, and toured throughout the British provinces in her teens.

At 16, Terry married the 46-year-old artist George Frederic Watts, but they separated within a year. She soon returned to the stage but began a relationship with the architect Edward William Godwin and retired from the stage for six years. She resumed acting in 1874 and was immediately acclaimed for her portrayal of roles in Shakespeare and other classics.

In 1878, Terry joined Henry Irving’s company as his leading lady, and for more than the next two decades she was considered the leading Shakespearean and comic actress in Britain. Two of her most famous roles were Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. She and Irving also toured with great success in America and Britain.

In 1903, Terry took over management of London’s Imperial Theatre, focusing on the plays of George Bernard Shaw and Henrik Ibsen. The venture was a financial failure, and Terry turned to touring and lecturing. She continued to find success on stage until 1920, while also appearing in films from 1916 to 1922.

Her career lasted nearly seven decades. Terry died of a cerebral haemorrhage at her home near Tenterden, Kent, aged 81.

Here below is a collection of beautiful portrait photos of Ellen Terry during her career.


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