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Susanna Centlivre (–1723)

Author of A Bold Stroke for a Wife

Includes the names: Susannah Centlivre

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Susanna Centlivre, née Freeman, was born around 1667/1669. Information about her family and childhood is scarce. Her parents died when she was young and she may have been raised by an unkind female relative or guardian. She may have married two or three times prior to 1700. She learned a little grammar and some rhetoric, perhaps by performing with a company of strolling actors, before she eventually arrived in London. There she was considered beautiful and talented, and became a popular stage actor and playwright at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. She performed in Bath in her own comedy, Love at a Venture (1706), followed in the same year by The Platonick Lady. In 1707, she married Joseph Centlivre, a chef in the household of Queen Anne at Windsor. Susanna Centlivre wrote nearly 20 plays, mainly comic farces, including The Busie Body (1709), A Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret (1714), and A Bold Stroke for a Wife (1717), which remained extremely popular with British theatre-goers for more than a century. Many actors of the 18th and 19th centuries won their fame through their performances of characters in her celebrated plays. Susanna Centlivre also hosted a popular literary salon in London.
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