Elizabeth Boutell

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Elizabeth Boutell, née Davenport (early 1650s?—1715), was a British actress.


She joined, soon after its formation, the company at the Theatre Royal, subsequently known as Drury Lane, and was accordingly one of the first women to appear on the stage. Her earliest recorded appearance took place presumably in 1663 or 1664, as Estifania in Rule a Wife and Have a Wife. She joined the King's Company about 1670 and played many important roles in the 1670s, including Benzayda in John Dryden's The Conquest of Granada (December 1670 and January 1671), and probably Rosalinda in Nathaniel Lee's Sophonisba (3 April 1675).

She "created" among other characters, Melantha in Dryden's Marriage à la mode (c. April 1672), Margery Pinchwife in William Wycherley's The Country Wife (12 January 1675), Cleopatra in Dryden's All for Love (play), and Mrs. Termagant in Shadwell's Squire of Alsatia. Cibber somewhat curiously omits from his Apology all mention of her name.

Her most famous role was the loving and trustful Queen Statira in The Rival Queens (17 March 1677). She formed a notable acting partnership with Rebecca Marshall in a series of fashionable "women in conflict" plays, in which Boutell played the virtuous heroine to Marshall's darker antagonist.[1] Boutell specialized in breeches roles, such as Fidelia in Wycherley's The Plain Dealer (11 December 1676).

Edmund Curll described Boutell in The History of the English Stage (1741), a work supposedly based on the notes of the famous actor Thomas Betterton, who was the King's Company's de facto manager in the 1670s:

A very considerable Actress; she was low of Stature, had very agreeable Features, a good Complexion, but a Childish Look. Her Voice was weak, tho' very mellow; she generally acted the young, innocent Lady whom all the Heroes are mad in Love with; she was a Favourite of the Town.

A well-known story holds that, having for the character of Statira obtained from the property-man a veil to which Mrs. Barry, who played Roxana, thought herself entitled, an argument ensued between the two actresses, and Mrs. Barry dealt so forcible a blow with a dagger as to pierce through Mrs. Boutel's stays, and inflict a wound a quarter of an inch in length. During her active and busy career in the 1670s, she was according to the Biographical Dictionary of Actors generally considered a "very talented, popular, beautiful, and promiscuous young woman".

Davies, in his 'Dramatic Miscellanies,' (vol. ii. p. 404), speaks of Mrs. Boutel as 'celebrated for the gentler parts in tragedy such as Aspatia in the "Maid's Tragedy." ' No roles are recorded for her between March 1678 and April 1688. Her husband Barnaby Boutell had a lieutenant's commission from 1681, and the Biographical Dictionary of Actors speculates that she may have followed him to the Continent in the 1680s. Her last recorded role was with Thomas Betterton's company at Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1696, where she played Thomyris in Cyrus the Great.

In 1697 she left for Holland with her husband. She appears to have lived in comfort for some years subsequently. She made a will in 1714, which was proved the following year.


  1. ^ Howe, pp. 152-3.

 Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1886). "Boutel, Mrs.". Dictionary of National Biography. 6. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 


  • Highfill, Philip Jr, Burnim, Kalman A., and Langhans, Edward (1973–93). Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660–1800. 16 volumes. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Howe, Elizabeth (1992). The First English Actresses: Women and Drama, 1660–1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Milhous, Judith (1985). "Elizabeth Bowtell and Elizabeth Davenport: some puzzles solved" in Theatre Notebook, 39. London: The Society for Theatre Research pp. 124–34

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