This essay interrogates how the scandalous actress Mary Wells “shadowed” Sarah Siddons through her imitations of the actress; using performance theory and contemporary reviews, it suggests that these imitations allowed Wells to borrow some of Siddons’ fame at the same time that they exposed the duplicity at the heart of the tragic queen’s performance. The contrast between the simultaneously shifting and transparent Wells and the static and opaque Siddons would have been striking to the audience, as Siddons’ aloof distance from her admirers left a path of access to Wells, who would gladly make herself available instead. Wells also used her imitations to carve out a unique niche for herself as an actress, though those imitations simultaneously created a dependence on the actresses she imitated, ultimately leaving Wells with a marginalized place in theater history.

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