This essay examines the ways marriage could function both to the benefit and detriment of an actress's professional activities and agency. It argues that an astute marital decision might support and promote an ambitious actress's future on the stage, largely through integrating her into established networks in the profession. It then reveals the ways in which an actress's legal status as feme covert might impact upon her professional agency, particularly in light of her unique position as both trader and object of trade. The essay then goes on to consider how actresses negotiated their ways between the benefits and the liabilities of marriage. “Contract” marriage, or “performing marriage,” the essay suggests, was one way in which an actress might maintain her legal, and therefore professional, agency, within the framework of a long-term personal relationship. Some actresses, the essay argues, may have chosen to negotiate their personal and professional lives by cohabiting and living as if married, outside the legal framework of a legitimate union. Such an argument, moreover, opens up a wider awareness of the eighteenth-century businesswomen's choices in marriage.

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