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Peg Woffington

Woffington, Peg (Margaret Woffington), 1714?–1760, English actress, b. Dublin. Her charm and beauty as a child attracted attention, and at the age of 10 she acted in the role of Polly Peachum in a Lilliputian production of The Beggar's Opera. She made her first important appearance in Dublin in 1737 as Ophelia and followed it with her greatest role, the breeches part (male role) of Sir Harry Windair in Farquhar's Constant Couple, which in 1740 led to her engagement by John Rich for Covent Garden. She was Garrick's leading lady in London and Dublin from 1742–48. Her attachment to Garrick was the most publicized of her numerous affairs. Ill health compelled her to retire in 1757. She was best suited for comedy, although her grace and vivacity helped to overcome the harshness of her voice in tragic roles. Charles Reade's play Masks and Faces and his novel Peg Woffington are based on her life.

See biography by J. Dunbar (1968); B. Marinacci, Leading Ladies (1961).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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