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The Restoration Playgoer - Samuel Pepys's theatre

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When the London theatres reopened in 1660 after being closed for eighteen years by the Puritans during England's brief dalliance with republicanism, one of the first playgoers was the famous diarist, woman groper and Admiralty official Samuel Pepys. He was such an avid spectator of plays that he limited the number of times he would permit himself to go, in order to devote more time to his important Navy work, and to his constant battles with his arch enemy Admiral Sir William Penn, and incompetent colleagues Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten, a knave and a fool respectively. He also enjoyed the theatres for the attractive women he saw there. On one occasion a lady accidentally spat on him, '...But after seeing her to be a very pretty lady, I was not troubled at it at all...'. [Diary entry 28 January 1661]


Despite his regular oaths to avoid plays, Pepys managed to visit the theatres on no fewer than 351 occasions during the nine years and five months of the Diary. He was a big…