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Charles Hart (bap. 1625 – 18 August 1683) was a prominent British Restoration actor.[1]

A Charles Hart was christened on 11 December 1625, in the parish of St. Giles Cripplegate, in London. It is not absolutely certain that this was the actor, though the name was not common at the time.. He was most likely the son of William Hart, a minor actor with the King's Men.[2] Hart began his career as a boy player with the King's Men; he was an apprentice of Richard Robinson, longtime member of that company. Hart established his reputation by playing the role of the Duchess in The Cardinal, the tragedy by James Shirley, in 1641.[3] Wright says in Historia histrionica that:"Hart and Clun, were bred up Boys at the Blackfriers; and Acted Womens Parts, Hart was [Richard] Robinson's Boy or Apprentice: He Acted the Dutchess in the Tragedy of the Cardinal, which was the first Part that gave him Reputation."[2]

He served as a soldier in the English Civil War, and was an officer in Prince Rupert's regiment of cavalry, along with fellow actors Nicholas Burt and Robert Shatterell. Hart and the others most likely saw combat at the battles of Marston Moor and Naseby, and perhaps at Edgehill as well.[4]

Hart then returned to acting; evidence suggests he was with other displaced English actors in Europe in 1646.[5] In 1648, Hart, Walter Clun and eight other actors, were involved in an attempt to restart the King's Men company during the Puritan Commonwealth, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, did not succeed. On 5 February 1648, at the Cockpit Theatre, Hart and other King's Men were arrested for violating the ban against theatrical performance; they were caught in the midst of a performance of Rollo Duke of Normandy (in which Hart played the character Otto). Hart and the others were imprisoned for a short time, then released.[6]

Just before the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, acting resumed on a larger scale, and Hart seems to have been then a member of a company performing at the Cockpit playhouse, led by Michael Mohun. As soon as the King's Company was formed in 1660, Hart became one of its leading men; he specialised in playing the male half of witty, bantering couples. This type of dialogue in Restoration comedy was largely influenced by the talents and personalities of Hart and Nell Gwyn, in plays like James Howard's The Mad Couple; Gwyn was his mistress before she became Charles II's. Hart's natural dignity in playing royal roles was also often commented on by contemporaries, and in the heroic play he "was celebrated for superman roles, notably the arrogant, bloodthirsty Almanzor in John Dryden's Conquest of Granada."[7]

When Hart played in Euterpe Restored in 1672, Richard Flecknoe composed the following lines:

Beauty to the eye, and music to the ear,
Such even the nicest critics must allow
Burbage was once and such Charles Hart is now.[8]

Throughout his Restoration career, Hart filled a range of noteworthy parts. He was Cassio in early stagings of Shakespear's Othello; after 1669 he played the title role. He played roles in revivals of plays by Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and John Fletcher

— and in contemporary dramas, by John Dryden

— and by other dramatists —

In 1682, when the King's Company joined with the Duke's Company to form the United Company, Hart retired due to poor health, with a pension of 40 shillings per week.[10]


  1. ^ Philip Highfill Jr., Kalman A. Burnim,, and Edward Langhans, Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660–1800, 16 volumes, Carbondale, Illinois, Southern Illinois University Press, 1973–93.
  2. ^ a b David Kathman (2004). "Hart, Charleslocked (bap. 1625, d. 1683)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12473. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Alois M. Nagler, A Source Book in Theatrical History, Courier Dover, 1959; p. 160.
  4. ^ John H. Astington, "Actors and the Court After 1642," Early Modern Literary Studies, Special Issue 15 (August 2007), pp. 1-23.
  5. ^ Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, "New Light on English Acting Companies in 1646, 1648, and 1660," Review of English Studies, New Series, Vol. 42 No. 168 (November 1991), pp. 487-509. See pp. 488-90.
  6. ^ Milhous and Hume, pp. 491-2.
  7. ^ Peter Dixon, ed., William Wycherley: The Country Wife and Other Plays, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996.
  8. ^ Andrew Gurr, The Shakespeare Company, 1594–1642, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004; p. 229.
  9. ^ Edwin Nunzeger, A Dictionary of Actors and of Others Associated with the Representation of Plays in England Before 1642, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1929; p. 176.
  10. ^ Nunzeger, p. 177.

External links

1893 text

Charles Hart, great-nephew of Shakespeare, a favourite actor. He is credited with being Nell Gwyn’s first lover (or Charles I., as the wits put it), and with having brought her on the stage. He died of stone, and was buried at Stanmore Magna, Middlesex, where he had a country house.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

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British History Online has this review of Charles Hart's career:…
Old and New London: Volume 1. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.

"Hart had been a Cavalier captain during the Civil Wars, and was a pupil of Robinson, the actor, who was shot down at the taking of Basing House. Hart was a tragedian who excelled in parts that required a certain heroic and chivalrous dignity. As a youth, before the Restoration, when boys played female parts, Hart was successful as the Duchess, in Shirley's Cardinal. In Charles II's time he played Othello, by the king's command, and rivalled Betterton's Hamlet at the other house. He created the part of Alexander, was excellent as Brutus, and terribly and vigorously wicked as Ben Jonson's Cataline. Rymer, says Dr. Doran, styled Hart and Mohun the Æsopus and Roscius of their time. As Amintor and Melanthus, in The Maid's Tragedy, they were incomparable. Pepys is loud too in his praises of Hart. His salary, was, at the most, £3 a week, although he realized £1,000 yearly after he became a shareholder of the theater. Hart died in 1683, within a year of his being bought off."

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.



  • Apr


  • Feb