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 Actors in France in the 18th century 
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Duc/Duchesse
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
I know this is an old thread, but I thought I would help answer the question.

The main reason behind the Church's refusal to grant proper funerals to actors was because it was considered, at its core, a dishonest profession because by acting, pretending to be something you were not, you were- according to the Church- lying. An actor's profession was a giant lie, thus a sin. It didn't help that many actors and actresses led rather wild and promiscuous lives (after all, if you're damned already...) In addition, actors were excluded from civil rights as well. They were not allowed to vote or hold office (along with Jews, Protestants, and executioners). It was not until the Revolution that actors (and the other disenfranchised groups) received full civil status.


Tue Aug 12, 2008 6:23 pm
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
dreamoutloud wrote:
I know this is an old thread, but I thought I would help answer the question.

The main reason behind the Church's refusal to grant proper funerals to actors was because it was considered, at its core, a dishonest profession because by acting, pretending to be something you were not, you were- according to the Church- lying. An actor's profession was a giant lie, thus a sin. It didn't help that many actors and actresses led rather wild and promiscuous lives (after all, if you're damned already...) In addition, actors were excluded from civil rights as well. They were not allowed to vote or hold office (along with Jews, Protestants, and executioners). It was not until the Revolution that actors (and the other disenfranchised groups) received full civil status.

Well thank you for posting this. Very helpful.
I had always wanted to know what the root of the problem was!


Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:24 pm
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Duc/Duchesse
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
You're welcome! It's nice to be somewhere where obscure 18th century knowledge is appreciated, rather than just making you weird. :wink:


Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:43 pm
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
I know, isn't it just spelndid? :D


Thu Aug 14, 2008 12:50 am
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Royalty
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
dreamoutloud wrote:
I know this is an old thread, but I thought I would help answer the question.

The main reason behind the Church's refusal to grant proper funerals to actors was because it was considered, at its core, a dishonest profession because by acting, pretending to be something you were not, you were- according to the Church- lying. An actor's profession was a giant lie, thus a sin. It didn't help that many actors and actresses led rather wild and promiscuous lives (after all, if you're damned already...) In addition, actors were excluded from civil rights as well. They were not allowed to vote or hold office (along with Jews, Protestants, and executioners). It was not until the Revolution that actors (and the other disenfranchised groups) received full civil status.



Merci Beacoup dreamoutloud! Even though there was an answer I always prefer a more thorough explanation.

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Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:31 pm
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
I do too! :lol:


Fri Aug 15, 2008 12:55 am
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
There's a few things to consider here. One is that this was not particularly uniform across different countries. I read a passage a long time ago that pointed out the harlequin from the fair could march in a religious profession whereas an actor in the Comedie Francaise could not - because, as I recall, the former was Italian, and the Italians viewed the matter differently (very much from memory here as to the reason.)

While I don't know on what basis a poster above says that "most actresses these days are also whores" (I know a few Christan actresses who would take severe exception to that, and most others I know - living in Hollywood - live no wilder a life than any other women I've known), it is probably not an exception to say that for a long time a woman put herself on display for very ambivalent reasons. I've even seen it said that a woman looking for a "protector" might go on the stage - more to display her charms than out of any artistic urges. And some of the admired actresses of the time rivaled Lindsay Lohan for the way they fed the scandal sheets. So the scandal of the acting life certainly played a part in all this.

Even then, when a priest refused to perform a service for one famous (and rather scandalous) actress (Mlle. Clairon, I believe) in the early 19th, the crowd forced him to reconsider.

The underlying attitude by the way was not limited to the 18th century. Years ago I stayed in an elegant Madrid hotel that had long refused to accept actors - including (I was told) Laurence Olivier.

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Mon Oct 20, 2008 4:24 pm
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
How very interesting. Thank you for your insiders information.

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Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:09 am
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
If we may include Parisian ballet dancers of the time here, in reading about the period ballet, it seems that the underbelly of that profession included an established arrangement for gentlemen to meet, or more politely pay court to, the troupe after a performance in a room backstage especially for that purpose. One has to pay one's rent, even if one's name had been "Diana", "Venus", or "Euterpe" only an hour ago.


Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:58 pm
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
Even though the Opera house (Garnier) in Paris is not the one MA went to - I just returned from Paris and on my visit to the Opera house I was shown these rooms and told this same story!


Thu Nov 05, 2009 10:11 pm
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
The mémoires of Casanova are full of such meetings. Actresses were often courted by leading noblemen from court. As the Royal family and the leading gentry often went to the theatre, I mean really very often, then these actresses were very much in view, and some of them achieved fame and fortune through their liaisons.

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Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:42 am
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
I can't document this just now, but it seems to me I've read that some women went on stage specifically as a way to "advertise" and find a protector. The craft was very much secondary. Then of course you have admired actresses like Sophie Arnould whose adventures with both sexes were gleefully chronicled at the time.

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Fri Nov 06, 2009 5:31 pm
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
Don't you love Greuze's portrait of Sophie Arnould? It seems to skip across the centuries to seduce us every time we see it.


Fri Nov 06, 2009 6:06 pm
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Post Re: Actors in France in the 18th century
jimcheval wrote:
I can't document this just now, but it seems to me I've read that some women went on stage specifically as a way to "advertise" and find a protector. The craft was very much secondary.


Casanova speaks about it and even gives advices how a young actress/dancer should behave in order to get a decent protector (basically not giving herself for a while until she stays with only "decent", serious offers, fake protectors would give up). He often speaks about actress/dancers who are on the stage only because of their beauty and not so much because of any talent. He even helps one girl who didnt listen to his advice and got involved with some nobleman who in fact was in huge debts and kept her in his house for a while until he ordered her to leave. Then Casanova adviced her how to behave and she decided to wait and pick the oldest protector so in the end she had a bright future.

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Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:16 pm
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