Peg Woffington, the best Irish actress of the 18th century

Charismatic star was as well known for dating men as playing them on stage

Portrait of Margaret ‘Peg’ Woffington (1720-1760), by John Lewis. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Margaret ‘Peg’ Woffington (1720-1760), by John Lewis. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Margaret “Peg” Woffington, one of the premier actresses of her age, was born in Dublin sometime around 1720. The daughter of a bricklayer and what was quaintly termed a “vendor of saladry”, sources disagree on her family’s circumstances. Whatever the case, Woffington received an education that is reflected in her later writings, and the several recorded instances of her biting wit.

Discovered in Dublin by Signora Violante, an Italian acrobat and equilibrist, by the early 1730s she was performing as a member of Violante’s group of “Lilliputians” at Smock Alley, alongside her younger sister Mary.

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